Monday, September 9, 2013

DECOMP PROJECT: My Goodness, That's a LOT of Water!

Your Decomp Project is under way and your students have adjusted to their daily trek to the classroom. Those changes are behind you. However, big changes in weather patterns are still on the horizon. In our area we have progressed from the soggy summer to the unpredictable weather patterns of the fall. In fact, since our rainfall on September 1, we have had nothing but sunny days. However, I am certain that the sun will soon be replaced with downpours and all out gully washers. With the inevitable heavy rains ahead, I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide the first of my connection activities to accompany the Decomp Project.(Link)

On those days where your area can easily receive 2 or 3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, you might begin to wonder how on earth your little ones are going to manage to get all of that water into the decomp tub without spilling it. During the setup you placed the lid under the tub to catch the water run off. This is the time to remind you to regularly empty that lid, so that you do not end up with a muddy mess on your classroom floor.
Hint: If a huge autumn storm is predicted in your area, I recommend that you move the decomp tub to an outdoor location until the rain has stopped. Make sure it is placed where the drainage holes can do their job!

Now, back to the activity—an efficient way to make ‘rain’ fall on your decomp tub that is paired with a math connection.

Adults and children know that a gallon is bigger than a cup. How many times have your little ones tried to pick up a full gallon of milk only to find out it’s a bit more than they can handle? With that in mind, this quick activity and visual aid can help your ‘rainfall’ days with your decomp tub run more smoothly.
While this activity is intended to be conducted as an extension to the Decomp Project, it can easily be modified to serve as a stand-alone activity.

HINT: This initial measurement activity takes a long time to complete (60-75 minutes). It can be divided into more than one session. Once this activity has been completed, it lays the groundwork for a faster and more efficient way to transfer rain water to the decomp tub.
Virginia: Math Standards of Learning: VA SOL 2.11c; 3.9b
*Common Core Connection: CCSS Math Content 3.Md.B; CCSS Math Content 4. Md.A
*The common core standards base liquid measurement in terms of liters. If you are following the Common Core  State Standards to the letter, then substitute liters for gallons. The visual aid will not apply. It may not be suitable in classrooms that strictly adhere to the metric system of measurement.

ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Children will use various containers to build understanding of the concept of volume. They will pour water from one container to another and draw conclusions about different units of liquid measurement. They will compare volume in forms of cups, pints, quarts, and gallons.

Decomp tub (link to set-up andmaterial list)
Additional plastic tub the same size as the decomp tub
Containers for liquid volume: cup, pint, quart, gallon
Funnel *optional
Permanent Marker
Rain Gauge
Visual Aid Chart (provided)
Watering Can

1. Prior to conducting this activity, gather various containers that hold cups, pints, quarts, and gallons.
2. Show the containers (pint size shown) to the students.
Ask: Which container do you think holds the most amount of water? The least?
3. Using the 1 cup measuring cup, fill each container with water. Count the number of cups required to fill each container. Explain to the students that all of these containers hold the same amount of liquid. Discuss why the containers can look different, but still hold the same amount of liquid.
4. Show an example of each of the following liquid measurement containers to the students: cup, pint, quart, and gallon. For younger students, writing the size on the container with a permanent marker is recommended. (Cup-C, Pint-P, Quart-Q, Gallon-G)
**5. Mark the inside of the tub with permanent marker to indicate inches of rain (half inch increments for second and third grade).
**6. After the rain falls in your area, bring the rain gauge into the classroom. Show the gauge to the students and discuss how much rain had fallen. For grades K-1, estimate to the nearest inch. For grades 2-3, estimate to the nearest half inch.

**7. Fill the large tub with water to match the level of water in the rain gauge.

7. (Stand Alone Activity Step) Fill the plastic container approximately half way with water.
**8. Using the cup-sized measuring cup, take turns filling the watering can with water, counting the number of cups it takes to fill the can. This step does not need to be completed until the can is full. The intent of this step is to show that it takes MANY cups to fill the can.

Ask: Which container do you think would be a faster one to use to fill the watering can? Why?
**9. This is the opportunity to assist students with making connections between container sizes as well as provide an easier way to ‘water’ the decomp tub.. Suggest that while the gallon container provides challenges, it might be the fastest way to get the water from the rain tub to the decomp tub. First, the students must determine how many gallons it takes to reach the level of water from the rainfall.

10. Take turns using the cup-sized measuring cup to fill the gallon container, scooping the water from the plastic tub. Count the number of cups necessary to do so (16). Repeat this process until the plastic tub is empty. If the gallon container is not full at the end, use the visual aid to determine how much of the gallon container is actually filled.
**11. Each time the gallon container is filled, the teacher or parent can use that to fill the watering can. Sprinkle the watering can over the decomp tub.
**12. In the future, before adding the rainwater to the decomp tub, use the markings on the plastic tub to determine how many gallons and cups of water are needed. For example, with the tub used in this demonstration, it took 2 gallons and 3 cups to equal 1 1/2 inches of rain water.

1.5” of rain= 2 gallons 3 cups
**Steps with the double asterisk are intended to be used with the Decomp Project. If your students are conducting this activity as a stand-alone activity, you may omit these steps.

More Math Measurement: This activity will provide countless math extension opportunities. Track how many cups, pints, quarts or gallons of rain are poured onto your decomp tub. By the time yearly educational assessments roll around, your students will have mastered the related math objectives and had lots of fun while do so.
Check this blog frequently for additional activities to add to your Decomp Project.

This post is shared on the following blogs. Please check out their terrific ideas:

The Educators Spin on It



  1. Very interesting exercise. I wish you taught math in my daughter's school :) Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  2. Math & Manipulatives-a great combination. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for this very thorough lesson -- and for linking up at After School!