Citizen Science in the Classroom Series: CoCoRaHS

By January 8th, 2014 at 11:25 am | Comment

Using Citizen Science Weather Data Collection with CoCoRaHS to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

CoCoRaHS shot 1

The CoCoRaHS website offers real time information about precipitation measurements.


2nd-6th Grades


The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is hosted by the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. It is a network of citizen scientists and classrooms (K-12) that participate in a community project to provide weather condition data and precipitation information across the US and Canada. This data is used by the National Weather Service, city managers, the USDA, hydrologists, and emergency managers. It is also a source of data and information for teachers and students. In collaboration with this project the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in New York has developed a set of curriculum (ages 8-12) called “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” that goes along with the CoCoRaHS project to support teachers with additional lesson plans.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • A computer with internet access and printer.
  • An e-mail address that can be used for creating an account with CoCoRaHS.
  • A rain gage from CoCoRaHS (this must be purchased from their organization for standardization, $30)
  • Ruler for measuring snow fall and ice.
  • Optional: Hail pads (make your own from Styrofoam and aluminum foil), make your own wind gage or use an app., thermometer, kitchen scale.
CoCoRaHS shot 3

This is the rain gauge ($30) required to participate in the CoCoRaHS project, to help ensure standardized precipitation measurements.

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network project is appropriate for grades K-12 and can be hosted in urban or rural environments around the US.
  • This project may be done by multiple grades or schools in one or area; and classroom data collection sharing may be set up in a school (between grades or classes).
  • No minimum amount of participation is required, just as much as you can do.
  • The CoCoRaHS project is made to be classroom-friendly with lots of videos, online resources, and lesson plan support, through the NY based Paleontological Research Institution’s “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” curriculum and the CoCoRaHS website.
  • CoCoRaHS is entirely online so it’s easy to access and use. You can upload data directly to their site or you can print forms and send them in.
  • There is plenty of data available from their website for downloading (by region and station location) for use in the classroom.
  • Students can see maps of precipitation amounts (even locally) and learn geography as well as meteorology.

Teaching Materials:

Educational materials are provided on the CoCoRaHS website along with 4-H lesson plans (elementary to middle school focused) and educational links. There are videos and slideshows on their site about snow measurement, ice accretion, measuring the water content of snow by weight, and reporting drought impacts in a region. Lesson plans from the 4-H page include making rainfall measurements, how to make a cloud in a bottle, cloud types and formation, reading temperature, making a tornado, and lightening. The lesson plans from the affiliated “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” include water cycle based activities such as rain, snow, temperature activities, wind activities, and climate activities. These are geared towards 8-12 yr. olds.

CoCoRaHS shot 2

The CoCoRaHS project does ot have a minimum participation requirement. It helps if you can do as much as possible and this provides students with consistency for long term results.

Online Safety for Children

For this project only one account is required to upload information to the website. This should be the e-mail address of an adult or school account. Students do not need to make individual observations. Data collection should be reported as a “location.”

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:


Next. Gen. Science:

K-ESS2-1 Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. Students may use the precipitation tracking from this project to help them describe weather patterns over time. The CoCoRaHS 4-H lesson plans on rainfall, clouds, and temperature are helpful support of weather patterns, as well as the “Temperature Through Time” Lesson plan from PRI.

K-ESS3-2 Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather. Teachers may use the lesson from PRI “Pine-Cones-Mother Nature’s Weather Forecasters” for a hands-on lab.  Observations from the class may be used to support discussions.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.K.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects. Students will share in research of precipitation amounts of over time.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. Students will measure precipitation amounts and model precipitation over time. K.MD.A.1 Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Students may measure the depth of rainfall on a gauge as well as weighing the water. This may also be done with snow pre and post melting. The lesson plan from PRI “Light, Fluffy, Wet, Heavy: How much water is in that snow?” would be helpful.

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 3-ESS2-1 Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season. Teachers may use precipitation data collected by the class to describe weather conditions for the region. Data is also available for download by state and county on the CoCoRaHS website.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.3.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic. W.3.9 Recall information from experience or gather information from print or digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. Teachers may assign students to analyze data from the precipitation project as well as gathering information from the CoCoRaHS website or other outside sources to discuss patterns and trends over time.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. Teachers may assign students to analyze data from the precipitation project and model trends over time. 3.MD.A.2 Measure and estimate liquid volumes and masses of objects using standards units. Teachers may use water weights and volumes collected during the duration of the class for measurement. The lesson plan from PRI “Light, Fluffy, Wet, Heavy: How much water is in that snow?” would be helpful. 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Students may represent their precipitation data (mean and median) over time in graphic form.

Middle School & High School

MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions. After collecting data about precipitation during and after major rain events (which may include barometric pressure, rainfall, and wind speed) students may discuss how air masses affected their data results and collected information. The lesson plans from the CoCoRaHS website on cloud types and formation, up drafts, rising air, and temperature may be helpful for demonstrations.

HS-lS4-5 Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species. Teachers may have students analyze mean temperature and precipitation changes in areas that are known to have sensitive species living in them. Data may be uploaded from the CoCoRaHS website to look at trends over time. Information may then be extrapolated and discussed regarding animal responses to environmental variability. In particular data may be looked at in regions such as Canada where permafrost and glacial ice are important, or even in desert regions or areas where flooding has been significant over the past few years.

When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.