Interdisciplinary Ball State team helps community partner with water quality education

Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, Immersive Learning, Miller College of Business, College of Communication Information and Media

October 22, 2007

Ball State students at White River
A group of Ball State students cleared dozens of bags of garbage during cleanup efforts to improve the water quality of the White River watershed.
Ball State has teamed up with the White River Watershed Project (WRWP) to improve water quality throughout the White River watershed.

Currently the largest collaborative undertaking at Ball State, it includes immersive learning projects within several departments on campus led by eight professors and carried out by many students and volunteers, said project coordinator Holly Chaille.

The natural resources and environmental management department, the Miller College of Business, the telecommunications department, the biology department and the anthropology club hope to improve the overall water quality in the area and to educate the public about the watershed and what they can do to help.

A watershed is any area into which surrounding water drains, and according to Chaille, watershed quality in the Midwest is below average due to agricultural runoff and failing septic systems, among other reasons. The WRWP was started by the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District in 2001 after the Indiana Department of Environmental Management provided a grant to fund projects that improve water quality.

Chaille, a Ball State student, knew the university would be a good resource for the project and eventually decided to contact various colleges and departments to help with the initiative.

"The cool thing about this is that there are more than 100 Ball State students involved," Chaille said. "People talk amongst themselves about how they can and are effecting change, and this group of students has been really interested in effecting change. This is a very forward-thinking, progressive project."

One of the collaborative projects includes the efforts of Melissa Mitchell's secondary science methods class. Mitchell, a professor of biology and member of the education and outreach subcommittee of WRWP, teaches students who are training to become middle and high school teachers. The students have developed 15 lessons to teach eighth-graders at Burris Laboratory School. In conjunction with the lessons, the eighth-graders will decorate rain barrels for a contest sponsored by Minnetrista.

"Participation in this project gives my future teachers a chance to see that partnering with the community will be an effective and meaningful way to teach science to the students in their own classrooms," Mitchell said.

A panel of judges will select the five best barrels to be displayed at the Children's Garden in Minnetrista in early November. The remaining barrels will be displayed by downtown Muncie businesses and eventually auctioned.

"I hope seeing the barrels on display in shop windows and other public spaces will get lots of people asking what they are and how they can get one," Mitchell said. "Once the interest level is raised, more people will attend the rain barrel workshops that Holly is holding, and the auction plan will, in turn, generate money for other outreach initiatives being sponsored by the WRWP."

Other projects for the WRWP include:

  • a strategic business plan by a marketing management class instructed by Ray Montagno, associate dean of the Miller College of Business
  • public service announcements and "Indiana Outdoors" segments produced by the media management class of Nancy Carlson, associate professor of telecommunications
  • Prairie Creek Reservoir cleanup efforts and Earth Day activities organized by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and the Anthropology club under the guidance of Amy Gregg, assistant professor of natural resources and environmental management, and Colleen Boyd, assistant professor of anthropology
  • WRWP Web site development and an Honors College class dedicated to studying and raising awareness about the issue of storm water pollution led by Jarka Popovicova, assistant professor of natural resources and environmental management
  • a Business Fellows project in spring 2008 focusing on community involvement with Prairie Creek Reservoir led by Jennifer Bott, assistant professor of marketing and management
  • a DVD and brochure to distribute throughout the community relating to the care of the Prairie Creek Reservoir developed by a class taught by Thomas Baird, associate professor of marketing.

For more information on the White River Watershed Project, contact Chaille at 765-747-5531 ext. 3 or hachaille@bsu.edu.

By Jennifer Strempka

University Marketing and Communications
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