EarthGen Washington, Washington OSPI OER Project
Engineering, Environmental Science, Life Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Full Course
Middle School
  • Curricular Program
  • EarthGen
  • Middle School
  • Science
  • Stormwater
    Creative Commons Attribution
    English, Spanish
    Media Formats:

    Stormwater Challenge_EarthGen Curricular Program

    Stormwater Challenge_EarthGen Curricular Program


    Stormwater Challenge is a middle school curricular program created by EarthGen. For this unit, we offer professional development training and assistance with implementation. If you are interested in implementing this program at your school or district, please let us know! Please contact for more information. 




    Schools across Washington state deal with stormwater issues such as fields flooding, silt entering storm drains, and pooling water near downspouts. The Stormwater Challenge is a unit supplement that was developed in partnership with school districts to bring stormwater learning to middle school classrooms through a locally relevant challenge. The following chart provides a brief overview of the lesson goals. This resource can be used in order and would take approximately 15 days; the lessons can also be used individually. To explore the resources further, visit the Activity Outlines linked in the last column and the affiliated slideshows for each lesson.

    The Stormwater Challenge gives teams of middle school students the opportunity to develop solutions to a real stormwater-themed challenge and have the experience of presenting their solutions to a wider audience of community members.


    This unit supplement was developed in collaboration with Highline Public Schools and teachers from Puyallup School District. This Stormwater Challenge contains fictional stories and fictional characters using magnified examples borrowed from various places. 



    Next Generation Science Standards: 

    MS-ETS1-1: Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.


    MS-ETS1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


    MS- ESS2-4: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.


    MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

    ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

    Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

    Lesson 1

    Project Launch

    Students will be introduced to the Stormwater Challenge. They will learn that the area they live in is already experiencing and can expect heavier and more frequent rain events, due to climate change. Students are tasked to develop solutions to a stormwater problem at their school.

    Students will use a student design notebook to document and progress their solution. They will work in small groups with assigned roles to design their solutions. They will present their solution at the end of the unit supplement.

    Lesson 2

    Campus Observations and Models

    Students will practice identifying stormwater problems and define a design problem by completing a school campus walk. Prior to the walk students will learn from a landscape designer that focuses on Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). They will give students ideas on what to look out for as they walk around the school grounds. Additionally students will reflect on who they share the land with and through the lens of various time scales. Upon their return to the classroom students will add stormwater features, identified areas of stormwater problems, and observations from their walk to a map of their school campus.

    Lesson 3

    Water Cycle

    Students will reflect on their own relationship and cultural connections to water and the role it plays in their lives and in their community. Students will be introduced (or reintroduced) to the water cycle and the following terms: precipitation, condensation, transpiration, and evaporation. Students will create a model using supplies such as chart paper, markers, sticky notes and arrows to show how water cycles on Earth. Students will also label which areas on the water cycle are permeable and impermeable. Through this labeling they will acknowledge the way water interacts with the land through the terms: groundwater, run off, erosion, and infiltration.

    Lesson 4

    Water Cycle Energy

    Students will deepen their understanding of the water cycle by including how water moves. Students will continue to add onto the model they made of the water cycle and how it interacts with the land by including energy components on their model. They will include where energy from the sun and gravity take place in their model.

    Lesson 5


    Students will learn about their own local watershed and its boundaries. They will use a map of their watershed to get acquainted with the areas that they interact with. On their map, they will add local markers that hold meaning to them within their watershed. These markers will include: school, home, airport, closest waterway to school, closest grocery to home, closest park to home, closest gas station to home etc. Additionally, students will reflect on why their watershed is important and how they can impact it.

    Lesson 6

    Watershed Health

    Students will identify a waterway that is nearby and a part of their local watershed. Students will learn about different ways to measure watershed health, including counting and identifying macroinvertebrates, using abiotic indicators such as pH, or taking what they know about their local waterway and using an online simulator to replicate its condition. Students will then determine the water quality using one of these techniques.


    Lesson 7

    Pollution Sources

    Students will define stormwater and identify pollutants that may end up in stormwater. Students will then participate in an experiment that studies the effectiveness of natural filters in monitoring and minimizing the human impact of pollution. Students will create their own polluted stormwater using common household items, such as coffee, olive oil, sprinkles, and soap. Students will then create a natural filter using rocks, moss, soil, then test its effectiveness by running their polluted water through the filter. Students will finish the activity with a discussion about ways humans impact the health of their watershed.

    Lesson 8

    Stormwater Solutions Card Game

    Students will learn about various GSI solutions including rain gardens, green roofs, cisterns, and permeable pavement. Students will review each solution and determine a stormwater problem that may match with the solution they learned about. This activity will prepare them for the Stormwater Solution Card Game.


    Students will play the Stormwater Solutions card game which will guide them through picking a solution to a specific stormwater problem. Students will have to identify and collect all of the criteria and constraints for the solution before they can apply it to the problem to win the game. This includes cost, approval, materials, maintenance, water access, and volunteers. Students will learn what goes into developing a solution to a stormwater problem.

    Students will have a chance to discuss and debate with their classmates about the most effective solutions to stormwater problems. Keeping criteria and constraints in mind, students will work through various stormwater problems and identify what they think the best solution would be.

    Lesson 9

    Work Days

    Students will begin developing their solution to the stormwater problem they identified at their own school campus. Students will take on career roles, such as Stormwater Engineer, Educational Consultant, Landscape Architect, and Scientist and work in small groups to complete their Student Design File to choose a solution for the original stormwater challenge. Students can revise their initial thoughts from their campus walk based on what they have learned. If needed, students could complete an additional campus walk.

    They will define the criteria and constraints of their design and identify the potential impacts on the people in their school community and on the environment. Students will also watch short videos highlighting careers in stormwater management.

    Lesson 10


    Students will present their final solution to the class, EarthGen staff, and stormwater professionals. Their presentations will include how they thought through criteria and constraints and why they think their solution is the best fit for the problem identified.