Operators Turn From the Art of Treatment to Supporting the Art of Education

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association encourages students to be ‘Water Conservation Heroes’ as they create their artworks.

Operators Turn From the Art of Treatment to Supporting the Art of Education

Interested in Public Outreach?

Get Public Outreach articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Public Outreach + Get Alerts

Conserve. Protect. Use less water. Those are behaviors the Wisconsin Rural Water Association looks to instill in children through its annual poster contest.

Now in its 12th year, the contest encourages students in grades one to six to think about the importance of water and helps teachers work water into their curriculums.  

The association provides technical assistance and training to water and wastewater utilities, mainly in communities with populations of 10,000 or less. The association also supports member utilities with instruction on how to protect groundwater.

Promoting the contest

Teachers receive an email announcing the contest at the start of the school year. The association also promotes the contest through a quarterly journal sent to members, and through a weekly e-newsletter for water and wastewater operators.

“When these operators are working at the schools collecting water samples, some really champion the contest and promote it to the educators,” says Andrew Aslesen, source water specialist for WRWA.

The contest entry period is from October through mid-February. All public, private and home-schooled children are eligible. This year’s theme was, “Be a Water Conservation Hero.” As a part of the competition, teachers talk to students about the significance of water resources and what they can do to conserve them. 

Teachers can ask for an association representative to give a class presentation on groundwater.  “We give a demonstration using a model on how groundwater works and moves,” says Aslesen. “That gives the children a better visual understanding of the importance of groundwater, and they can also ask questions.”

After one such presentation, a student incorporated the groundwater model with wells, sand and rock into his poster, and won the first prize. “It showed that the children really pay attention and learn from the demonstration,” Aslesen say. “The parents and the school were really excited that the student won.”

Each year 50 to 70 schools take part in the competition; entries total up to 1,100. The teachers pare the entries down to the three best submissions. From those roughly 250 posters, WRWA staff members select 15 from each of the six grades.

Awards and recognition

Every year at its three-day March conference, the association displays the 90 posters in the exhibit hall. The roughly 1,500 attendees, mostly water and wastewater operators, can pick up ballots and vote for their favorites.

At the banquet on the conference’s last day, first- and second-place posters from each grade are shown on a large screen. First-place winners receive $100, and second-place winners $50. The names of the six first-place winning schools are put in a hat, and the school whose name is drawn receives $500.

Teachers are asked to recognize their student winners in the classroom. A WRWA representative visits the schools to present the winners with their checks. Winners also appear in the association’s journal. The winning posters hang for a year in the Wisconsin Public Service Commission meeting room in Madison, the state capital. One student’s family drove more than two hours to get a picture of their daughter with her poster at the commission offices.

Creative judging

All entries for the 2020 contest were received before Wisconsin schools closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, so the competition did not have to be postponed. The judging had to be done virtually because the WRWA conference was cancelled.

In response, the association loaded the 15 submissions from each grade online and used a polling service. All WRWA members received an email encouraging them to vote. More than 300 did so, and the winners received their award money recognition.  


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.