by Liz Marquette, Hood College

Part I: Why Teach Rainwater Erosion and Mitigation?

Cain, N. L. (2014). A Different Path: The global water crisis and rainwater harvesting. Consilience, 12, 147–157.

The Renewable Energy Hub. (2020, April 3). History of rainwater harvesting.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; n.d.). Read the standards.

Saboori, S., Nyanoke, G., & Rheingans, R. (2014). Field report: Large-scale school rainwater harvesting systems: a pilot study in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Waterlines, 33(2), 154–159.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2022). Drought in numbers.

Thunder claps in the distance as lightning streaks the midday sky with flecks of white light. Raindrops pound the soil, launching tiny flecks of mud and sediment into the air. While this may be a familiar setting, the ecological impacts of rain and the systems we have developed to manage them are far from familiar. In fact, over a third of eighth grade students in the United States performed “below basic” on the most recently published NAEP science assessment, highlighting a lack of environmental education within the school systems (NGSS, n.d.). Rainwater, weather, and the impact of these on life, both animal and plant, are integral parts of the Next Generation Science Standards. In order to develop learners who will be able to participate in a globally connected society, we must educate those learners on basic and advanced fundamentals of math and science (NGSS, n.d.). For many, this background knowledge can be activated by beginning this exploration with something that every human on planet Earth has been exposed to: rain.

According to the latest report on the global climate, the past 7 years have been the warmest years in recorded human history (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 2022). These changing weather conditions are impacting the world in unprecedented ways. When it comes to rain, droughts are impacting agriculture, wildlife, plant biodiversity, and humans at an alarming rate (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 2022). As scientists across the world scamper to develop solutions to the problems we face today, it is evident that there will continue to be a need for scientists, researchers, reporters, and more as the global community works to mitigate the effects of the climate disaster (Cain, 2014). Developing student interest in some of these topics at an early age could be one tenet of a long-term solution to a pervasive global problem.

Although erosion and weathering are common topics within the K-12 science education, teaching students to contemplate and investigate rainwater management solutions could entice the hands-on learning approach that many children find the most engaging.

Part II: What is Rainwater Collection?

Rainwater collection is a tool that has been used for centuries to aid in the irrigation of land at the inauguration of agricultural land practices (Renewable Energy Hub, 2018). Beyond the sociological benefits that humans have reaped for hundreds of years, rainwater collection has been an invaluable tool for ecological benefit (Saboori, 2014). Recently, school systems in rural parts of the world have begun to teach rainwater harvesting, and implement these practices within their buildings (Saboori, 2014). Interestingly, these techniques have been able to aid in both educational practices as well as increasing clean water access within the school system. In the rainwater harvesting study, the rainwater collection tools utilized were commercial tubs and complex systems of plumbing, but rainwater harvesting can be done on any scale. By introducing students to the benefits of increasing potable water, we can work to develop a generation that may be inclined to implement practices that can mitigate erosion, increase access to clean water, and best manage our natural resources in a changing climate.