News Features

Community Campus Partnership Promotes Water Quality

K-State Engagement E-News, May 2009 (PDF)

by Jenny Barnes

Students participate in water testing.

WaterLINK is a service learning project available to college and university students and faculty and community watersheds in Kansas. The main goal is to improve water quality through partnerships with the community and campus while infusing service learning into college classrooms.

Christa Smith, the interim project coordinator for WaterLINK, said, "It is a unique project because we are targeting college students."

Faculty members are able to apply for a grant of $5000. They use these funds and structure their curriculum around service learning and water quality improvement. Smith said this could be things like testing and monitoring water within science labs.

The project, funded by the Kansas Department for Health and the Environment, started in fall 2005 with two projects, but has since grown into an organization that has helped facilitate more than 50 projects and worked with more than 300 students across Kansas.

A recent K-State project involved a public relations class developing a publicitiy campaign for the Delaware River Group.

"This was a recent example of a great project," Smith said. "The students did research and got out into the communities and were able to produce some really great media materials."

Another recent project is the Rain Garden at the International Student Center on the K-State campus. Lee Skabelund, assistant professor of landscape architecture, regional and community planning, led this project. It addressed the problem of storm water run-off. He is also working on putting in a green roof at Seaton Hall.

CECD is now the principle investigator on this project. Other key leaders include Janice Cole, Bill Hargrove and Jan Middendorf.

Smith said, "Despite funding issues, I think the concept of service learning in higher education will be around for a long time."