WSU Whatcom County Extension

Stewardship is Where You Are


The Big Picture

Have you ever gone exploring in the rain? If you want to find out what happens when rain falls, and where the water goes, and how floods form, pull on your rubber boots and head outside the next time it rains. If you look carefully you’ll notice that water soaks into the ground in some places and pools up or runs off of others. Trees influence the rain, too.

The amount of water that runs over the land affects the amount of pollution that enters our streams, lakes, wetlands, and bays. And, combined with the local river network, differences in the amount of rain that falls on the land and the amount of rain that soaks into the land can add up to big floods during a heavy storm.

In this series of activities we’ll explore the movement of water in our watersheds, forests, cities, and learn more about the effects of floods and preparing for them.

Explorer - Skill Level: One Engager - Skill Level: Two Citizen Scientist - Skill Level: Three


Water Strider
Children preparing sand bags for an impending flood

Objective: Be proactive in helping your community predict for, prepare for and respond to flooding

Life Skill: Responsibility, Communication

Science Skills: Researching a Problem, Troubleshooting, Designing Solutions

Preparation Activities: Review the suggested activities, and select one that fits with your personal goals.

The Explorer and Engager activities helped youth understand how the land influences flooding , and how scientists use historical data and observation to predict floods. Now the real question is: what can we do as citizens in the face of this kind of natural disaster?

Citizens play a huge role in both predicting and preparing for floods. Choose from these civic activities in order to become a part of flood awareness.

Initiate an Effort to Create a Public Rain Garden:
In the explorations of your community youth may have discovered areas where surfaces are experiencing flooding. Rain gardens can be used to slow water down, spread it out and soak it up, thus helping to prevent local flooding. Designing and implementing a rain garden does require some special skills. Contact your local Extension office to find out more.

Encourage teens to study rain gardens (see Explore More), to get educated about rain garden construction (see It’s All Connected) and to design and propose a rain garden to civic leaders or supporters. If appropriate, the teens can take on the challenge of developing partners and resources to build a rain garden as a club project.

CoCoRaHs stands for The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. This is a network of volunteers of all ages who gather precipitation data in their own backyards and report it online every day to the CoCoRaHS website. This data is used by many organizations including the National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (such as water supply, water conservation, and storm water), insurance companies, the USDA, engineers, mosquito control agencies, ranchers, farmers, teachers, and students.

Because rain, snow, and hail are so influenced by local topography, the type of storm, and the storm location, the amount and type of precipitation can vary widely even within the same town. Having precipitation data from many different places helps us to predict floods, prepare for droughts, and make day-to-day management decisions on farms and in cities.

Neighborhood Mapping Service Learning Project:
Floods can cause property damage and can endanger people who become stranded or injured by the flood. In the worst flood disasters, water supplies may become contaminated and people may become sickened as a result.

Knowing what to do in a natural disaster such as a flood, and knowing who among your neighbors can provide help and who may need help, is a great way to disaster-proof your family as well as your neighborhood.

A “Map Your Neighborhood” program gives you a plan to follow immediately after a disaster and it teaches you:
- The steps to take immediately following a disaster
- To develop a neighborhood skills and equipment inventory
- To identify areas of concern such as gas and water shut-offs
- To identify neighbors that may need extra help
- To set up a neighborhood team

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program:
The CERT program trains people to cope with an emergency or disaster in the event that professional emergency responders are overwhelmed or unable to reach areas isolated by road damage, flooding, or other obstructions.

Through a 27 hour training program, CERT trains citizens to:
- Prepare to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours
- Respond effectively to a disaster
- Organize teams to assist neighbors, co-workers, and the community

American Red Cross Curriculum “Masters of Disaster”:
Younger children can become very frightened of natural disasters, and they need to be taught how to deal with those fears and the real risks effectively. Consider using the American Red Cross Educator’s Kit for “Masters of Disaster” to teach a class or club of younger children about disaster preparedness.



Natural Resource Stewards


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Explore More


ARC Masters of Disaster

Raingarden Handbook

Public Adventures Civic Engagement Curriculum
Step by step instructions to making long lasting change in your community.


It's All Connected

12,000 Raingardens Campaign

Whatcom County Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan

Whatcom County Preparedess

Rain Garden Education:
WSU Extension
Sue Blake

“Map Your Neighborhood” Program
Whatcom Unified Emergency Management
3888 Sound Way
Bellingham, WA

CERT Training
Whatcom County Emergency Management

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WSU Whatcom County Extension, 1000 North Forest Street, Suite 201, Bellingham, WA 98225, (360) 778-5800, Contact Us