The Providence Stormwater Innovation Center not only looks to better understand and improve the water quality of Roger Williams Park ponds, but also to spread awareness about water quality issues to local communities. Communication and collaboration are major goals for the Innovation Center, and we aim to communicate with both stormwater practitioners and local audiences about lessons learned and information about green stormwater infrastructure as a whole. We will also bring in other experts who can share their knowledge about green infrastructure.
There are many steps that residents can take to improve the health of their local bodies of water, and these environmentally sustainable practices will be detailed in an upcoming article. But, learning about stormwater infrastructure is not only limited to one age group. We have compiled a list of easy and informative experiments for young scientists that make learning about the basics of stormwater regulation, the water cycle, and water pollution fun!
Storm in a Glass
This helpful activity, detailed below on sciencefun.org, is a great way to teach young scientists about the different parts of a storm, and the way that clouds release water when they become saturated. It only requires household materials such as shaving cream, water, and food coloring.
2. A Crumpled Watershed Model
This model is a great way for young scientists to learn how a pond’s surroundings impact the health of the pond water. In this model, markers and a water squirt bottle are used to demonstrate what happens when stormwater carries pollutants or other materials, such as soil or fertilizer, into the water. Students can learn about watersheds and how individual contributions to decreasing pollution in their neighborhoods can help to solve water quality issues.
3. Get the Dirt Out (Filter Experiment)
This experiment is a great visual representation of how water filters, such as the soil or sand filters in Roger Williams Park, are used to purify stormwater runoff. Young scientists performing this experiment use a filtering material (i.e. a coffee filter or cheesecloth) to remove contaminants from a glass of water. This can lead to great questions about what clean water is used for, and how we can obtain clean water from polluted water. It also provides a model for students to refer to when they visit the park and see the green stormwater infrastructure installations.
4. Rain Gauge Water Runoff Experiment
This experiment requires a couple of calculations. The first step in the experiment is to place a rain gauge in an open space. Then, calculations involving the level of water in the gauge after a storm event and the area of an impervious surface of choice, such as a roof, parking lot, or street will be performed. These calculations demonstrate how much water can run off from an impervious surface. This will help young scientists to understand the impacts of urban development on stormwater runoff. Large amounts of runoff from impervious surfaces can cause stream erosion and harm plants and animals that live in the stream.
5. Online Educational Games
Some of the best resources for learning about stormwater are found online, and these resources include games such as the maze and word scramble linked below:
Follow the H2O Maze: https://www.pgh2o.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/Drinking%20Water%20Week%20Maze_English.pdf
Water Word Scramble: https://www.pgh2o.com/sites/default/files/2020-03/EPA%20Water%20Word%20Scramble%20for%20Grades%204-8.pdf
6. Picture Post or Stormwater Structure Hunt
Other learning opportunities can occur during walks in the park or around your local neighborhood. In Roger Williams Park, young scientists are encouraged to find a variety of Picture Posts, and to identify stormwater structures near the ponds. There is a 4 mile walking tour available based on the locations of the park’s ten Picture Posts (you can find the tour here), and this tour can be used as a reference for a scavenger hunt. Children can take pictures at these posts and help out with the Center’s collection of water quality data as well!
Another similar scavenger hunt activity can be completed while walking around your local neighborhood. In this activity, young scientists tally the type and amount of downspouts, trees, and storm drains that they see on their walk. Instructions for this activity, with tally sheets included, are linked below:
Thank you for reading. We can’t wait to share more ways to get involved and to learn about stormwater infrastructure!