Clay schools venture into the ‘blue’

John Gatlin
Posted 11/21/17

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District has announced its most recent grant recipients, and two Clay County schools will be big winners.

The SJRWMD announced the recipients of …

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Clay schools venture into the ‘blue’

Posted

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District has announced its most recent grant recipients, and two Clay County schools will be big winners.

The SJRWMD announced the recipients of its second annual Blue School Grant Program. Eleven schools across Alachua, Clay, Duval, Lake, Orange, Seminole, St. Johns, Putnam and Volusia counties will be receiving grants of up to $2,000 a piece, to further education in science, technology, engineering and math.

This year, two grant requests were awarded to Clay County schools. Wilkinson Junior High School will be constructing a water conservation garden, and Oakleaf High School will be conducting a water quality comparison of storm water ponds and riparian zones. These projects give students hands-on experience to understand the necessity of water conservation.

The program seeks to offer $20,000 to teachers across its 18-county service area who are promoting water resource protection through hands-on projects in the classroom. In 2016, the program’s inaugural year, it provided funding for field trips to organic and conventional farms, water quality comparison projects, seagrass restoration projects and the installation of micro-irrigation in-school gardens.

According to marine and environmental science teacher Kelly Morris of Oakleaf High, the grant provides the needed funding to explore new teaching avenues in public schools.

“[The grant] offers the opportunity for teachers to engage their students in a variety of hands-on activities,” Morris said. “Being a public school, we often don’t have the funds to purchase the equipment and items we can use to engage our students at a deeper level.”

In July, Florida’s Legislature allocated $13.3 million towards a project in Clay County to support regional water supplies. The project will use water from Black Creek, where levels are considered healthy, and provide it to shore up water levels in the Etonia Chain of Lakes in southwest Clay County. While big steps like these are essential towards maintaining an adequate water supply across the state, providing educational opportunities to students are equally important. These opportunities afforded by the grants will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to focus on the Floridan Aquifer.

“Water is important for our future, and we don’t want to pollute it,” said Mary Tarrant, lab teacher of Wilkinson Junior High. “We’re not going to get any more [water], this is it, so we have to conserve it.”

By providing teachers with adequate funding, students can look forward to more hands-on experiences in the classroom, while the rest of us can continue to enjoy an essential resource required for life.

Out of 41 public schools in Clay County, Wilkinson Junior and Oakleaf High were the only Clay schools awarded “Blue School” grants this year.

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