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Service learning class visits Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility

A tour guide with an umbrella talks in front of the Hoan Bridge.

A tour guide for Jones Island explains the water reclamation process.

Students in Professor Leslie Fedorchuk’s service learning class “We Are Water” visited one of Milwaukee’s most famous public infrastructure sites at the end of September. The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) juniors took a rainy field trip to Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility to learn about wastewater treatment and the environmental impact of water reclamation.

“We want students to know and understand what this resource is,” explains Fedorchuk, who is also the director of service learning at MIAD. Residents near the United States’ Great Lakes, including Milwaukee residents, might not know that their lakes account for 84% of North America’s surface fresh water. For this reason, Fedorchuk teaches a yearly service learning class examining “the community aspect of the changes needed to promote the public’s health related to issues surrounding environmental justice and water, specifically in the Great Lakes watershed.”

One aspect of this course is learning about Milwaukee’s largest water reclamation facility at Jones Island. Visible from the Hoan Bridge, Jones Island processes much of the city’s water, including runoff, and is the only producer of the fertilizer Milorganite®. The tour group learned about the process of cleaning and treating water and releasing it back into Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s (MMSD) green infrastructure projects and the manufacture and use of Milorganite®. The group even saw the nest of an endangered peregrine falcon that has made its home on top of one of the buildings.

A group of students in hard hats listens to a tour guide.

MIAD service learning students on the Jones Island tour.

In class, students will use information gained during the Jones Island tour to shape their class projects. “We begin with an examination of the various definitions of ‘community’ and the processes by which we seek to understand the structure and characteristics of different types of communities,” reads the class description. “Identifying community capacities and resources is the first step in facilitating community change. We will examine the concept of participation in an effort to see how different levels of involvement may affect the sustainability of community change efforts. Students will apply this knowledge to their service placement through research and practice.”

Service learning is a vital aspect in MIAD’s academic program and is required to graduate. Committed to strengthening campus and community partnerships, the college encourages students to become active, engaged members of society through civic engagement opportunities.

Learn more about MIAD’s Liberal Studies programs and explore the college’s commitment to service learning!


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