County fourth graders to test water as part of learning festival

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 28, 2002

Features Editor

The old adage, "You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry," is a yellow light, but too few people are proceeding with caution.

Most people take for granted that there is an endless supply of the life-blood source, but, it often seems as if mankind is testing the "well" with pollution and wasteful use of the precious resource.That must change and will change if the public is educated about the natural resource that everyone seems to take for granted – water.

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On Wednesday fourth grade students from all schools in Pike County will participate in the Ground Water Festival at Troy State University.Although the Ground Water Festival concept has been around on the national level since 1997, this is the first such festival in Pike County.

However, Mike Mullen, director of the center for environmental research and service at Troy State University, said plans are for the festival to be an annual event.

"The purpose of the Ground Water Festival is to teach students the value of our ground water supply and the need to protect it," Mullen said. "The first Ground Water Festival was held in Nebraska and, in five years, the concept has spread across the country. The first festival in Alabama was held in Huntsville with 1,000 fourth-graders participating. Now, they have more than 4,000."

Houston County hosted a Ground Water Festival last year and had more than 1,000 participants. Geneva County will join Pike County this year in hosting Ground Water Festivals for their fourth-grade students.

"The idea is to teach them while they are young," Mullen said. "It is of the utmost importance for our young people – all of us – to realize that our ground water is a precious natural resource and must be protected."

At the Ground Water Festival at TSU, the county’s fourth-grade students will participate in three hands-on activities where they will see first-hand how the ground water is polluted and how difficult it is to reverse the effects of pollution.

"They will be presented with a situation and then, through the activity, be asked to come to a conclusion," Mullen said. "The Ground Water Festival will be a supplement to their general science education and the students should go home with a better understanding of ground water as a natural resource and a better appreciation of it."

A focus of one of the activities will be filtration.

The students will determine which of three materials is the best filtering system for water. However, a filtration that Mullen has in mind is the filtration of information from the students down to the parents.

"When children become interested in a subject and starting talking about it, parents listen," he said. "The hope is that, as the students go back home, what they have learned will be conveyed to their parents and other family members."

The ripple effect of the county’s first Ground Water Festival could be far reaching, even beyond families and friends.

The Ground Water Festival is b

eing sponsored by several entities and got off to an interesting start with a county-wide art contest for fourth grade students. The students were invited to design a tee shirt encouraging the protection and wise use of ground water.

Ross Hixon, a student at Pike Liberal Arts School, was the winner and t-shirts with his design will be given to each student who participates.

The shirts will then become walking sandwich boards for the protection of ground water and the message will be spread wherever these young environmentalists go.

Mullen expressed appreciation to the sponsors for their support of the Pike County Ground Water Festival. The following sponsors donated $250 or more to the festival: Sikorsky, Sanders Lead Company, Pike County Soil, Water and Conservation District, the Alabama Water and Pollution Control Association, Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations,

Sodex’ho Marriott – Campus Dining Service TSU, Browning Ferris Industries, the City of Troy, the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority and the City of Brundidge.

Other sponsors include: Jerry Beckett – State Farm Insurance, Edge Regional Medical Center, TSU Environmental Club, Food World, Pike County Banking Association, Pike County Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Winn-Dixie, TSU Center for Environmental Research and Service, Coca-Cola, Pike County Schools, Troy City Schools, Pike Liberal Arts School, Covenant Christian School, New Life Christian Academy and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.