Nature Works Everywhere Gardens Activity Guide: Water


Activity Description: 

The purpose of this activity guide is to help students understand their garden as a model watershed through the collection and analysis of rainwater filtration data. This guide serves as an extension to the Nature Works Everywhere How Natural Areas Filter Water lesson plan, which can be found at

In this guide, students explore the relationship between rain filtration by the permeable surface of a garden and water quality throughout the surrounding watershed. Students calculate the permeable surface area of the garden and periodically measure rainfall amounts at the garden, then use these data to determine how much rainwater their garden has filtered. 



  • Define concepts such as permeable, impermeable, filtration, run-off, and watershed.


  • Formulate an evidence-based opinion on the cumulative effect of rain filtration provided by gardens and other green areas in the region.
  • Construct an argument to show the key role rain filtration plays in regional watersheds.


  • Describe the impact of permeable and impermeable surfaces on the natural process of rain filtration and water quality.
  • Solve quantifiable problems related to the rain filtration capacity of permeable surfaces within the school garden.


  • Distinguish between permeable and impermeable surfaces.
  • Use data collected to estimate rain filtration over periods of time.


  • Record and interpret rainfall amounts by collecting data directly (e.g., with a rain gauge) and/or from a reliable source (e.g., weather reporting website).
  • Describe the ecological services provided by a watershed.


  • Measure the permeable surface area of the garden.
Educational Standards: 

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Earth’s Systems

ESS2-4: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.

ESS2-5: Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

Earth and Human Activity

ESS3-1: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geo-science processes.

ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


Materials for teacher

  • Computer with Internet connection
  • Rain gauge (optional)
  • Garden or other natural area that filters water on your school campus

Materials for students

  • Rain Filtration Field Report reproducible (provided at the end of this guide)
  • Garden notebook
  • Computer with Internet connection
  • Tape measure or other form of measurement
  • Calculator
This lesson is part of an extended learning experience that engages students in creating and maintaining a school garden. Six class periods are required to complete the activities presented.
The Nature Conservancy and Discovery Education,