TEACH!: Unit 7, Lesson 2.

City Living: Urban Ecology:

Designing a Community
with Storm Water in Mind**


Students will design an ideal community that meets the needs of its members, while also protecting storm water quality. Students will: 1) Create a map of an “ideal” community that includes all the services and resources people need to live there, 2) Identify and include in the community designs that protect and enhance the quality of storm water runoff, and 3) Present to the class the components of their design and justification for their placement and use.

**  (This lesson plan was obtained from: The Stormwater Coalition, Lesson 15,
**This site is no longer accessible.


  • Large pieces of butcher paper
  • Colored construction paper
  • Glue
  • Tape or glue
  • Marking pens


The next time you stop at a stoplight, check out the buildings and the spaces around you. Someone decided how to place those buildings to best use the land around them. These decisions, made today by professionals known as urban planners, map the overall development of communities, counties and regions. Urban planners divide the land in their community for residential, commercial or industrial development. They plan for the future by forecasting the area’s growth and creating the right balance of work and housing zones. Planners also decide when to build and repair roads, electric lines, schools, hospitals and other parts of a community’s infrastructure.

In many urban centers, planners play an important role when considering the county’s water needs, including the measures implemented to protect and maintain clean sources of water. As well, the need to improve the quality of storm water (water from rain or snowmelt) and to prevent further pollution has become more and more pressing. As knowledge of the causes and consequences of storm water pollution increase, planners must redesign and implement solutions within the existing city structure. Now planners are working to build settling ponds, wetlands, and other natural filtration systems, to improve the quality of urban runoff. Planners are often challenged with implementing these techniques within the existing cityscape, long after roads, buildings and homes are already in place.


This activity challenges students to think about pollution prevention techniques while working to design a community that meets the needs of all its residents.

1. Ask the students what they think a community is. Ask pairs of students to list five places or services that are in or should be in their community. Examples might include roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, parks, libraries, police services, or movie theaters. As students share their ideas, list the examples on an overhead transparency or chart paper.

2. Look over the list, and ask students whether anything that people in the community need to live there is missing. Help class members think of services or resources by asking questions such as the following:

  • How do people get the food they need?
  • Where do they live?
  • How do they get around?

Add new ideas to the list, so that the final list includes places to live, work, learn and play, along with public services, public utilities, and cultural resources.

3. Ask the students to brainstorm ways that these services/resources might contribute to storm water pollution? Could we design a community differently so that pollution was prevented? What design components of things would be necessary? Chart the students’ responses.

  • Potential sources of pollution:
  • Prevention designs:
  • Design components:

4. Explain to the students that they will have the opportunity to be community planners and to design a community that meets the needs of its residents (refer to the brainstormed list from #2), protects and enhances storm water quality.

5. Divide the students into groups of 3-6 students. Allow students 2-4 class periods to plan and map their communities.

6. When students have completed their maps, ask groups to share them with the rest of the class and to describe the features of their design. Use these questions to lead a discussion about the maps and planning process:

  • How did your group decide what features to include and where to place them?
  • Give an example of how your group resolved a disagreement.
  • How are your ideal communities the same as actual communities? In what ways are they different?
  • What would it be like to live in each of the communities? What would it be like for a young child? For a store owner? For an animal?
  • How are the planned communities the same as the community you live in? How are they different?
  • What did you learn from this activity?


  • ** Stormwater Coalition. Educator’s Toolbox. Lesson 15, Designing a Community with Stormwater in Mind:
    Site: stormwatercoalition.org/pdf/lessonPlans/lesson05-15.pdf.

    • ** This site is no longer accessible.
  • ** More lesson plans from the Stormwater Coalition:
    Site: stormwatercoalition.org/html/et/lessonPlans.html .

    • ** This site is no longer accessible.
  • US Environmental Protection Agency. Water: After the Storm. 

    • This site contains useful information about storm water runoff and its effects. It also provides ideas of how to mitigate the harmful effects of storm water.

Continue to:
Unit 8, Lesson 1.:  What’s it all about? Developing a theme.