What happens to rain or melting snow when it can’t go into the ground? Set up an easy stormwater runoff model with your kids to demonstrate what happens. Get them talking about how they can help reduce runoff pollution. A great project for Earth Day!



Stormwater is rainwater or snowmelt plus anything the rain carries along with it. Stormwater is also known as ‘polluted runoff’.

Stormwater runoff is created by rain or melting snow that flows over the ground. In cities, stormwater runs over streets and parking lots, picking up oil and other pollutants before flowing into rivers or streams.

Also check out: Water Cycle In A Bag

Why is stormwater runoff a problem?

When rainwater can’t soak into the ground in urban areas because of pavement, the water is forced to run along streets and parking lots, picking up pollutants.

Stormwater runoff can contain chemicals, paint, building construction waste, fast food packaging, cigarette butts, cooking oil, car oil, animal waste, etc.

This stormwater runoff pollution can flow into our streams and rivers, and into the ocean affecting marine life.

In farming areas, stormwater runoff can push excess nutrients from fertilizers and other pollutants into waterways, which leads to algae blooms.

Heavy stormwater runoff can also overwhelm infrastructure and cause sewage overflows, as well as cause soil erosion to stream banks and rivers.

TRY: Learn more about erosion with this edible soil layer model, a coastal erosion demonstration and this hands-on soil erosion activity.

How do you reduce stormwater runoff?

You can help prevent stormwater pollution in your own backyard by reducing runoff into local stormwater drains. Wash your car on the lawn instead of the driveway, and keep leaves, grass clippings and soil from going into drains.

In the street, pick up pet droppings and other litter and dispose of them in a garbage bin.

On the land, re-plant areas that have been affected by soil erosion, and add plants to the banks of rivers and streams. Support a reduction in the use of fertilizers and pesticides through organic farming.

Let’s make stormwater runoff clean and keep pollutants out of our waterways!



Let’s explore the impact of stormwater runoff by building a model! This is a great hands-on STEM activity that is sure to get kids thinking!

This stormwater runoff project asks a few questions!

  • What is stormwater runoff?
  • What causes stormwater runoff pollution?
  • How can we prevent or reduce stormwater runoff pollution?

Let’s explore the answers together!



STEP 1: Print the stormwater runoff worksheet and color it in. Cut out the pieces.

STEP 2: Tape the images to your paint tray or a baking pan.

STEP 3: Place the substances on the tray you have chosen to represent oil, chemicals, and animal excrement.

STEP 4: Add clean water to the bottom of your tray or pan.

STEP 5: Use spray bottle to represent the storm water runoff during a rain storm.

What happens to the water? Discuss and record your observations.


Discover tons more fun and do-able Earth Day activities for kids, including art and crafts, slime recipes, science experiments and more. Like these ideas…

Set up this easy acid rain experiment to explore the effects of acid rain on plants.

Explore ways to help the Earth by reducing your carbon footprint.

Learn about the effect of storms on coastal erosion and set up a beach erosion demonstration.

Here is a simple ocean science experiment you can set up in the corner of the kitchen or classroom that explores the effects of ocean acidification.

Try this oil spill cleanup experiment to learn about ocean pollution right at home or in the classroom.

Learn about the impact of pollution on the nitrogen cycle and the carbon cycle.


Discover more science & STEM activities right here. Click on the link or on the image below.

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