Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Learning lab brings Crystal Springs experience on road

CRYSTAL SPRINGS

If you stand very still and be very quiet you can hear the sound of water trickling. Slide your fingers across the walls and you can feel real fossils that were discovered on the grounds just outside the door behind you. Look upwards and its blue sky you see, because that's where the water bubbles up toward, flowing into the clear, native springs that are Florida's treasure.

The "underwater cave" is a foyer of sorts — a manufactured real-life experience that serves as entry into a 54-foot-long learning lab on wheels designed to teach thousands of kids about the importance of the Florida aquifer.

"Make sure you explore and read whatever you can," is the first command of Sarah Todd, one of two educators who serve as tour guides on the mobile classroom. "And touch everything."

Last week, 100 fourth-grade students from Wesley Chapel Elementary School had the opportunity to do just that as the Crystal Springs Foundation and Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water unveiled their new WaterVentures Learning Lab at Crystal Springs Preserve.

It was a test run for the mobile lab that was scheduled to head to Miami so students there could get a taste of the lessons Crystal Springs has to offer while encouraging them to become thoughtful keepers of the state's essential resource. State Sen. John Legg, an educator who co-founded Dayspring Academy charter school, also was in attendance and spoke briefly about the value of hands-on learning in the natural setting. Robert Thomas, whose family owns Crystal Springs, shared some history of the preserve, which once was a favored childhood swimming hole, then a popular recreation area before his family bought the land to save it for future generations.

Each year about 50,000 central Florida students make the trek to the 525-acre preserve to interact with nature and partake in a variety of hands-on activities that are funded, in part, by the bottling of spring water by Nestle Waters (parent company of Zephyrhills Spring Water). But that was about all the kids the preserve can handle, so stewards opted to expand their outreach by hitting the road. Building and operating the lab costs about $1.3 million, but Karen Pate said it's a very good investment — particularly if you can get your message to 100,000 more youngsters a year, as planned.

"The preserve has reached capacity for daily input," said Pate, vice president of the Crystal Springs Foundation. "We want to take a slice of native Florida and what we do at Crystal Springs and take it out there."

Pate was instrumental in the planning and design of the educational aspects of the mobile classroom.

Lessons, Pate said, are geared to "capture zone" students, who will make a bigger impact by spreading the environmental message to their families.

"Hopefully it becomes a way of life for them," Pate said. "And in six years these kids will be voters — educated voters."

Save for the primitive feel of the "underwater" cave, the lab is a high-tech experience with activities held inside and out. The trailer-wide exhibit is brimming with buttons to push, knobs to turn and giant touch screens that spout environmental facts with an easy tap of a finger. Students can play a game called H2O while learning about the water cycle from precipitation to evaporation, or push a button or light up the various bodies of water both above and underground in Florida. They can pick their own adventure as a water drop flowing from a river that takes them to an estuary full of mangrove trees, a saw grass bed or ultimately swallowed by a crab. They can take turns sorting animated recyclables on a giant touchscreen or venture to a learning station outside to use toy-like figurines and buildings to create their own environmentally sound community.

In the end, students take what they will from the experience and get a little prodding from their instructors who ask, "What did you learn?" before the kids disembark.

"You can build a whole playground from recycled stuff," said Gariona Love, 10, when called upon.

"You can save more water by taking a bath rather than a 10-minute shower," Kyra Barreno, 9, piped up.

There is definite buy-in from kids like Timothy Kovacs, 9, who said, "This is so awesome — so much fun with all the giant screens and the games."

And while Peyton Sessuns, 9, said she enjoyed her high-tech trek through the mobile lab, her favorite part of the day was simply being outdoors.

"The springs are amazing looking," she said as she lined up with class for lunch. "This is such a great place for kids to learn. You can see things; touch things to see how they feel. It's just an amazing learning experience."

Did you know…

• You can save 17 trees by recycling 2,000 pounds of cardboard

• The sun evaporates 359 trillion gallons of water a day, which is enough to fill Lake Okeechobee 261 times.

• The energy saved by recycling one glass bottle can light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or run a computer for 30 minutes.

• The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours.

• Recycled milk jugs can be used to make the fuzz on tennis balls.

Source: Crystal Springs Foundation

Learning lab brings Crystal Springs experience on road 01/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SINGAPORE — A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a tanker early Monday in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca, and at least 10 sailors are missing.

    The Navy said five others were hurt.

  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.