Insights and Learning Gains from a Novel Water and Wastewater Systems Module
Integrating water and wastewater systems (toilet systems) into geoscience courses highlights the relevance of human actions on the water, carbon, and nutrient systems. It also presents an opportunity to introduce regenerative systems, which are more sustainable than conventional septic and sewer systems. A Water and Wastewater Module was developed and deployed in an undergraduate course at University of Georgia. It included two active-learning lectures and a lab.
The module was taught using a water and wastewater systems framework that outlines topics related to the social, environmental, and infrastructure domains of the systems. Analogue models and diagrams were used to explore the connections among our toilet systems and water-food-energy systems. Ethical considerations were discussed alongside the scientific aspects of the systems.
Students (n=44) completed pre-post interest and familiarity surveys, pre-post-prolonged assessments of their ability to draw a diagram of the water and wastewater system, and course assignments. Student focus groups (n=30) were also conducted. Evidence indicates student learning and support for teaching about water and wastewater systems in a soils and hydrology course.
Top insights from analysis from student responses:
- Presentation of urine and feces as a valuable resource resonates with student
interest in living more sustainably
- Protecting drinking water from wastewater pollution is a priority
- Using hands-on analogue models are an effective way to communicate the basic
functioning of the systems and an individual's role in the system
- Students found it valuable to know about alternative toilet system options, such
as urine diversion, humanure compost, and constructed wetlands
- Talking about the social side of the water and wastewater systems is critical