Make A Rain Gauge

Children will measure rain fall.


Lesson Objective

Children will make a rain gauge to collect and measure rainfall.


What You'll Need

  • A rainy day
  • Two-liter bottles – 4
  • Scissors or utility knife – adult use
  • Duct tape – 1 roll
  • Permanent markers
  • Rulers

What To Do

Note: You may need to engage additional adult help for the children with marking the measurements on the sides of the bottles.

  1. Discuss the amount of rain that is falling from the sky.
  2. Tell the children that there is usually more rainfall in the spring as the temperature begins to get warmer (see Did You Know?).
  3. Tell children they are going to find out how much water is falling from the sky when it rains.
  4. Display the two-liter bottles. Ask children if they think much rain would fall into the small opening of the bottle.
  5. Ask the children for their ideas on how they could change the bottles to collect more rain.
  6. Using the scissors or utility knife, cut around the top of the bottle where it starts to curve in.
  7. Take the top of the bottle and invert it to use as a funnel, and place it on top of the bottle. Attach the funnel to the bottle with some duct tape.
  8. Use the permanent markers and rulers to mark measurements on the side of the bottle in half-inch increments.
  9. Take the rain gauges outside and place them in a location where they will not easily tip over.
  10. Observe the rain gauges after each rain, measure and chart the amount of water each time.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me how you think we could figure out how much rain falls.
  • Explain how the changes we made to the container work better for catching rain.
  • Describe how we can measure the amount of rain that falls.
  • Explain what might happen if it didn’t rain or only rained a little bit.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Check the rain gauges as part of your weather routine. Mark the water level after each rainfall.
  • Pour the rain out of the rain gauges into measuring cups to measure the amount, and then graph the amount of rainfall over the course of a month or several weeks.
  • Use collected rainwater to water classroom plants.
  • Keep track of times when it rained at school but not at home.
  • Make bottles, measuring cups, rulers, and additional rain gauges available for further exploration.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Do the children understand that the rain gauge is for collecting rainfall?
  • Could children explain that the larger opening could catch more rain?
  • Could children explain using a ruler to measure the rainfall?
  • Could children explain why rain is needed?


Did You Know?

A rain gauge is an instrument that is used to measure rainfall. Readings are sometimes taken manually, but usually the readings are recorded by an automatic weather station. Rain gauges are most reliable when they are placed in an open area away from obstacles that might block the rain. Meteorologists use rain gauges to measure precipitation over a set period of time.

In the spring, some areas are warm and therefore the air is wetter, but some areas are still cold. As surface temperatures get warmer, the temperature in the upper atmosphere remains cold. As the warm, wet air rises, it condenses in the cold atmosphere and falls as rain. Areas in southern latitudes warm quickly in the spring, but northern latitudes tend to stay colder for longer. When the wet, warm air from the south and the dry, cold air from the north meet, rain is more likely.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • rain – drops of water that form in the clouds and fall from the sky to the Earth.
  • rainfall – the amount of rain that falls over a certain area during a certain period of time.
  • temperature – the degree of heat or cold in an environment.
  • gauge – a tool used to measure.
  • measure – to find out the exact size or amount of something.
  • collect – to gather together.

Lesson Tips

  • Depending on the weather, it may take several hours (or days) to collect enough rain to measure in the rain gauges, be sure to plan accordingly.
  • Place the rain gauges in an open area that is away from any buildings or trees.
  • You may want to place the rain gauges inside rocks or bricks that have been placed in a square to keep the bottles from tipping over.
  • Rocks may be placed inside the bottles to keep them from tipping over. The rocks will have to be removed before measuring the rainfall.


  • Rain by Robert Kalan
  • The Rain Train by Elena de Roo
  • Rain by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin Jr.

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS