Environmental and Outdoor Education (EOE) model lesson - Building a rain barrel

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These model lessons were created by teachers participating in the Minnesota Department of Education's 2011-13 project, "Integrating Environmental and Outdoor Education into Grades 7-12" with funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

Title of lesson: Building a Rain Barrel

Content area: Biology
Grade level: 9-12

Learning objective: I can plan and build a rain barrel set-up for the school garden.

Standard or benchmark addressed:
Science - Engineering Design - How human activity is affecting the hydrosphere - How ecosystems are affected by human activity - How water quality affects health.

Description of lesson and how it is adapted for EOE:
The students developed a plan and installed rain barrels in the school garden area. The students learned about rain barrels and how they could be used in the garden and their benefits for water quality. This activity fit well with their prior studies of water quality and watersheds and our connection to the Mississippi River in Science class. The lesson gave them an opportunity to connect their understanding of water quality to an action plan for steps that they can use to make a difference. The students were directed in finding the best directions and plan for rain barrel installation. They turned this information into a proposal for the rain barrels that was then approved by school administration. The installation was a great activity for students that don't always succeed in a traditional academic setting. The students learned how to use new tools and solve problems during the installation.

Teacher's role (i.e. specific activities and instructional strategies):
I started with a lesson on rain barrels and their relationship to water quality. The students had some background knowledge from water quality lessons in science class and electives. I also arranged a visit to another school that had rain barrels as well as other garden features so the students could see how other schools had developed their rain barrel and garden plans. I provided quality resources for students to do basic research on rain barrels and to develop their plan for the school. Most of the activities were student-directed with teacher feedback.

Other resources needed:
Rain barrel information guides (County, Watershed Districts), building supplies for the rain barrels, and tools.

How students are assessed:
The assessment included the rain barrel project plan (see attached) and the installation of the rain barrels on the school property. Students also shared their rain barrel project at a school presentation night.

Time considerations:
This lesson occurred during an intensive class that was all day long, which allowed for more undivided time to work on the plan and installation or the rain barrels. This could be completed over many class periods, or during a voluntary after school time, depending on the size of the project.

Environmental and Outdoor Education (EOE) Model Lessons are freely available for use by all teachers for educational purposes only.

Sarah Oppelt, River's Edge Academy (St. Paul)
Topic Areas: 
Environmental Studies
Target Audience: 
Grades Pre K-12
Geographic Location: 
All Minnesota
Enhancements / Connections: 

There could be more math done to figure out the area of the roof and capacity of rain barrels and how many barrels would be need to meet the capacity of the roof runoff.

Date Produced/Published: 
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