By Nick Beversdorf
Everybody does something for Earth Day, whether it be volunteering to pick up trash, planting flowers or making a commitment to recycle more, but Washington Elementary School has gone a step further and started what they like to call “EarthFest.”
Washington Elementary, along with most other schools, have been doing various activities for Earth Day for many years, but this year marks the start of a new and more organized event that celebrates and educates on every aspect of helping the environment, including recycling, waste reduction, planting, “upcycling,” animal welfare and much more.
“We have been doing activities for Earth Day for over 12 years but this year marks the first time we are doing Earth Fest,” comments 1st grade teacher Lin Schroeder. “Earth Fest is much more hands-on, not just with participating in activities, but also with researching an environmental topic or issue. It allows all students from Kindergarten to 5th grade to get directly involved. ”
Fifth graders collaborated with other students to research a particular topic and present their findings (pictures below). Every student was required to visit a minimum of five booths and then make a pledge by writing a promise he or she would make to the environment. Once they wrote a pledge on one of the tables in the gym they would be eligible to win a cool environmentally-friendly prize.
“We want to instill a sense of awareness in these children,” comments 5th grade teacher Kristen Novitch. “The best time to teach children the importance of taking care of the environment is right now when they are young. By teaching them the value of taking care of the environment now, they take that and hold it with them throughout the rest of their lives.”
In addition to running Earth Fest, Novitch and Schroeder are part of the school’s “Green Team,” a committee dedicated to integrating green policies into the school.
“We don’t want the students to feel that taking care of the environment is something that is only important on Earth Day,” adds Novitch. “We have a lot of other things we do like recycling and terra-cycling that aren’t just visible to the students, but also allows them to participate in it.
“An example would be our recycling bins. In the past those bins would just be for faculty use and students wouldn’t have access to them. Now we have recycling bins that are not only visible to the students, but accessible to them. And we teach the students on which items go where and encourage them to utilize those bins whenever they can.”
Other initiatives include the “Trees into Cartons, Cartons into Trees” program, where students take milk cartons and use them to plant a tree, an upcycling program that takes back the juice bottles and Lunchables packages to give them life as a new product, and a composting program where extra uneaten food is sent to the school forest. Students also participated in picking up trash around the neighborhoods close to Washington Elementary throughout the week.
Both Novitch and Schroeder, along with all the faculty and students at Washington Elementary, encourage you to take actions in your life to help the environment, not just on Earth Day, but everyday.