WaterLINK: Water Quality Improvement Through Service-Learning
by Christa Smith
WaterLINK is an environmental service-learning program aimed at infusing community-based learning into the college classroom. The program engages instructors and students at Kansas colleges and universities in projects that aid in the restoration and protection of Kansas water resources.
Starting with a "real world" need or situation, the program links hands-on action and student learning with the ultimate objective of improving water quality in high priority watersheds. Service-learning is a method of education that promotes student learning, leadership skill development, civic participation and other personal development. Research indicates that students benefit from hands-on application of course learning objectives while the community benefits from the knowledge and skills students and faculty bring to the table. WaterLINK projects have included community water education fairs, water quality monitoring and assessment, urban community planning and design, integration of rain gardens and green roof design for stormwater runoff and stormwater conservation demonstration projects. Projects have varied depending on the classes they are part of, and are not limited to the hard sciences; for example, several journalism courses have been engaged in service-learning projects that included environmental reporting and public relations campaigns for watersheds.
To support this active learning experience, the WaterLINK program provides mini-grant incentives for faculty. Faculty have been awarded $250 to $7,500 in mini-grant funds for implementing a service-learning project through their college course. "With nearly 60 two to four year institutions in the state, WaterLINK has tremendous potential to positively impact the condition of our state’s precious water resources," said Christa Smith, interim WaterLINK project coordinator at Kansas State University.
The deadlines for fall and spring semester proposal submissions are August 1st and January 2nd, respectively. For more information about faculty mini-grant guidelines and the application process, visit www.ksu.edu/waterlink or contact Christa Smith, WaterLINK interim project coordinator, at 785-532-5127 firstname.lastname@example.org. WaterLINK is funded by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment through EPA 319 funds and is coordinated by the KSU CECD.