Collab Lab 30: Recap & Notes

Our November Collab Lab focused on opportunities to engage students around green infrastructure. We asked participants to brainstorm ideas around different types of green infrastructure as they are designed, installed or in service, using the inventory provided within the City of Milwaukee’s Green Infrastructure Plan. From there we paired up educators with representatives from industry, higher-ed, non-profits, and local government and had them flesh out a specific idea in greater detail.

Here’s what they came up with:

Identify targets sites for green infrastructure

Identify vacant lots in the students’ neighborhood to active and install stormwater trees, gardens, community art.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater trees
  • Native landscaping
  • Regenerative stormwater conveyance
  • Greenways & land conservation

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation

Desired experience for students:

  • Mapping GIS
  • Think about neighborhood & community
  • This is worth it!
  • Evidence and argument
  • Budgeting and finance
  • Understanding different land use/space factors
  • History of the area, why a particular lot is vacant
  • Cultural experience of neighborhood as an influence to art
  • Durability of art

What students will need:

  • Mapping software
  • Data
  • Facilitator/guides to support — experts, & exemplars
  • Documentation and presentation skills

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning
  • Youth Council @ City Hall
  • Pocket parks tour

How students might share their work:

  • Video
  • Podcast
  • Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
  • Story Map
  • Social media/website
  • Share with community service organizations, the experts that helped them.
  • Storytelling– “What did I learn”

Art within Native Landscaping

Design art projects within a native landscape

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Native Landscaping

Desired experience for students:

  • Cross curricula – art/science/math
  • Exploring new things
  • Youth voice/leadership
  • New materials
  • Mentoring
  • Culture

What students will need:

  • Guidance/leadership to understand and get excited
  • Research on native landscapes, sustainable materials (what they are, why they are important)
  • Location, calendar, transportation

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Partner with college students
  • Landscape/gardening experts

How students might share their work:

  • Community grand opening, with presentation by youth
  • Garden Gallery (art) night

Low tech watering systems

Create olla pots or other system to water gardens when students/volunteers may not be available to do so.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In Use

Desired experience for students:

  • Research the history of olla pots
  • Design a system where rain barrels fill the pots (how many rain barrels?)
  • Calculate how much water might be captured
  • Determine the size of pots that might be necessary for a particular garden or space
  • Monitor gardens to make sure the system is working
  • Compare performance at different times of year
  • Evaluate how the long the system can run without support
  • Calibrate the outflow rate from rain barrels so that it is most effective

What students will need:

  • History of olla pots & agriculture
  • Math — planning for the # of pots for the area
  • Science — expected rainfall for the area, ecology, human impact
  • Communication skills — share what they did
  • Reading & writing
  • Arts — decorating barrels, making their own pots @ schools with kiln [can we make our own rain barrels?]

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Community connections for support in monitoring
  • Environmental engineers
  • fresh coast guardians from MMSD
  • Teens Grow Greens for different ideas on irrigation
  • Pottery infrastructure

How students might share their work:

  • video story
  • Present @ Science Strikes Back? [Escuela Verde?]
  • Share after a full growing season for data collection
  • Share publicly — news, radio, social media, USDA

Butterfly Garden

Reclaim paved area of “playground” for stormwater management and wildlife habitat restoration.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Depaving
  • Soil Amendments

Phases targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Design process — native plants, permaculture, pollinator habitat, education of younger students
  • Self directed personalized learning

What students will need:

  • Research skills
  • Curiosity
  • Information sources
  • Access to professionals/experts

How students might share their work:

  • Photo voice
  • Signage
  • Newsletters & written media

Permeable paving meets math

Use installation of permeable paving as a chance to exercise mathematical thinking.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Permeable paving

What students should experience:

  • Apply math concepts (geometry, algebra, etc) when designing permeable walkway through a park
  • Art, design, science of materials
  • Exploration of career paths
  • Presentation of findings

What students will need:

  • Access to practitioners
  • Manipulation/manufacturing of materials
  • Best practices for fitting pieces together
  • Permeable paving vs alternatives
  • Cost data for possible choices — installation, maintenance, long term costs

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Practitioners: non profits, contractors, college student mentors
  • MMSD
  • Artists
  • Landscapers
  • Tours of UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, GWC, MMSD, etc.)

