User Guide

Activities Overview
Inner Downspouts
Weather Considerations
Measuring Unusual Shapes or Large Areas
Working in Groups
Using Google Earth
Mapping and Measuring
Track Storms and Rainfall Online in Real Time
Online Runoff Calculators

Activities Overview

The Stormwater Challenge and the associated activities can be scaled to the appropriate grade level, difficulty and time commitment. The size of the study area and the extent of your focus on school or beyond is totally flexible.




1. Why Study Stormwater?
Short video and class discussion introduction.                   

Grade: 3 to 11
Time:  20 - 45 mins.
Subjects: Science, Geography, Social Studies

The introductory video can be supplemented with material from the Resources section

Internet access

2. Stormwater Mapping Tour
Choosing a Study Area around your school and mapping stormwater infrastructure.

Grade: 3 to 11
Time: 90 - 120 mins.
Subject: Geography, Social Studies

This tour can be done during any weather.  Doing it while raining allows students to see rain flowing, draining, pooling and possibly flooding.

Camera (for photos of checklist items)
Wet weather gear, umbrellas (if need be, garbage bags with holes for head and arms) 
Printed or sketched map to locate property boundaries,
Clipboard (for maps)
Checklist and Stormwater Photo Gallery to document numbers and types of stormwater infrastructure.

3. Permeability Map
Creating a map of the permeable, semi-permeable and non-permeable areas under study.

Grade: 3 to 11
Time: 30 - 90 mins
Subject: Geography, Social Studies .

If you are doing this Activity in isolation, refer to Stormwater Mappying Tour for general instructions on creating a Study Area and mapping stormwater infrastructure.

Calculators and/or Internet access

4. Runoff Footprint
Measuring the rainfall and subsequent runoff in your Study Area.

Grade: 6 to 11
Time: 90 - 120 mins
Subject: Mathematics, Geography, Social Studies .

Preview this Activity to assess the mathematical learning level.

Calculators and/or access to online Runoff Calculator.
Local daily, monthly and annual rainfall data and forecasts (link to:) for your location.

5. Researching Your Stormwater Plan
Using Internet access to research different stormwater infrastructure solutions.

Grade: 3 to 11
Time: 90 to 120 mins.
Subject: Language, Science, Geography, Social Studies        

This can be done quickly or in a more in-depth version depending on time, interest and research abilities.

Multiple Internet-enabled devices

6. Presenting Your Stormwater Plan
Pulling all your materials together into a plan.

Grade: 5 to 11
Time: 60 to 120 mins.
Subject: Language, Science, Geography, Social Studies        

The students will need access to all the materials they have developed to date.

Display materials and methods of your choice

Working in groups:
  You might want to have students work in groups while creating their School Stormwater Plan.
Partnership Coordinator and team
Presentation Coordinator and team
Social Media Outreach Coordinator and team
Research Coordinator and team

7: Taking Acton!
Choosing an action that will make a stormwater difference.

Grade: 3 to 11
Time: varies
Subject: Language, Science, Geography, Social Studies

Advance planning will be needed to decide on expense, permission and availability of materials and the time that is possible.

Infrastructure materials as needed.

Weather Considerations

Working in Groups

Break into pairs or groups based on grade and age. You can reduce the size of the study area to capture the key areas of the property and scale the tour to the time allowed. 

Depending on the size of the school property and the number of students involved, break into groups and allocate different “things” to identify and different areas to explore. One variation is to work in groups with role. .


Mapping and Measuring

Classes can use Google Maps or Google Earth to see aerial views of their school.  Users can zoom in and can also use 3D View to examine the area under study.  Include the perimeter (sidewalks, street and storm drains) of the property.  Make a printout of your Study Area for students to use.

How to measure/estimate roof size and paved area:

Measuring Unusual Shapes or Large Areas

The most effective indoor, online method to measure distances is the It will allow you to estimate distances from the satellite view of your study area. For the purposes of our work and in order to simplify our calculations we are going to reduce each area we measure to a rectangle or a square. This way we can use the simple area formula of LxW = area squared to calculate the area of non-permeable, semi-permeable and permeable areas of our Study Area.

If you are trying to calculate the area of oval shapes, circles or reduce them to squares or rectangles. L shaped areas can be reduced to two rectangles and triangle can be measured as half a square. Be creative, breakdown shapes to manageable sizes and estimate areas as best you can.

Step 1: Go to CalcMaps
For estimating the surface area of large areas use. Set to Satellite view option.

Step 2. Find Your Location
Input your city or school into the search bar.

Step 3. Zoom in to your Study Area
Zoom in, or enter the address of your Study Area to isolate the area that you want to focus on.

Step 4: Identify the Area you Want to Measure
Click on your start point on the map and set a second point to estimate the the length and width of the outside edge of the shape you want to calculate the area of. Take note of each distance

Step 5
Use the distance in meters and add to your data sheet. If you make a mistake use the “Clear Last Point” or “Clear All” to redo.

Step 6: Calculate Length

Step 7 Calculate Width

Step 8 Calculate Area of Parking lot (LxW)
16 meters by 41 meters =
16 x 41 meters = 656 meters squared

Online Runoff Calculators

EPA National Stormwater Calculator

EPA National Stormwater Calculator User Guide

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Rain and Precipitation (USGS)

Inner Downspouts

Inner Downspouts: The Hidden Rainwater that Flows Inside Your School.

Inner downspouts or drains are often found on larger buildings and many school roofs. The drains are usually placed near the center of the building. They attach to pipes that drain the water down through the building’s roof. This keeps the water safely away from the walls and foundation. But at the same time deposits the rain directly to the storm sewers.

Unlike outdoor downspouts and gutter systems, inner drains will not freeze up and crack or fail during the winter. The building and walls naturally protect the pipes from the elements. Strainers for inner drains are critical. They assist in keeping any debris from clogging the drain.

Ask your custodian or maintenance staff where the drains are located. Or use Google earth to find the scuppers on the roof. They are usually located in the center of the roof.

Aerial shot of school with inner downspouts

Vigilance is necessary regarding debris on the flat roof with inner drains. A small amount of debris can completely clog the system. This can become a domino effect as water will have nowhere to go, creating standing pools of water on the roof that might induce leaks.

Using Google Earth

Scope your Study Area and School with Google Earth

Google Earth provides a great tool to help your class explore your Study Area from many angles and perspectives -- before you go outdoors. Use this tool to see what is on roofs, to estimate large areas, and to select and define your study area. This tool is best used in conjunction with outdoor observations and measurements. 

 Step1: Load Google Earth

Step 2: Type in your target location (city) into the search bar

Step 3:  Use the “+” icon to zoom in to your school and the area you want to study

Step 4:   Use maximum zoom and the tilt button “…” to observe your Study Area close up and from different perspectives.

Track Storms and Rainfall Online in Real Time


Step 1:   Zoom In to find your location or region.

Step 2:  Set Map Settings to:

Step 3:  Set Map Time Range

Set to 30x or 50x to activate real time motion

Step 4:  Watch

Press play on the toolbar to see a weather system in motion.