Adopt A Storm Drain

What if Milwaukee area students learned about citizenship by adopting a storm drain in their neighborhood?

Over the summer of 2021 we were able to pull teachers from Golda Meir and Escuela Vieau middle schools together on Zoom with partners from Sweetwater, Caravela IoT, and MMSD for the design phase of our STEM Studio “Adopt a Storm Drain” (AASD) project. This project was originally conceived and implemented several times by SWWTwater in communities around Milwaukee.

Among the techniques teachers used in the design process was a technique called ‘customer journey mapping’ that we adapted to the student level to map out:

  • the experience teachers wanted students to have,
  • touchpoints with community partners, and
  • connections back to curriculum standards.

With the designed framework in place, teachers kicked-off the project in August as participating teachers had students monitor storm drains near their school or home to begin the research work that would prepare them to take on one of the following challenges:

  • How can we reduce the volume of litter and debris that collects near storm drains?
  • How can we leverage IoT sensors to detect when litter and debris has collected at a storm drain?
  • How can we safely remove litter and debris that has collected at a storm drain?

The STEM Studio process invited teachers, curriculum specialists, and partners in on the design process from the beginning. We acted as coaches in this process. Together we were able to map out an approach for a collaborative multi-disciplinary effort that also gave students a chance to explore computational tools.

 teamThe Learn Deep team produced a program guide for the project, which provides an overview of the project structure, timing of project events, and links to resources the team wanted students to be able to leverage. That includes a simple model of waste collecting near, and washing down, a storm drain we put together using Starlogo Nova that students can manipulate and revise to understand the system forces impacting theater flowing into the storm drain.

Teachers concluded the Learning Experience with student team presentations (on Zoom) that the partner representatives reviewed and critiqued live during the session to further enhance the experience for the students.

Who’s involved?


For this pilot we worked with 4 teachers from middle schools in Milwaukee, Golda Meir, Escuela Vieau and Morris. Our ….

Interested in bringing this Learning Experience to your school?     Contact Us

Business and Non-Profit organizations

The Adopt A Storm Drain project was supported throughout the design and semester long student project by several passionate partners from the community. Their representatives helped make this a success through:

  • Providing input in the design of the overall Learning Experience.
  • Being available during student work sessions as a mentor.
  • Participating as a featured guest.
  • Participating as a reviewer of student work/presentations.

Projects such as these can not become successful without the collaboration with partners from the community. Thank you!

Support the Initiative

Offer this Learning Experience to your own students

This Adopt A Storm Drain project is available to any teacher who is interested in bringing it to her or his students as a real world project to explore. 

Consider advising or mentoring for this project