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HIGH SPRINGS – On April 16, students in Jessica Butts’s classes, who are also in the High Springs Community School’s FFA chapter, took part in a cleanup project to remove some of the garbage that had accumulated over the years near High Springs' namesake spring, Butt said.

The area they cleaned up was on the school’s land lab property, which is adjacent to the spring, Butts said.

The project was supported by a $1,500 grant from the Tractor Supply Company of Gainesville, according to Judith Weaver, a teacher at the school.

Butts said the trash included an old broken lawnmower with weeds growing through it, a mattress and box spring, broken pots and pans, and cans.

The activity provided an opportunity for the students to learn the impact that litter and trash have on the water and, subsequently, the aquifer, she said.

“I wanted them to understand that everything that you do on the land also impacts the water,” she said.

Butts said the students were happy to clean up the area and enjoyed working outside.

“I think they were surprised and almost excited when they would find something strange,” she said. “Like, ‘Look what I found!’”

Butts said her students researched agriculture and soils in preparation for the project.

Some of the other research also included how to measure best management practice (BMP) setbacks from water resources and use the data to relocate livestock out of storm water retention areas to a more suitable location, according to Weaver.

Butts said the livestock included goats that were placed there last year by the FFA and the Ag department. They have since been relocated to an area where their waste will not compromise the water or the aquifer.

“We’ve built kind of a containment area for our animal waste,” Butts said. “So that it’s kept in one space and it’s not running off down anywhere where it’s not supposed to be.”

The students’ research will be showcased as part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Waterways Exhibit at the High Springs Historical Museum from July 16 to Aug. 27.

It will be on display on the sixth week of the exhibit, according to Kristina Young, the program director at the museum.

“We were one of six sites selected in the state of Florida to host this traveling exhibit,” Young said.

Young said the museum’s goal has been to invite community partners to get involved in talking about our waterways and our responsibility to protect them.

“The High Springs Community School was one of our first partners that we reached out to to involve our children,” she said.

She said the exhibit is part of a bigger initiative that the Smithsonian Institute is trying to promote across the United States.

“Their goal is to invite rural areas to get involved,” she said. “And our site – our community of High Springs – was selected to host this because we have such a valuable resource right here in our area.”

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