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Rain Gauge Activity

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Global Precipitation Measurement

In this hands-on inquiry-based activity, students face an engineering challenge based on real-world applications. They are tasked with developing a tool they can use to measure the amount of rain that falls each day. This is more of a mini unit than a stand alone activity.

This activity takes one to three 60 min class periods. Additional materials are required.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This lesson has very detailed instructional notes/directions.
  • There are several links to other resources that could help make this lesson into a full unit.
  • The resources that are available on the website would be a priority to teach background knowledge of precipitation, making it beneficial if the students take measurements after learning to construct the rain gauge.
  • Rain gauges have played a vital role in identifying micro plastics. This would be a great discussion that ties into this lesson on what we can learn from actually gathering rain vs. gathering all data from satellites. For more information see this USGS report.

About the Content

  • This is a hands on inquiry based activity that has students using their engineering skills to construct rain gauges. While doing this they will learn how this tool will help with standardized calibrations to gain precise measurements of perception.
  • They are also introduced to the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission and how it will set new standards for measuring precipitation across the world. [Some of the conversation discusses the satellite in future tense but it has since been launched.]
  • The project begins with the concept of how much usable freshwater is on Earth. During this explanation the Teacher Guide state's that most freshwater is locked up in "ice caps (like where it is almost always frozen in the North Pole)", however it is important to point out that at the North Pole there is sea ice and not an ice cap.
  • After the introduction to the topic the students are then asked to experiment with building a rain gauge, which utilizes their experimental and critical thinking skills. This allows for great opportunities for collaboration, making mistakes, and redesigning.
  • This lesson/mini unit also provides concrete analysis of the amount of fresh water on our planet compared to salt water which supports the importance of carefully gathering data on the amount of precipitation we have on the planet.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • The lesson provides a clear path of 5Es: Engaging, Exploring, Explaining, Extending, and Evaluating.
  • The powerpoint provided with this lesson guides the students through these phases of the 5Es in a clear and engaging format.
  • The instructional notes include several sections discussing specifics on the science and method of the lesson. They also go into detail on the scaffolding of the lesson before extending the lecture into the experiment - designing the rain gauge.
  • The discussion that follows lends to higher order thinking along with logical reasoning.
  • There are several descriptions on how to extend this lesson further, including links to other resources and informational webpages.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The lesson can be downloaded and printed or used online to take advantage of the linked web pages and visual resources.
  • In the PowerPoint there were two videos, but they only showed up as still pictures, depending on the computer and software being used.
  • Materials to design the rain gauges can all be pulled from a recycle bin. Students can also use their own water bottles. Teachers should spend time gathering a variety of resources that students might need before the activity.
  • The NSTA.org link in the teacher's guide is broken.
Entered the Collection: August 2020 Last Reviewed: June 2020

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