WWTP Staffers Help Teachers Become Better Clean-Water Ambassadors

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s Water Journey for Educators helps teachers bring effective water education to the classrooms.

WWTP Staffers Help Teachers Become Better Clean-Water Ambassadors

tour of the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility is a major part of the visiting teachers’ day.

School teachers are important carriers of messages about clean water, and it’s important that they be equipped to deliver those messages effectively.

To that end, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District holds an annual Water Journey for Educators that covers activities and resources available to K-12 teachers and students on water-related issues.

The third annual daylong event last August included 23 teachers from public and private schools representing all grades in the district’s service area. The day started at 8 a.m. with breakfast. The rest of the morning consisted of a choice of a tour of the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility and grounds, or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences labs and research boat. The School of Freshwater Sciences is the first graduate school in the nation dedicated solely to freshwater studies.

The Jones Island facility tour started with a classroom meeting where teachers saw a large diagram of the buildings they would visit and the functions of the equipment in and around them. The district’s Jones Island and South Shore facilities clean some 600 mgd of wastewater for 28 municipalities with a combined 1.1 million residents.

Touring the grounds

At the Jones Island facility, attendees viewed the influent screw pumps, primary and secondary clarifiers, and aeration systems, learning the roles they play in the treatment process. They also toured the Milorganite fertilizer plant, which produces an organic fertilizer from heat-dried biosolids. The fertilizer is sold in bags through retail outlets and has been marketed since 1926.

After the tour, the teachers returned to the classroom, where tour guides explained how promoting wastewater careers to students is a high priority for the district. They encouraged teachers to bring students age 10 and older to the Jones Island facility for a tour during the school year. 

After the tours, the teachers enjoyed lunch at the district’s headquarters. Christina Taddy, outreach program coordinator, then presented water education resources for activities outside the classroom.

The district offers tours of its research monitoring vessels to students and has other environmental education initiatives for teachers and students. The utility also partners with nature centers to give students hands-on experiences to learn about water resources. Taddy also described the Adopt-A-River Program in which students take part in the cleanup of a stretch of local waterways twice a year as a class project.

Learning at workshops

The afternoon session included a choice of three workshops for elementary, middle and high school teachers:

  • Project Wet (elementary and lower middle school) – Here the educators learned how to make many aspects of water relatable to students’ lives through artwork and other activities.
  • Digital Observation Technology Skills (middle school) – In this program, presented by the Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, teachers learned to use modern mobile technology tools to connect students to the outdoors.
  • Great Lakes in My World (high school) – Following the curriculum created by the nonprofit Alliance for the Great Lakes, teachers learned hands-on activities and resources they could replicate in the classroom.

Positive feedback

After the workshops, attendees completed a survey on the day’s activities. Overall feedback was positive. Educators said they would spread the word to their colleagues about the event and return to take a different tour or workshop next year. They also said they planned to add water activities and education to their curriculums.

“It was really wonderful to see how excited all the teachers were, especially when they came back from the tours,” Taddy says. “Many said they were definitely going to bring their students back for a tour once school started. It was just so great to see all the enthusiasm and engagement throughout the day.”


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