An Adventure in Springs and Aquifer Awareness:
White Springs H.O.P.E. Program
Submitted by Tracy Wyman and Lesley Gamble
The summer has turned into a springs and aquifer adventure for a group of kids from the H.O.P.E. Summer Enrichment Program in White Springs. When all is said and done, these kids will be spreading awareness about our relationship to our fragile water resources every time they take a trip.
Tracy Wyman of aquiPROJECT and Lesley Gamble, the artist who created the Springs Eternal Urban Aquifer, have collaborated to help these students become more aware of the Floridan Aquifer and springs, and our relationship to this natural system.
After several sessions of drawing the underground system and our behaviors that negatively impact its health, Wyman and Gamble prepared the group for an underwater excursion to Gilchrist Blue Spring. Area businesses came together to make this first experience possible. High Springs’ Extreme Exposure, Dive Rite and Ginnie Springs Outdoors generously donated snorkel equipment. Blue Springs Park waived entrance fees, gladly welcoming the first-time snorkelers. Gamble and Wyman worked with the students one on one until they were comfortable with their snorkel gear in the water. Then each child swam off to explore the world they literally play and drive atop every day, but didn’t know existed.
“When I first saw the deep hole, I screamed under the water,” Jalen Oliver told the group later.
What surprised Keilonnie Carter was the fish darting about. She explained that she’d never before seen them in their natural habitat. All the students were amazed at the clear, cold water and can’t wait to go back.
The next day the group walked up to their town’s own sulfur spring. Most of them had seen the spring house that surrounds it, and some had been up to explore it, but they hadn’t understood it.
As the group looked over the rail into what would be a spring vent, Wyman asked the group, “What’s happening here?”
One student noted, “The river’s coming in.”
Quietly, another said, “The aquifer stopped.”
The group is now wrapping up its summer program by painting their program bus. Gainesville’s 13th Street Home Depot and Behr Paints for teamed up to donate the supplies. The bus will become a vehicle to think with – for all who ride in it and all who see it passing by. The traveling mural is in process now, with students from kindergarten through high school painting it each day at the White Springs Community Center. Passers-by wave, honk and stop to ask about the project; some even add a few brush strokes of their own. Scheduled for completion on Thursday, Aug. 1, the bus will become known as the “Rural Aquifer”, the first satellite extension of Gamble’s “Urban Aquifer”.
“It was an easy decision for White Springs to integrate Ms. Wyman’s aquiPROJECT with our HOPE summer enrichment program”, said Helen Miller, Mayor of White Springs. “The aquiPROJECT is an excellent example of how we can educate our youth and their parents about the Floridan Aquifer, the unique 1000 springs in Florida, and the important role we all play in protecting and preserving our natural resources. Creating awareness and understanding at the local level about our water resources is critical to our being able to influence our state government officials and the Florida Legislature.”
The aquiPROJECT is in the development stages as a non-profit organization with a goal to design and facilitate community-based projects, fostering an understanding of natural systems and empowering individuals to embrace the shaping of their own communities. Readers can follow the aquiPROJECT by contacting Tracy Wyman (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information about the Urban Aquifer see: SpringsEternalProject.org/urban-aquifer/, or contact Lesley Gamble (email@example.com).