Here’s How Mascots Can Deliver Critical Treatment Information

An animated egret, frog and duck teach kids about wastewater treatment in a creative video produced by staff at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Council

Here’s How Mascots Can Deliver Critical Treatment Information

The animated tour of the water cycle and the wastewater treatment process features three characters: Ardea (the heron), Anati (the duck) and Anura (the frog).

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The Metropolitan Council in Minnesota’s Twin Cities region set about to transform a 30-year-old static slideshow into a fun and engaging 10-minute video for school to learn about treating wastewater.

Completed in 2021, the video came in handy, especially when the pandemic hit and kids were learning from home. The utility also took the opportunity to update some of the material from the slideshow.

The video was created internally by Met Council staff members and reviewed by children. Together, they made sure the content included all treatment stages and was easy to understand and entertaining for ages 7-12.

Quirky creatures

The Met Council’s Environmental Services division provides wastewater treatment services to 102 cities and townships and serves about 2.9 million residents with nine treatment plants that process 250 mgd. Three memorable creatures tell the story in the video: Ardea the egret, Anati the duck and Anura the frog.

The names are derived from the Latin taxonomy words for the species and were chosen by the utility’s videographer, Carol Critchley. The egret is the primary narrator, walking the duck and the frog through the wastewater treatment process from rainfall to the clean water that goes back to the lakes and rivers.

“The wildlife creatures from the original static slideshow made it more relatable to kids, and we got the same feedback from the educators who used the slideshow in their classrooms,” says Jeanne Landkamer, principal communications specialist for the Met Council. “So we updated the same characters for a new slideshow and then animated them for the video. The teachers said the egret, frog and duck really grabbed the students’ attention and held their interest.”

There was more to do to create the video from the slideshow. A staff writer, videographer and graphic designer went to work to make the final piece come alive.

Testing the waters

After consulting with council staff on the accuracy of the wastewater treatment process as displayed in the video, Landkamer, Critchley, and utility graphic designer Linda Jones tested it with eight children of staff members. 

“We wanted some reassurance that this wasn’t just created by adults without testing the reaction from children,” Landkamer says. The results were successful. The kids found it educational and entertaining.

For 20-plus years, the utility has taken part in an autumn water festival for children. It was virtual during the COVID pandemic but returned in person in 2022. Met Council staff created a game for the festival with eight stations tied into the video so the children could act out what they saw and learned.

The children ran from station to station adding props they were given: poop emoji, soap, toilet paper, dirt, a plastic toy and a bucket of water. They added the props to each station as the simulated treatment process progressed. It was a relay; students were divided into teams and enjoyed the physical activity and putting into practice what they saw in the video.

Making an impression

The video is featured on the council’s website and is promoted on social media, in newsletters and on YouTube. As of early 2023 it had received 17,500 views and more than 116,000 impressions since its launch two years previously.

The video is reaching other countries too, including Canada, China, India and Australia. Because of the video, the kids’ page on the utility’s website went from 45 views in a six-week period to 313.

The video also has other uses. During the pandemic, in-person plant tours were not available, so the teachers used the video instead. The council created a teacher’s guide with learning objectives and classroom activities to go with the video.

“One of our plant operators’ young daughters was asking him what he did all day when she was in school, and he was struggling to describe his work so she could understand,” says Landkamer. “When he searched and found the video from our website he was delighted that he could sit and watch it with his daughter and show her what he did.”

The video can be found on the Metro Council’s website homepage through this link:    


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