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Rainscaping (3rd-6th) | Series 2, Lesson #3


Rainscaping (Low Impact Development (LID) Design Challenge) 

Key Topics/Vocabulary: Human Impact, Stormwater, Runoff, Erosion, Rain (Tank/Capture), Drought Tolerance, Groundwater Recharge, Low Impact Development (LID), Native Habitat, Rain Garden, Impermeable, Permeable

Grade Level: 3rd-6th

Click here for #2 Series Description

Spanish Lesson Plan 

Science Framework

Lesson Bridge:

Connect this lesson (3) to Invasive and Native Plants (2) by discussing how by encouraging native plant growth, we can reduce water usage and have less wasted water. Close the loop by helping students to make the discovery that native plant establishment on campus and at home can help to remediate drought effects (1).

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students learn about stormwater runoff, identify challenge areas on the school site, and design solutions!

Suggested Activities and Learning Objectives by Grade Level:

Essential Question(s) that Connect CCCs and SEPs:


Human Impact- Activities that humans do that cause harm on the environment such as, pollution and disrupting ecosystems

Stormwater- Rainwater that falls onto roads and sidewalks and runs into storm drains

Runoff- The excess water that flows over the land when the soil below is flooded.

Erosion- The wearing down of landforms like soil and rock from wind, water, and ice

Rain Tank/Capture- A large container that captures rainwater that flows off of the roof of buildings

Drought Tolerance-  A plant that can live for a long period of time without water

Groundwater Recharge- When the rainwater is able to sink into the ground and replenish the water held there.

Low Impact Development (LID)- Landscaping designs that enhance the amount of water that is absorbed into our groundwater

Native Habitat- An environmental area where a specific species lives.

Rain Garden- A kind of green infrastructure that is made to help rainwater be captured in the ground and not become runoff.

Impermeable- A surface that water cannot move through, ex: concrete, pavement

Permeable- A surface that water is able to penetrate through.



Activity Procedure:


Who knows what the word landscaping means? (Changing the land in an area by planting flowers, and designing paths to make these areas more usable and beautiful!) Can any of you point to areas on the campus that have landscaping?


Today we are going to be talking about Rainscaping. It’s a type of landscaping that helps us save rainwater, prepare for drought, and reduce pollution! Let’s take a moment to see how water flows over the land. Pour a bucket of water on a slope and let students observe. You can also have groups of students go to different places in the garden and pour buckets/cups of water on the ground and observe what happens. Some can pour water on pavement others on the dirt. What happens? Does water carry things with it? Does it soak into the ground or flow? Why might we want the water to soak into the ground?


When a large amount of water falls in a relatively short amount of time onto a steep slope, most of that water will not sink into the ground, it will run off. Also if water lands on an impermeable surface--a surface without holes/space between the particles--like concrete or compacted soil, the water will run off or puddle.

If however, water is spread out, and slowed down, it will sink into the soil better. We can create rainscapes in areas of the school where there is a lot of runoff to try and help sink the water. Sinking the water is important, because our drinking water comes from underground! It may help kids understand how we get our water from underground by drawing a picture of groundwater and a well pumping it up into a storage tank.

There are different things we can do to slow down rainwater runoff:

Digging ditches in the soil, planting native plants on slopes to help absorb the rainwater with their roots, replacing concrete and asphalt with permeable surfaces like wood chips, gravel and bricks (leaving spaces between so water can get through). Today we will be looking at an area of our school that might have problems with runoff, and determine how we can rainscape to help save water!


  1. Review your Garden Agreements
  2. Give each student a clipboard and a worksheet
  3. Take a walk to an area of the school that would likely have issues with erosion, runoff, or puddling. Bring your white board if possible.
  4. Explain to students that they will be using their imaginations to transform the area into a rainscape. Drawing the area from the top down--like how a bird would fly above.
  5. On the whiteboard, show an example of how you would draw the area from the above perspective (this can be a hard concept for kids to grasp).
  6. Next, discuss what they might include in their designs. Remind them about what materials are permeable. Show them symbols they might use for trees.
  7. Have students label their design elements and nearby school landmarks.
  8. Once students have drawn out their design, have them go into the classroom or an outdoor learning area to add color to their designs until the class time is up.
  9. Consider creating a proposal to the principal to see about implementing low impact development techniques.


Call on a few dedicated students to come up and share their designs with the class, pointing out what elements they used and what functions their elements will serve.

Extension Activities:

This lesson was prepared by One Cool Earth under award

NA20NOS4290033 from the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program

of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S.

Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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