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UP A LAZY RIVER, 11 YEARS LATER, A SCIENCE PROJECT GETS RESULTS

Most sixth-graders work on science projects, but few get their answer 11 years later from 250 miles away.

Barb Spence, formerly of Battle Creek, Neb., was 12 years old in March 1978 when she put a note into a baby-food jar, sealed it with black tape and threw the jar into the Elkhorn River.The note included instructions to contact her if the jar was found as part of her sixth-grade science project.

Over the years, Spence grew up, married and moved to Tallahassee, Fla. But the jar apparently continued its slow journey down the Elkhorn, into the Platte River and finally the Missouri River.

Last month Bill Jeffrin of Orrick, Mo., found the jar almost hidden on a sandy shore of the Missouri River southwest of Kansas City. The note inside was still legible, so Jeffrin contacted Spence's parents, Lyle and Rosie Spence of Battle Creek.

"We couldn't imagine that the note had survived. I thought it was a joke at first," Mrs. Spence said. "But Mr. Jeffrin seemed so excited and sincere that we gave him Barb's phone number."

At first, Mrs. Spence said, her daughter thought Jeffrin "was pulling her leg." But then the memory of the project came back.

"She thought it was incredible to get the results of that project so many years later. She was thrilled," Mrs. Spence said.

The find also surprised Loren Kment of Norfolk, the teacher who assigned the science project 11 years ago.