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
River in Washington State Flooding


Activity: Singing in the Rain (2 Days)

Objective: Identify conditions that increase the risks of flooding

Life Skill: Responsibility, Communication

Science Skills: Observation, Measuring, Comparing/Contrasting

What You Will Need:
- Collect maps
- Street map
- Rain gear (jacket, boots, pants, umbrella)
- 2 to 5 clear jars with tight sealing lids for water collection
- Sharpie (or other waterproof) pen
- 3 cleaned shallow tin cans such as cat food or tuna cans
- A rainy day!

Preparation Activities:
Make sure youth understand about the water cycle using activities listed in Explore More. Call your local County Public Works Department, DOE Storm water Specialists or a local meteorologist to find out about areas close to you that are known for flooding during heavy rains.

Most people spend very little time out in the rain. But you can learn a lot about how the rain interacts with the land and the forest by just getting out there and looking around!

Day 1:

1) Have the youth use maps to plan and lead a local expedition.

2) Choose a wooded area that is accessible to you and also near streets with sidewalks. This could be your backyard, a friend’s house, a park or other publicly accessible site. Notice where your home is relative to the site you have chosen. Are these sites connected by water in any way?

3) On a rainy day (light to medium rain is best for this), visit the site you’ve chosen and do some exploring! Take a walk around in the wooded areas and notice what happens to the rain when it falls on the ground.
A) Try to find a place without any tree branches overhead and stand there for a moment. Hold out your hands, take a look at the ground around you, and notice how much rain is falling on you.
B) Now try standing under a deciduous tree such as a maple and do the same thing.
C) Finally try standing under an evergreen tree such as a fir, hemlock or cedar and again, notice the ground and how much rain falls on you.

Ask youth if they got as wet when they stood under a tree as when they stood out in the open? Does the type of tree make a difference? Was the ground equally wet in all of the places they stood? How did they determine how wet the ground was?

4) Place the cleaned shallow measuring cans on the ground in the three sites you explored. Make sure they are in a place where they will not be disturbed. Make sure they are level on the ground and leave them there over night. Ask the youth to make predictions about how much rain water will be in each can.

Day 2:
5) Revisit your site the next day and bring your measuring stick. Measure the amount of rainwater in each can and compare them to each other.

Did the differences you noticed with your eyes and your hands add up to significantly different amounts of rain falling into the cans in the three sites you explored? Ask youth to examine the forest floor. Do they see water flowing over the land there? Take a look on the trail. Do they notice any water flowing over the land here? If they see water, try to collect a sample of it in a collection jar, label it and notice the color. Is it clear or cloudy?

6) Leave the woods and explore along the sidewalk. What happens to the rain when it falls to the ground here? Do you see it running over the sidewalk or along the street? If you see water flowing here, try to collect another sample, label it and notice the color again.

7) Repeat this exercise at any additional interesting sites.

Compare and contrast the samples of water. If they are cloudy, investigate what kinds of particles are in the water? Where do you think those particles came from?



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Explore More

Bill Nye the Science Guy
Water Cycle Jump

The Water Cycle by Mr. Davies

The Water Cycle

The Water cycle by NASA
(research findings)

Game Droplet and the Water Cycle

USGS Water Posters

Mt Ranier Flood Damage

FEMA on Floods


It's All Connected

Whatcom County Public Works:

River & Flood:
Paula Cooper

Storm Water:
Kirk Christensen


Department of Ecology:
Mak Kaufman

Kurt Baumgarten

Heading using the h3 tag

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