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More than 1,500 Etowah County fourth grade students will be on the Wallace Drive Campus of Gadsden State Community College December 3 for the tenth annual Water Festival. 

The goal of the festival is to help students learn more about the water supply.  “The students spend the day learning about the value of water, as well as, how important it is that they make an effort to preserve and protect our water supply,” explained Sarah Butterworth, Middle Coosa Watershed Project Coordinator.   

The Water Festival is co-sponsored by Gadsden State, the City of Gadsden, Gadsden Water Works and Sewer Board, Keep Etowah Beautiful, Inc., Alabama Power, Etowah County Soil and Water Conservation District and other members of the community.  Senior students from Etowah, Gadsden City, Hokes Bluff and Southside high schools provide most of the instruction.  They are aided by Dr. Hugh Hammer, Gadsden State aquaculture instructor, his students and local professionals.  Butterworth estimated that over 140 volunteers will be involved. 

“The Etowah County Water Festival is in its 10th consecutive year and we have been an integral part of this program from its inception.  This program has taught over 12,000 students from our community the importance of preserving our water resources.  One of the most positive signs that this program is working is the fact that 4th grade kids from 2001 and 2002 are now returning to be the volunteers that teach the next generation and some are even showing up in my classroom to make aquatic and marine resources their career,” said Hammer. 

Each of the students participating will have three “hands-on” sessions aimed at making them more familiar with water and its challenges.  The students will first attend the water cycle class to make bracelets with each bead representing one phase of the water cycle.  The second class, and the one the students find most delicious, is the edible aquifer.  Butterworth said during this activity, students make a cross section of soil and ground water.  The ground water is made of Sprite while the layers of soil are made of ice cream, sprinkles and gummy fish.  The students then take a straw and stick it into the soil all the way to the ground water with the straw serving as a well and the student’s mouth serving as a pump.  When the experiment is complete the students enjoy eating their projects.  The third class is filtration and deals with pollution.  Materials such as vinegar, oil, soil and confetti are used.  The students begin with clean water, add the materials to show how pollution occurs then try to filter out the impurities.  For example, the smell of vinegar will remain in the water no matter how much effort is made to remove it.

After the classes are complete the students head to Wallace Hall to the “Fishin’ Magician” and his “Eco-Magic Show.”  Butterworth said that while the students do enjoy making a mess, they are learning a valuable lesson that will remain with them in the future.  For more information contact Dr. Hugh Hammer at 256-549-8345 or

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