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Active Learning Item 3:

Rainfall data, build a rain gauge

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Short description:

Pupils build rain gauges and measure precipitation over a month. Data is collected and presented in graphs and compared with government data. Finally, the amount of rainwater to be handled in sewers and channels in the local area is estimated and climate adaptation options are discussed.

NOTE: The practical part of this task can only be done during a rainy season, where there are several rain events over the course of a month.


You can find all the text parts of the Active Learning Item on the homepage below this section. In this box you can download it as a zip-package of pdf descriptions and summary answer sheets. 

Machine translation:

School subject

Mathematics, Physics


12-16 years

Work time

7 hours

Sustainable Development Goals

Results from other classes:

  • None available yet

Invitation for communication

Read more explanation about the communication here.

Rainfall data, build a rain gauge

(Full description without summary sheet. Download as pdf with summary sheet above)

Short description

Pupils must first build their own rain gauges, preferably in groups. The rain gauges are set up at the pupils’ premises and checked daily over the next month. Data from the study shall be recorded in graphs and compared with the measurements taken by the authorities from the nearest measuring station. Based on the measured rain data, pupils can calculate how much rainwater had to be handled in drainage systems and as runoff during the month studied. The pupils eventually discuss alternative solutions for handling rainwater. 

The purpose is that pupils gain practical knowledge about precipitation and data collection and gain insight into the challenges of intensive rain events (intensified by climate changes) and how to solve them. They also work with data presentation in graphs, compare with official weather data and calculate drain volumes.

Generic learning outcomes that the assignment supports


  • The pupil can apply different strategies for mathematical problem solving.
  • The pupil can apply measurement tools in everyday life situations.
  • The pupil can estimate and determine volume.
  • The pupil can transform measured results to cumulative measurement.
  • The pupil can present their own practical measurements in a bar chart.
  • The pupil can assess real life uncertainties in statistics.


  • The pupil can explain data from the measurements of the water cycle.
  • The pupil can design and carry out studies on the Earth's water resources and the climate.
  • The pupil can explain how Earth water systems affect human living conditions.
  • The pupil can read a map.

SDG related outcomes

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.5: By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations

Goal 13: Climate action. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

Goal 15: Life on land. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

  • Target 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

Notes for the teacher

Before giving pupils the full assignment:

  • Tell the class about rain, how it varies over the year, how rainfall is handled in the cities and in the villages, how rain events are characterized with length and intensity, and how climate change affects precipitation. You can rely on the sources under the heading "References". You should also get a hold on rain data from the authorities' measurements in recent months/years, from the nearest weather station, so that pupils know what to expect. If the link to your country data is not in “References” you may try to search for it.
  • Try asking the pupils what challenges they have experienced themselves (or heard about) in situations with large rainfalls. Which human made structures may have aggravated the problems (e.g. lack of capacity in the drainage system, blocked drains or ditches)?
  • Tell the class that they shall measure precipitation the next month and discuss with them e.g.:
    • How can you measure rain?
    • Why is it important to be able to measure weather data?
    • What do you need weather data for in connection with climate adaptation?
  • Think through how you and the pupils can make rain gauges in practice and make sure you have materials ready. It is a good idea to make rain gauges in groups so that pupils can solve the practical problems together. If each group consists of pupils who live close to each other, they may be able to meet and read the rain measurements together more easily. They may also take turns. If applicable, have a rain gauge at the school (preferably a slightly more accurate type than what the pupils build) to be used as an additional reference. Agree with the pupils who will read it.
  • Before sending pupils home with the rain gauges, make sure they have discussed and figured out 1) that it should be placed very solidly (supported by stones or the like) so that it is not overturned in the wind, and 2) protected so that for example animals and other people do not overturn it.


  • Theory of rainwater management (pdf)
  • Find your own country's website with weather data (Denmark: https://www.dmi.dk/vejrarkiv/) and find data from the nearest weather station.
  • You may also want to look at weather forecast for your area, for example 9 days weather forecast for the whole world at https://www.yr.no/en
  • Rain and temperature predictions (pdf)

Aids for the assignment

  • Excel sheet for summarizing results
  • Feedback sheet to the international DIAL# network

Time needed

Intro and preparation: 2  hours

Fieldwork: 1 month, 5 min per day

Finishing: 2 hours

Materials needed

Different materials for the construction of a rain gauge for each group, e.g.

  • Water bottles or similar
  • Permanent marker
  • Ruler

Activity description for pupils

Field work


Choose a place, a measuring station, where you want to set up your rain gauge. It may be at home where you live or a location in your local area. It is important that you can access and read the rain gauge daily and that no one else, people or animals, interfere with the rain gauge.

Sign on a map where all the class's rain gauges should be placed and keep the map so you can look at it when analyzing your measurements afterwards.

Schedule a month of rain measurements so everyone knows what to do:

  • When do the measurements start?
  • Who checks the rain gauges?
  • How often and what time of the day should measurements be taken?
  • What happens if you don't have time (or forget) to measure one day? What are the sources of error if the rain gauges are standing too long without being read?
  • How do you record rain data? Create a datasheet and note who reads on which days.

Build a rain gauge

Start by building rain gauges that can measure the precipitation in mm. You should use a glass or similar container with vertical sides. For example, cut a water bottle (see drawing). The sides should preferably be vertical. Draw a ruler on the side of the rain gauge with a marker. 

If you make a rain gauge out of a water bottle by cutting the top off, put the top back upside down into the bottle - it reduces evaporation.  If the bottom of the bottle is not flat, then fill a bit of water into the bottle, up to the height where the bottle side is vertical.

When you set up the rain gauge:

  • Put it in a place, where there are no animals or people who knock it over.
  • Be sure to set the rain gauge firmly so that it does not tip over in the wind.
  • Also, make sure that the rain gauge is standing free of shadowing trees or the like, so nothing covers for the rain.


Place the rain gauge at the measuring station. Read your rain gauge for the next month as agreed, for example every morning.  If everyone in the class checks the rain gauges at the same time, then the results will be easier to  compare.

Data management

Data processing

  • Make two bar charts with dates on the x-axis and mm of rain on the y-axis (see attachment if necessary). Record your own measurement data in the chart and also measurements from the nearest government weather station for the same dates with a different color: Figure 1: Daily measurements, Figure 2: Cumulative measurements.
  • Calculate or read the total mm of rain that has fallen over the entire month.


1. Compare your total measured rain with the authorities' measurement data from the nearest weather station:

  • Compare both the total mm of rain and your rainfall graphs for the month with data from the authorities.
  • How well does the data match?
  • Why do you think you find differences in the authorities' data and your own?

2. Compare the graphs for your measuring station with the graphs from the other measuring stations of your classmates. For example, if the class has many measuring stations, you can start by comparing with one or two measuring stations that are close to yours and make graphs based on the averages of the daily measurements. Then you can compare your average measurements with the average measurements of the others. Finally, make a graph based average measurements from class measuring stations and record also the authorities' measurements on it. Discuss along the way:

    • Is there a big difference in measurements when the measuring stations are close to each other?
    • Is there a big difference in measurements when the measuring stations are far apart?
    • Is there a big difference between your measurements and the authorities' measurements?
    • How much of the differences are due to uncertainty about the reading of the rain gauge?
    • And how much of the difference is due to different amounts of rain falling in different places?

    3. How much water falls on your local area?

    • Find and draw your local area on a map. Use maps on your computer if possible, e.g. Google Maps or Google Earth.
    • Measure on the map and calculate the area of your entire local area using the scale ratio.
    • Calculate how large a volume of water falls on the entire local area in one month based on your measured rainfall.
    • Also calculate the rain intensity, in volume water per unit time per area. E.g. Liter/second/Hectare.
    • Was there a day of the month when there was a lot of rain? If you remember how long the downpour approximately lasted, try to calculate the amount of water and the rain intensity of that downpour. If there is an unusually large amount of rain in a short time, it is called extreme rain.

    4. How is the rain managed in your local area? Perhaps in some areas the rain runs down into the sewer or the trenches/ditches, in some places into a river or lake and in some places it seeps into the ground.

    • If you have a town with sewers or open or covered trenches along the roads in your area, then you can estimate how much of the water runs in the sewer (because the rest seeps into the ground or evaporates again). You multiply the rainfall with a drain coefficient to calculate how much runs into the sewer. The drain coefficient, c, depends on the type of urban area you have. You can use these drain coefficients, c:

                     c     Urban area

                    0.3    Houses with gardens

                    0.8    Industrial area

                    0.9    Apartments area

    • Try to estimate what percentage of your local area with sewers are houses with gardens, industry and apartments.
    • Calculate from this what proportion of the water, in percentage, that falls on the area, is running to the sewers and trenches.

    5. What kind of climate adaptation should you make in your area?

    • What problems with heavy rainfall have you experienced or heard about in your local urban areas and rural areas?
    • How do you think climate change will affect the rain in your area; will there be more or less rain? Will the rain intensity be larger or smaller in the future?
    • Discuss how to manage rainwater in a better way in your local area – it is called climate adaptation. For example, what can be done to prevent large areas from flooding when extreme rains occur?
    • Why is it hard to deal with extreme rain? Is funding missing? Is it bad management by the authorities or by ordinary people?



    This assignment is processed by Henrik Bregnhøj, very much based on a Danish exercise published on https://www.skoven-i-skolen.dk/biologi/vejr-data by Naturvidenskabernes hus (House of Natural Sciences).