Rain to Drain - Slow the Flow: Adaptation

Tips for using the Rain to Drain - Slow the Flow Curriculum at fairs and community events when time is limited.
Rain to Drain - Slow the Flow: Adaptation - Articles


Rain to Drain-Slow the Flow is easily adapted to a demonstration activity at community events, fairs, and other fast-paced environments when time is limited.

Rain to Drain-Slow the Flow can be adapted from a full educational curriculum into a fast-paced demonstration activity. This adaptation is appropriate for events where you only have a few moments to reach your audience (like community fairs, etc.) The demonstration will provide a visual and interactive way to explain how stormwater moves in natural and developed communities and how green infrastructure allows for a more natural flow.

Materials Needed:

  • 3 Community Models (muffin tin, 6 cups, 5 sponge cutouts, roll of tape) as prepared in the curriculum
  • Three trays to work on (if concerned about table top getting wet)
  • At least 1 rain bottle
  • Pitcher of water
  • 1 set of laminated development cards, plus one extra rooftop card (from curriculum)
  • 1 set of laminated green infrastructure cards, green felt, plastic canvas and rocks to represent green infrastructure on the model
  • 1 set of green infrastructure photo pages (from curriculum)


You will set-up three communities, side-by-side, for quick transitions. Just like in the full curriculum, the muffin tin will represent a model community. You will set up one muffin tin as a natural community (5 sponges only), one as a developed community (5 development cards over sponges), and one as a green community (5 green infrastructure simulations). You could call these three models your community in the past (natural), present (developed), and future (green).

The Activity:

First Model (Natural Community)

1. Explain to those doing the activity how the sponges represent the Earth's surface before people developed it.

  • Q. What do you think our community looked like before people lived here?
  • A. Trees, forests, meadows, Penn's Woods, etc.--Make sure they conclude that there were a lot more plants.

2. Explain that this model represents our community over 500 years ago, when it was in its natural state. Each well of the muffin tin is a property in your neighborhood.

  • Q. What do you think the blue muffin well represents?
  • A. Water (could be a local river, lake, stream, etc. that your community is familiar with or that you are trying to protect)
  • Q. What do cups under each property represent?
  • A. Underground

3. Have a volunteer make it rain on this model. Hand them the rain bottle and pour a cup of water in while they move the bottle over the tray.

  • Q. Where did most of the rain water go when it rained in our community 500 years ago?
  • A. Underground and soaked up by the soils in the forest

4. Have the audience observe how there was very little runoff into the water body.

Second Model (Developed Community)

1. Transition the audience's attention from the natural community to the developed community model.

  • Q. What do you see when you look around your community today, is it all forest?
  • A. No. We have roads, houses, sidewalks, etc.

2. Point out the development cards on the model and explain what each represents.

  • Q. Where do you think the rainwater will go now that the natural community is covered in developed surfaces?
  • A. It will roll downhill instead of infiltrating into the ground

3. Ask for a volunteer to make it rain on the developed community model.

  • Q. Where did most of the stormwater go in this community?
  • A. Into the blue water body cup
  • Q. Is there enough groundwater in this community to support plant life and wells for drinking water or farming?
  • A. No, the water wasn't able to infiltrate and recharge the groundwater
  • Q. What else might be carried over the surface of roads and concrete in the stormwater that will end up in the water body?
  • A. Pollutants like fertilizers, leaky car oil, pet waste, and other dirt
  • Q. Do we need houses, roads, and these other developed surfaces?
  • A. Yes, we need these for our way of life.

Third Model (Green Community)

1. Explain to those doing the activity that we need to find a way to compromise. Ask them if they know what "Going Green" is (recycling and saving electricity). We can go green with our buildings as well.

  • Q. What can we do to get stormwater to infiltrate like it did in the natural community, but still be able to build the surfaces we need?
  • A. Use green infrastructure.

2. Show the audience the types of green infrastructure on the cards (from the curriculum) and show the modifications on the model that are associated with each. Explain how these types of development reduce stormwater runoff while providing the surfaces we need in our community.

3. Ask for a volunteer to make it rain on the green community model.

  • Q. Where did the stormwater end up in the green community?
  • A. Less runoff into the body of water, more infiltration into the ground
  • Q. Did the body of water flood this time
  • A. No
  • Q. Is there groundwater available for use by plants and people?
  • A. Yes

4. Ask the audience to consider where each of these and other green practices could be used in your community.