Rainwater Harvesting Design Challenge for Teens

During the 2013-14 school year, a group of 10th-12th grade students from 3 Cincinnati area schools came together for the inaugural running of the Green Learning Team. The Green Learning Team (GLT) is a monthly Saturday enrichment program focused on local environmental issues and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and careers related to them. Throughout the 10, 6-hour Saturday sessions, students worked though investigations they designed, parts of the engineering design process, field trips related to stormwater and composting and a real-world, small group Challenge. The Challenge focused on developing a rainwater harvesting, storage and distribution system for three local gardens, with a group of 4 students working on each site. The two projects designed for a local non-profit, Happen, Inc., were installed by the students in the spring of the year.

Students consistently reported that they felt empowered, listened to, like they were able to make a difference and be truly creative throughout this process. Along the way they learned about applied math, water science, the engineering design process, community needs and connected careers. The project was so impactful for the students, community and Happen, Inc that we wanted to share the framework for the Challenge with the wider world of education so others could try it out in their contexts. While this unit was originally implemented in a Saturday program, it could be adapted to a classroom, after-school, service learning or other context. To allow for that flexibility, we have not included specific time frames for the lesson activities. Some of the activities could be combined into one session depending on time available.The unit was developed and implemented by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati’s Green Learning Station Coordinator, Ryan Mooney-Bullock and volunteer retired engineers Jack Broering, Rob Rapaport and Tom Vinciguerra. Funding for the development and pilot implementation of the Green Learning Team was provided by Procter & Gamble, through the Strive Partnership and project support was provided through the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative.

Best practices from the unit were compiled into a concise guide for teachers or other educators wishing to engage their students in a real-world engineering unit. All files are available for free here. Enjoy!

Download curriculum files: