Students launch two-week water awareness campaign

April 20, 2011

Students in Penn State Brandywine’s “Water, Science and Society” course are culminating a semester’s worth of research with a two-week water awareness campaign, featuring 20 podcasts they’re calling “WaterBytes.”

During the first half of the semester, each of the 10 students in the course, which is designed for non-science majors, chose two case studies: one on domestic water issues and the other on global water issues. Students explored everything from the Tennessee coal ash spill and the Three Gorges Dam to the Chesapeake Bay’s declining crab population and fisheries in China.

After spending months discovering the problems, their instructor, associate professor of Earth Sciences Laura Guertin, asked the class how it wanted to spend the rest of the semester. The answer: finding solutions and sharing them with the community. “This knowledge shouldn’t be held in the classroom,” Guertin said, so her students did their research and embraced their love of social media to continue to learn and spread the word.

They Skyped with people at, which links donors to high-quality partner organizations that help communities design and construct their own sustainable water supply systems, and Three Avocados, a non-profit that sells premium coffee to provide a better life for the poor in developing countries, to learn about their goals, objectives and challenges.

On April 18, the class kicked off its campaign with its first podcast released at online. Each student created two podcasts (20 in all) and they will release a new podcast every day. They have a Twitter account (@WeArePSUWater), are tagging on and are posting all over Facebook.

To create the podcasts, campus funding provided each student with a digital voice recorder, and they used the campus’ Digital Commons.

“Coming into this class, I didn’t realize how many issues there are in our country and around the world regarding water,” said sophomore Sean Whitehead, who said he has emailed more than twenty times back and forth with various groups to conduct his research.

Sophomore Sara Neville who calls herself a “social media junkie” said, “This project has the potential to reach a lot of people and I just hope to connect with them.” She even made a connection with the Science Centre Singapore through networking at a web conference. After hearing about the project, contacts at the Centre might even help Neville and the class spread the word during their campaign, she said.

For more information on the two-week water awareness campaign, visit or follow it on twitter by searching for WeArePSUWater.

  • Click on the image above to listen to a series of student-produced podcasts, released as part of a two-week water-awareness campaign.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 21, 2011