Calling All Cadets

Grade school students in Hollywood, Fla., get recruited to learn about and then help teach the importance of wastewater treatment and clean water

You can talk all you want about activated sludge, but how do you get Florida’s future ratepayers to show an interest in clean water?

The staff at the Southern Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (SRWTP) in Hollywood, Fla., has been active in educating the city’s youngest learners. When it’s time to talk clean water, they roll out the Clean Water Cadets.

Clean Water Cadets, a cooperative effort between the city and local schools, teaches kids about the importance of clean water, and gets them to encourage good behaviors back at home. The kids also create and perform plays built around clean water.

Making the connection

Getting kids to think about wastewater treatment takes hard work. Over the years, the Southern Regional treatment plant has grown from a trickling-filter system to the activated sludge process. There are two discharge paths, one moving on to additional treatment in the water reclamation system, and the other entering the Atlantic Ocean.

The complex processes in a treatment plant can be difficult for residents to understand and appreciate. In the past, with cooperation from the city Department of Public Utilities, the treatment plant staff helped organize events to celebrate clean water.

The city had booths and displays at community centers, plant tours for school-age children, and an official city proclamation. “It is important to work with and teach our future generations about the vital role of water in our society,” notes Albert Perez, Public Utilities director.

The Clean Water Cadets program takes education a big step farther, directly engaging kids in learning about and teaching the connection between treatment plants, clean water, and the quality of life in their own community.

Learning the cycle

The program involves Public Utilities staff members who visit selected third and fourth grade classrooms to explain how the city’s wastewater and stormwater systems work. Staff members use large laminated posters along with a Clean Water Cadets coloring book to help children learn how the water cycle works — both in nature and in the treatment plant.

The interactive classes include opportunities for active learning. Students receive educational coloring books to take home, along with “Do Not Dump Down Drain” stickers to place on containers of household products.

Students also get a homework assignment to teach the rest of their families what they have learned. Students who complete the assignment earn the title of Clean Water Cadet and pledge to protect and conserve the waters and to spread the message of water conservation and protection to friends and family.

Many teachers also use Clean Water Cadet visits as part of their writing lesson plans by having the students write thank you notes to treatment plant staff members.

Public Utilities staff added a brief skit illustrating how Clean Water Cadets could talk to friends and family about water issues. Teachers also received a lesson plan for another class project in which students would write and produce their own plays with a clean water theme.

Taking it to the stage

School staff judged the plays, and the kids performed the five best ones in front of the entire school and invited guests. The plays were performed in a community theater next to the school and judged by a panel of city, county and school officials.

Ribbons were awarded for first, second, and third place. Each student in the winning productions received a ribbon, and a larger ribbon was awarded for display in the classroom. Each student also received a personalized certificate and a City of Hollywood pencil case. A cast party with cupcakes and juice followed the performances.

In all, more than 500 students, teachers, and guests attended the performances. The program was filmed and developed into a community public service announcement, which was broadcast regularly on the local cable access channel.

Through partnership between the treatment plant staff, the city, and elementary schools, the community generated positive feedback and educated hundreds of students on the importance of wastewater management and clean water. Plans are in the works to expand the program to more schools.

For more information on Clean Water Cadets, visit the City of Hollywood Web site at


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