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Sewage: Teachers

Sewage Essentials for Educators

Learn the basics about how sewer and septic systems work at How Stuff Works.

This Water Recovery Facility Tour provides a good overview of the process of municipal water treatment.

reclaimed water

Keep up with current topics and events in the field of sewage management with the USGA's Science Explorer: Wastewater page.

This interesting essay from Scientific American describes the work that sewage workers do every day to keep our systems working.

Learn about the history of sewage management and why many health experts consider adequate sewage treatment to be among the greatest medical milestones, in terms of disease control and lives saved.

The EPA discusses the sources and solutions for wastewater, wastewater challenges for small communities, and septic systems.

Instructional Resources for Teachers

As part of its Water Science School, the U.S. Geological Survey offers useful resources to help educators teach about sewage and wastewater. Take a look at Wastewater Treatment Water Use, A Visit to A Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Reclaimed Wastewater.

dirty river

Texas A & M University, in connection with local watershed authority GBRA, has a series of appealing, student-friendly interactives that you'll want to check out: Explore A Wastewater Treatment Plant, How A Septic System Works, FOG: Fats, Oils & Greases and Flush It or Toss It. These presentations would work well with your interactive whiteboard.

clean river

Following the Flow: An Inside Look at Wastewater Treatment is a downloadable resource for middle-school grades that explains what wastewater is, the process by which it is treated, and the uses of treated water and biosolids.

Middle–school students can learn more about the wastewater treatment process in this Water Recovery Facility 3D Virtual Tour, which also addresses the processing of biosolids and biogas.

Wastewater Treatment for Kids includes an animated video and downloadable booklet for primary grade learners.

In Beyond the Drain for primary grades, Walter Droplet goes on a journey through the sewer and the treatment plant.

If your students live where septic systems are used, you may want to use this activity sheet to explain how septic tanks work.

Here are some informational text selections, aimed at kids on different reading levels, that you may want to use with your class or with interested students:

How Do Wastewater Treatment Plants Work? Is a conversational, engaging presentation of wastewater treatment for middle school students.

Help your students understand that What You Flush Matters. Do Not Flush lets kids know why it's important not to flush anything that belongs in a trash can. Don't Flush That! demonstrates a comparative experiment, and this music video shares the message with a fun song.

It may be interesting for students to compare how sewage is dealt with in various countries. You may want to show these short videos that discuss sewage treatment in Australia, England, India and Bangladesh.

See how NASA is experimenting with sewage-cleaning water plants that might someday help recycle wastewater on space missions.

Lesson Plans and More

Check out this collection of lesson plans for both elementary and middle school classrooms. Developed in Virginia, these lessons include videos, worksheets, hands-on activities and related math problems.

This complete Wastewater Teaching Unit for fourth grade is easily adapted to other grade levels. 14 lessons with hands-on activities address topics relating to why and how we clean sewage, including “What's In the Pipes?”, “Just Throw It Away,” “How Is Wastewater Treated?” and “Design A Wastewater Treatment System.”


In Where Does Our Water Go? A Wastewater Travel Log, students will create, filter, and evaluate wastewater. The lesson is designed for elementary classrooms and may be combined with a field trip to a wastewater treatment plant.

Excuse Me, Is This The Way To The Drainpipe? Is a fun story designed to be used with elementary classrooms. Both septic and sewer systems are discussed. Separate teaching strategies and procedures are outlined for K-3 and 4-6 teachers.

wastewater treatment EPA
photo: EPA

Treat It Right! is a teaching unit that was designed in Alberta, Canada and can easily be adapted to your location. With handouts, visuals and activities, students learn about sources and treatment of wastewater, and how their actions can harm or help.

Water and Sewage Treatment lessons, for grades 5-8, include visuals, diagrams, and student worksheets.

Middle School teachers may want to use these lessons that involve math, reading and thinking skills as students make and treat their own wastewater: Throw It Away with student handouts, followed by Washing Water with student worksheets.

Students create their own Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants in this lesson from TeachEngineering.

Hands-on experiments can reinforce concepts about sewage and wastewater. Measure the speed of decomposition with Flushable or Not Flushable, evaluate the safety of reclaimed wastewater with From Your John to the School Lawn, or explore a possible use of sewage in Using Sewage in a Microbial Fuel Cell.

Many cities' wastewater treatment departments have educational materials or videos for teachers, and some offer tours for elementary or middle school classes. You may want to take your students on a field trip to a local facility. For example, this video demonstrates a 5th grade field trip to a large wastewater treatment plant in Massachusetts. In Boise, Idaho, Water Renewal Services offers water recovery facility tours and educational opportunities at Boise WaterShed. The city also operates a farm that uses biosolids from its sewage treatment plants for fertilizer.

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