How students might share their work:

  • Green Students Conference
    • Opportunity for students across schools/districts to present GI projects to each other
    • Green job fair — in part, the conference could be funded by exhibitors (engineers, landscapers, etc.) who do a job fair

GI Scavenger hunt

Inventory and map green infrastructure within students’ community; identify where water is coming from; find as many examples as possible, create a map using GIS software

What students should experience:

  • The possibilities that exist in different areas
  • Problem solving using mapping software
  • Ability to visualize things on a map

What students will need:

  • Mapping software and an introduction to using it
  • General location for finding green infrastructure
  • Lesson on green infrastructure installations and interventions

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Students who did bigger project

How students might share their work:

  • Story map

Water quality assessment

Assess the water quality in the local community

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Rain gardens
  • Soil Amendments

What students should experience:

  • Data analysis
  • Hands on development of project
  • Ownership & involvement
  • Success & Impact

What students will need:

  • Space
  • Native plants
  • Raspberry Pi computer
  • Types of soil
  • Types of compost
  • Gravel
  • Sensors for moisture/contamination
  • Water quality test kits

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Upham Woods — digital observation kits
  • Sweetwater – Adopt A Storm Drain
  • River Keepers
  • Plastic Free MKE

How students might share their work:

  • Social media
  • Murals
  • Logos
  • Mottos
  • Peer to peer education — teach others to continue project
  • Brand it
  • Give it legitimacy

Greening Alleys

Create a list of priorities for green alleys near a school, identify and collect the data to use in prioritizing the alleys.

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Green streets and alleys

What students should experience:

  • Surveying the neighborhood
  • Identifying improvements and analyzing lowest cost estimates of putting in improvements
  • Communication of survey, improvements,

What students will need:

  • Access to expertise
  • Computers/data sets
  • Estimation software/templates

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • MMSD — Lisa Sasso, Bre Plier, Nadia Vogt
  • DPW — Nader Jabber
  • WDNE — Ben Benninghoff, Samantha Katt
  • Civil Engineers — Justin Hegerty (Reflo), Kara Koch (SSE)
  • Communications specialist

How students might share their work:

  • Entering the project in a competition
  • Via website/communication pieces they design
  • Presenting at a conference
  • Presenting to politicians/city administrators

Intervention as Art

Create an environmental solution that is a form of art

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns [start here but then see where it may connect to something else]

What students should experience:

  • Allow students to develop creative problem solving, apply multiple disciplines (math, science, etc.) in order to create a solution
  • Allow student to assess the financial components/cost of implementing the art

What students will need:

  • Location to meet
  • Access to technology and materials
  • Sample size materials to create prototype of artwork
  • Transportation
  • Design expertise (art coaches/artists)
  • Self determination

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Artists
  • Engineers
  • Government officials & leaders
  • Foundations
  • Contractors (in trades)

How students might share their work:

  • Social media
  • Press engagements
  • Unveiling events
  • Presentations

GI target map

Map neighborhood to identify opportunities to install green infrastructure

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Green streets & alleys
  • Soil amendments

Phase targeted:

  • Design

What students should experience:

  • Gain understanding of neighborhood and existing conditions
  • Gain understanding of community stakeholders
  • Build researching skills (reputable data)
  • Become informed skeptics
  • Gain understanding of types & applications for green infrastructure

What students will need:

  • Background in types of GI
  • Mapping support — map individual neighborhoods, add all to larger map
  • Critical thinking/perseverance
  • People skills — coaching/modeling
  • Arrange stakeholder meetings/presentations
  • Watershed locations

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Reflo
  • Eco Office
  • Environmental Engineers
  • SFS
  • Community organizations in neighborhood

How students might share their work:

  • Social media posts
  • Health fair at North Division
  • MPS STEM Fair

Heat Islands

Monitor/change heat island effect through interactive materials

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Bioswales
  • Stormwater trees
  • Depaving
  • Green streets & alleys
  • Greenways & land conservation
  • Green roofs

Phase targeted:

  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Gain an appreciation for environmental awareness
  • Visually see how GI can reduce heat island effect

What students will need:

  • Thermal imaging – drone
  • Students map with “hot spots”
  • Identify areas that would benefit from green infrastructure
  • What could be done– trees plants, gardens
  • See how different GI might reduce heat

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Engineering firms with surveyors
  • College students who work with GIS

How students might share their work:

  • Presentation to town, city, community
  • Design plan
  • From the areas identified, have students go to companies to implement or advertise their action plan

Designing School Building Projects

Allow students to design landscape areas; promote mentor-ship to have older students work with younger students; during construction, kids can monitor waste vs recycled materials

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain gardens
  • Native landscaping
  • Stormwater trees
  • Soil amendments

Phase targeted:

  • Design
  • Installation
  • In use

What students should experience:

  • Sense of ownership, cooperation, achievement
  • Growing consumable product
  • Science

What students will need:

  • Planting science and how to nurture
  • Planting buddies

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Contractors
  • Landscapers
  • Engineers
  • Business relationships for recycling
  • Farmers

How students might share their work:

  • Through food on table
  • Science & math through recycling
  • Personal development through succeeding in the process

Watershed Challenge

How can we positively effect the watershed in a way that will create buy in and support from the community


Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater trees
  • Soil amendments

Phases targeted:

  • Design

What students should experience:

  • Career connections
  • Get out in the field
  • Community connections – picking up trash connected to effects on watershed, talking to community, brainstorming community problems
  • Urban water cycle – treatment plant
  • Science/environmental connection — labs to “see it”
  • Interdisciplinary — data, writing, technology

What students will need:

  • Background knowledge– getting off campus, maps science
  • Access to to local experts
  • Community connections — talking to people in neighborhood, observing the location
  • Structure/system for the design part of the project

Who students should meet as part of the effort:

  • Water school
  • Washington Park Urban Ecology Center
  • Storm Water Solutions
  • Engineers that design infrastructure — public & private
  • Go to a school that did a similar project
  • Groundworks MKE
  • Milwaukee Water Commons
  • Reflo
  • MMSD (Christina Taddy)
  • River Keeper
  • Plastic Free MKE
  • Sweetwater (Adopt a Storm Drain)
  • Upham Woods

Artful Capstone

Bring math, science, and art together for artful landscaping solutions; understanding the design process

Green infrastructure targeted:

  • Rain barrels & cisterns
  • Permeable pavement
  • Green Roofs [hotels & apartments]

What students should experience:

  • Awareness of environment
  • Seeing project through to completion
  • Impact on community
  • Puzzle solving
  • Design process
  • Connecting things to their everyday life
  • Opportunities to see career options

What students will need:

  • Time
  • Parental support
  • Access to opportunities
  • Mentoring
  • Inspiration
  • Pragmatic examples
  • Connections to their lives
  • Opportunity to take risks

Who students should meet as part of this work:

  • Mentors
  • Government officials
  • Home owners
  • Community members

How students might share their work:

  • Authentic audience
  • Other students around the world through
    • Tik Tok
    • 20 20
    • 15s Film
    • Pachakucha

Thanks to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for sharing their expertise and ideas:

Catherine Bronikowski — Math Dept. Chair, North Division High School

Justin Hegarty — Executive Director
Lisa Neeb — Green Schools Project Manager
Reflo – Sustainable Water Solutions

Kara Koch — Senior Project Engineer,  Stormwater Solutions Engineering

Linda Reid — Principal,  Water 365

Erick Shambarger — Director of Environmental Sustainability, City of Milwaukee

Rosheen Styczinski — Principal/Landscape Architect, New Eden Landscape Architecture

James Wasley — Professor, UWM School of Architecture & Urban Planning

Resources: