Spring | Water: Grades 1-3

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away! Measuring rain in the garden

Summary: Depending on where you live your garden might receive much of its water from rain. In hot summer months every drop counts so we’re going to count our drops by creating rain gauges. We’ll use this information as we decide how much water our garden needs.

Pre-Visit Planning: 

  • Gather: An empty, clear soda pop bottle, a sharpie (+ anything additional for decorating the bottle), scissors, and a ruler.
  • Explore: Water sources in the garden: examine the hoses, watering cans, etc. Look at Rain by David Hockney
  • Read: A Drop Around the World, by Barbara McKinney 

In the Garden: 

Rain is an important partner in the garden. It cannot replace our role as chief water engineer but it can help us lighten the watering load. An important job for any gardener is keeping track of how much water the plants are getting. Even after a rain the garden might still need more water to thrive. One of the ways we can tell how much water each storm brings is by using a rain gauge.

Questions to explore:

-Can you predict how much water the next storm will bring?

-How can we measure the water?

-Examine a plant in the garden, feel the soil around it and look at the leaves. Do you think this plant needs more water? Why? 


  • Cut the top of the soda bottle off right above where the label is. Invert that piece into the bottle to create a funnel for the rain. 
  • Using your ruler measure and mark the bottle in inch increments. 
  • Decorate! 
  • You may place the bottle in the garden wedged between two rocks or slightly dug into a garden bed for security. Or, take your gauge home and measure the rainfall in your yard. 

Gardeners keep good notes and rely on nature to help them in the garden. 

  • Over the next few weeks check your rain gauge each day and record the measurement on a piece of graph paper. Can you plot your measurements along an x/y axis with y the amount of rain in inches and x the day of the month? 
  • As you make more measurements you may start to see a pattern of rainfall in your area. Make sure to check in on your garden when rainfall is scarce! 

Beyond the garden | Exploring water ways in the neighborhood

There are all sorts of ways to explore water in the neighborhood. 

  • You can look for storm drains along the street. 
  • Help our waterways out by cleaning up any trash you find stuck near the drain. Our trees and plants appreciate it. 
  • If you live near a river, watch how it changes before and after a large storm. Rivers in spring can be especially active as snow melts and the spring rains fill them. 
  • Is there a local water management plant in your city? Ask if you can schedule a tour and learn how water moves through your city.

Continue Exploring | Supporting Materials

Artists working with rain: https://therecycledrainproject.wordpress.com/event-opening/

US Geological Survey’s water mission: http://www.usgs.gov/water/

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: http://www.noaa.gov

Note for Parents:
Each lesson suggests you explore a piece of artwork and read a specific book with your child. The artwork and books are easily available for view with an online search. However, these suggestions are not necessary to complete the lessons.

Guiding Principles


Learning, though not always visible, is always happening. The lessons are designed using inquiry as a base. Rather than “right answers” be more concerned with asking good questions.


Things may not go as planned. The lessons are designed to be used in whatever way works best for you. You can use all of the lesson or just pull a piece out of it.


Planting and cultivating a garden is believing in possibility. The lessons are designed to generate excitement about the future.


Each lesson includes a way to take the learning out into the community for more learning and more connection.


When a young child’s innate curiosity is unleashed in a garden the possibilities are endless. Any topic is open for exploration.


You will get dirty. There will be bugs.