Water Festival offers students lessons on groundwater, natural resources

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Students from Shelby Elementary School filled the plastic cups on their desks with layers of gummy bears, ice cream, soda and sprinkles on the morning of Dec. 18, watching how each element interacted with the others.

The sweets-filled cups, named “edible aquifers,” doubled as educational tools for these and nearly 1,700 other fourth-grade students from local schools at Shelby County’s 16th Annual Water Festival held at the University of Montevallo on Tuesday, Dec. 17, and Wednesday, Dec. 18. Before the students were permitted to eat their creations, they learned how aquifers work and how pollutants can contaminate groundwater.

In addition to the Edible Aquifer class, students rotated through Fantastic Filtration and Water Cycle Bracelet classes.

Chelsea Park Elementary School teacher Lana Morris said the Water Festival is one of her students’ favorite events every year.

“They love it, and they don’t forget it either,” Morris said, adding the festival ties in with their study of renewable and non-renewable resources.

The purpose of the festival is to educate students about groundwater and other natural resources, such as surface water, wetlands, forestry and wildlife.

The festival got its start in 1997 when the Alabama Department of Environmental Management granted the University of Alabama in Huntsville with seed money to organize the state’s first Groundwater Festival.

Shelby County’s Water Festival started about six years later.

“We have a lot of great volunteers that come out and help us,” said Kim Joiner, district administrative coordinator of Shelby County Soil & Water Conservation District. “All of the students and teachers are always great and support it.”