In this series, we will be sharing activities that help you get outside, learn about our environment, and work with your friends and family to create something awesome. If you haven’t already, read the previous James River Explorers posts and enjoy!

Precipitation is an important part of the water cycle that connects the ocean, land and atmosphere. Data gathered by scientists about precipitation helps us understand what potential impacts there may be on runoff, groundwater, and the overall water cycle. With this activity, you can observe this critical part of the water cycle, by making a rain gauge out of materials found at your home. Get several of your friends to make their own rain gauges and compare your data!

What you will need:

  • Clear plastic soda or water bottle
  • Ruler
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors or craft knife
  • Tape (to secure your rain gauge)

What to do:

  1. Use the ruler to mark a scale on the bottle stopping at the neck. Make sure the lines are evenly spaced and straight.
  2. Get the help of an adult to carefully cut the top of the bottle off at the neck.
  3. Turn over the top section of your plastic bottle and place into the base to make a funnel for rain, and to prevent leaves from falling in.
  4. Select a good location for your rain gauge: find somewhere in the open so rainfall will collect in your gauge. Use tape to help secure you rain gauge so it doesn’t blow away, or tip over.
  5. Check the weather forecast to see when it will next rain.
  6. After it rains, check your rain gauge to measure how much rain has fallen. You can compare your data to the amount of rainfall predicted by weather reports.
  7. Make sure to empty your rain gauge after each observation.

If you measure precipitation with your rain gauge every time it rains, you can use your results to create a chart or graph of your local rainfall!

Share your completed James River Explorers projects with us by posting a photo with the hashtag #JamesRiverExplorers and tag the James River Association. Happy exploring!