Students in Sustainability Course Get Hands On and Smelly

Experiential Learning Includes Tours at Wastewater and Recycling Facilities

Published: Feb 18, 2011
Students in Assistant Professor Kiyoko Yokota's class tour the City of Tampa's wastewater facility on a class trip. They are learning about sustainability.
Students in Assistant Professor Kiyoko Yokota's class tour the City of Tampa's wastewater facility on a class trip. They are learning about sustainability.
“I had no idea about this whole process,” said George Butterly ’14, an art history major. After finishing the tour, Butterly determined that he now probably knows far more than most people do about wastewater.
“I had no idea about this whole process,” said George Butterly ’14, an art history major. After finishing the tour, Butterly determined that he now probably knows far more than most people do about wastewater.

The smell is almost visible as The University of Tampa students grab the necks of their shirts and cover their noses. The students were on a tour of the City of Tampa’s wastewater treatment facility and were getting a whiff of one of the first steps in purifying the water.


Nick Galantino ’13 was impressed that only one chemical is used in the cleansing process. Everything else is organic.


“It is interesting,” said Galantino, a math major who is working on a biodiesel project with a friend who runs his car on cooking oil.


“I had no idea about this whole process,” said George Butterly ’14, an art history major.

After finishing the tour, Butterly determined that he now probably knows far more than most people do about wastewater. While he didn’t find a passion for the industry, he said he can appreciate the process.


“I’ve always been interested in pretty much everything,” Butterly said.


The field trip was one of four that Assistant Professor Kiyoko Yokota is taking this semester with the students in her biology course on sustainability. They are set to visit the City of Tampa solid waste facility and Waste Management's Recycle America facility, a TECO power plant and Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.


“The course is based on experiential learning of environmental science,” said Yokota, who created it based on two others she previously taught, combining traditional environmental science with the experiential learning aspects of her Global Issues course.


“I want the students to learn to find sustainable solutions to our everyday lives,” she said. “It’s a holistic approach. It’s to make students aware of what they can do and to not be afraid of science.”


She said many of her students are unsure or unfamiliar with the science involved in sustainable practices. She introduces them to it through data collection and hypothesis testing.


Yokota feels strongly about the topic and hopes her students become more aware of the impact they are having and can have in the future. She is originally from Japan, where she absorbed from her culture the attitude that people should live within their means. As an ecologist, she has a clear picture about the world’s limited resources.


“It is very apparent to me that we can’t keep throwing away without some careful planning,” Yokota said.


In her classes she stresses the impact students can have by making simple choices, such as choosing to carpool or rent the on-campus Hertz car as needed, or eat one less meat-based meal in the cafeteria. Meat requires more resources than vegetables to produce and process.


“If they choose just one meal with tofu or a vegetable lasagna, they would make a difference in their carbon footprint as a generation,” Yokota said.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer