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Rain Gauge Investigation

In this activity, students create a rain gauge to place outdoors. This can be used to measure the rate of precipitation in their neighbourhood.

Precipitation is the process occurs when water falls from clouds to the ground. It can happen as rain, snow, sleet, or hail. The rate of precipitation varies seasonally and regionally.

In Vancouver, the rainy season is winter and very little rain falls during the summer. Rain gauges are great tools to use to help monitor the changes in precipitation over time. They are used by scientists to predict how much water we will have in our reservoirs and to predict how much water we can use. 

Objectives

  • Describe what a rain gauge is and how it works.

Materials

  • Per Student:
    750 mL plastic container (yogurt container, jar or other, opening should be same size as body)

  • Per Class:
    5 60 mL measuring cups (1/4 cup)
    5 buckets of water
    10 waterproof markers

Key Questions

  • Where is a good place to set up the rain gauge?

What To Do

Set-up

  1. Set up 5 tables with a  measuring cup (1/4 cup), 2 markers and 1 bucket at each table.
  2. Divide the class into 5 groups. One group will work at each table.
  3. Hand out a plastic container to each student.

Instructions

  1. Have students take turns to fill the measuring cup with water from the bucket. Then, have the students pour the water into their own container. Repeat until everyone in their group has filled their containers.
  2. Have each student mark the water level with a marker and label the water level at 60 mL.
  3. Once everyone in the group has poured, marked, and labeled the 60 mL amount, have students repeat steps 1 and 2, increasing the amount each time by one measuring cup worth. The marks on their container should read 60 mL, 120 mL, 180 mL, 240 mL, 300 mL, etc.
  4. Once each student reaches the top, they should empty the rain gauge water back into the bucket.
  5. Finally, students can place their rain gauge outside and record how much rain is received each day/week/month.

Dry variation:

Preparation

  1. Prepare one container with the volume markings already labelled. Substitute the measuring cup and water bucket with this template container.

Instructions

  1. Have student use the template container to mark the same measurement marks on their own containers.

Extensions

  • Measure the rainfall for an entire month, recording daily rainfall on a chart. Plot the rainfall chart on a graph, and compare week to week (or extend for a season or school year).
  • Check the level of the Metro Vancouver reservoir — is the curve going up or down? What does that mean?
  • Make a large rainwater catchment system for your school or home. Attach it to your eavestroughs or downspouts and see how much water you can collect.

Other Resources

MetroVancouver |Watersheds & Reservoirs