Stormwater Pollution Assessment and Retrofit Brainstorming Project

Stormwater Pollution Assessment & Retrofit Activity
for High School Students
The purpose of this multi-day activity is to create an understanding of stormwater,
why it occurs, why it is a problem, and what can be done about it. The first field day gives
students a chance to discover the pollutants that are common in the urban landscape,
ready to be swept into the storm drain to a waterway during the next rainfall. These
pollutants are ones that community members and the students walk past in their everyday
lives. The retrofit activity and second field day give the students an opportunity to use
their imaginations to find ways to treat and/or reduce runoff volumes. It introduces them
to green infrastructure practices and shows them that there are plenty of opportunities to
use these practices in their own city. The ultimate objective of this activity is to change the
way the students and adult group leaders see their community. The students will no
longer walk past pollution without noticing it and they will know where it will go if it gets
into the storm drain. They will no longer take urban landscapes for granted, but will view
them as being full of possibilities.
Materials Needed:
- 2 aerial photos of each study site
- two pieces of transparency paper for each group
- three marker-board markers for each group
- a clip board for each group
- one camera for each group
- PowerPoint slides and projector
- Some full-page print outs of urban landscapes (a different one for each group)
- An overhead projector (optional)
- One computer for each group and/or poster materials (only if doing presentation
Day One: In Classroom
What is Stormwater?
Impervious surfaces and runoff
How rainwater gets from the city to a water body
Stormwater pollution and specific pollutants
Introduction to the project, timeline, materials provided and needed, group tasks
What will we be looking for: potential pollutants on the land’s surface
Specific Instructions on conducting the Street & Storm Drain Assessment and the
Hotspot Investigation
Study areas
Ground rules
The purpose of day one is to create an understanding of what stormwater is, that it is
the result of development (impervious surfaces), that it travels from our cities to our
lakes and rivers through storm drains, and that it carries pollution with it from our
cities to our rivers and lakes. This day is also used to introduce and explain the
activities and expectations of day two.
Day Two: Field Day
- Street and Storm Drain Assessment
- Hotspot Site Investigation
Give each group of students an aerial photo of their study site with a piece of
transparency paper over it on the clip board. Have each group of students walk their
study site with an adult member. As they walk they should be noticing the pollution
on the curbs and drains and other impervious surfaces in the site (i.e. parking lots,
sidewalks, driveways, etc). They should also be keeping their eyes open for stormwater
hotspots. Have the students work together to take pictures, describe pollutants, and
mark where hotspots are found on their maps. The adult group member may need to
get things going by giving hints or pointing out some pollutants, but the students
should catch on shortly.
Day Three : In Classroom
- Briefly review what we learned on day one, particularly impervious surfaces
- Lead them to the conclusion that imperviousness is the stormwater culprit so
reducing imperviousness must be the solution; introduce the concept of ‘green
- Break green infrastructure into two groups: practices for treating stormwater and
practices for reducing runoff volume
Explain in some depth the following practices, how they work, where they fit into
the landscape, etc: swales, infiltration basins (including rain gardens), trees and
shrubs, deep rooted plants, stormwater planters, green roofs, rain barrels
Introduce the activity
Find pictures of urban landscapes (i.e. a strip mall, an aerial photo of a grocery
store, a residential home (that shows downspouts), etc. Print each landscape on a full
piece of paper. Paperclip a piece of transparency paper over each landscape and give
each group a different landscape and a handout showing examples of each of the
practices that you just explained (swales, infiltration basins, trees and shrubs, deeprooted plants, stormwater planters, green roofs, and rain barrels).
Have the groups work together to think about where on their landscape runoff is
coming from (draw in with one color marker) and where it is flowing (draw in with
another color) . Have them find where there might be wasted space that could be
utilized for a stormwater practice (i.e. parking lot islands, rooftops, etc). With a marker,
have them apply as many of the stormwater management practices as they can on
their landscape. Don’t worry about practicality, let them use their imaginations!
Have one or two students from each group come up and tell the rest of the class
about the origins and flow direction of runoff on their landscape, and what practices
they applied to manage the runoff. (If you can, align each transparency onto the
landscape image using a power point projector and an overhead projector).
Now introduce the next day’s activity. It will be the same as today’s exercise, but
they will be doing it at their study sites. Remind them to notice where runoff
originates and where it will flow to. Have them look for wasted spaces in the
landscape, and apply practices accordingly.
Day Four : Field Day
- Stormwater Management Retrofit Activity
Give each group of students a fresh aerial photo of their site. Have each group of
students walk the site with an adult group member. They should choose specific sites
along the way to outfit with stormwater practices (i.e. a bank, a church, a block of
homes, the boulevard space between the street and sidewalk, a parking lot, a gas
station, etc). Have them take lots of pictures of the site, mark the site on their map,
and describe and/or sketch the practices that they would apply to the landscape.
Day Five : In Classroom
- Prepare ahead of time for posters: a copy of each aerial photo with transparency
markings (one with hotspots, one with retrofits), urban landscape photos with
markings, many student photo print-outs of pollutants and retrofit sites, group
photos of the students. (Prepare digital slides for use in PowerPoint).
Have each group of students work together to develop a few PowerPoint slides
and/or a poster depicting some of the pollutants that they found on the streets
and storm drains, some potential hotspots, and a few sites that could be
retrofitted with stormwater management practices (only if going to present).
If there is time, have the groups come together as a class and tell each other
about their slides. Discuss together the project as a whole.
Optional Activities:
- If there is a stormwater management practice nearby, bring the class out to it at
the end of day three if there is time. Explain where the runoff originates, how it
flows to this practice, and specific information about this type of practice (point
out sizing, overflow, treatment capabilities).
- Have one or two students from each group present the results of their project to
a group of decision-makers (administrators, council members, school board, etc)
Language to Use
- curb-cut
- “water doesn’t flow up curbs”
- retrofit