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Groundwater fest attracts 100 plus students

More than 500 fourth-grade students from seven different schools in Pike County learned Wednesday that there is more to water than meets the eye.

The students attended the eighth annual Pike County Groundwater Festival at Troy University and learned facts about water through hands-on activities.

“The earth is about 70 percent water, but there’s not much of it that we can drink,” said Abbie Barron of Banks Middle School. “Just a drop in the bucket.”

The fact Earth is mainly water, and so is one’s body, began to compute with the students.

“If we don’t have water, we’ll rot from the inside,” a Banks students said and others cast him concerned looks.

Mike Mullen, facilitator for the event, said the Pike County Groundwater Festival is designed to make students more aware of the importance of water in their lives and the need to protect it.

Dr. Neil Billington, Troy University instructor of biological and environmental sciences, told the students that protecting the ground water is most important and they should be mindful of ways the groundwater can be polluted.

“Farmers are very careful about the chemicals that they put on the ground and when they should be applied,” Billington said. “But often homeowners are not. They will sometimes put buckets of pesticides and other chemicals on their lawns. Much more than they need. Then, these chemicals are washed into streams and aquifers.”

So … Billington asked, the students, “What should we do?”

“Take care of our groundwater! It’s what we drink!” the students shouted in unison. The students constructed aquifers using ice cream and “oil.” “Oil? Ugh!”

But, chocolate syrup was substituted for oil and, when the students “pumped” their aquifers, they enjoyed the sweet taste of chocolate and better understood the meaning of aquifers and the role aquifers play in their daily lives.

The theme for the 2010 Pike County Groundwater Festival was “Water Connects Everything.”

One aspect of the festival is a T-shirt design contest. Leading up to the festival each year, fourth-grade students are encouraged to submit designs. This year, Atiana Jones at Pike County Elementary School was the overall winner and each participating student received a T-shirt bearing her design.

Funding and in-kind support for the Groundwater Festival come from a variety of sources, including the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Legacy and local donors. “In addition to ADEM and Legacy, the Pike County Groundwater Festival, has enjoyed support over the years from both the city of Brundidge and the city of Troy,” said Janet Gaston, science education advisor in the Troy University department of biological and environmental sciences. Numerous businesses and organizations including Wal-Mart DC7019, Sanders Lead, BFI, Lockheed Martin, The Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority, the Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District, Sodexo, the Federation, Mayfield Ice Cream, the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper have also supported the Pike County Groundwater Festival.”

“The festival would not be possible without Troy University’s provision of facilities and many thanks go to the faculty and students in Troy University’s College of Arts and Sciences,” Gaston said.