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Marshdale students get down to earth

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Kids learn to become environmental stewards on Earth Day

By Sara Miller

For students at Marshdale Elementary School, Earth Day was more than just a regular school day. Parents, teachers and PTA members transformed the day into an experiential learning celebration so students could discover ways to become environmental stewards both in and out of the classroom.

The day began with musical performances from three grades about going green and being kind to the Earth. An all-school assembly followed, with interactive presentations from Ted Kendall, a geologist from Fidelity Exploration. The 40-minute scientific discovery taught students about how efficient and responsible energy development plays a key role in the life of all Americans.

For the rest of the day, classes moved through a series of activities designed to educate students about ways they can help improve the environment. In the school gymnasium, students were asked to lie on the floor. At the sound of a timer, fellow students piled empty milk jugs on top of their classmates. When the buzzer sounded, the participants had a visual representation of how many gallons of water are used per minute of showering.

“We wanted to create activities that would allow our students to learn about simple ways that they could make eco-friendly choices in their own lives,” says Tara Kulp, a parent volunteer and the incoming chair of the Marshdale PTA’s environmental committee. “We had a great group of fifth-graders from the student environmental committee who helped run the activities.”

These fifth-grade volunteers, as well as a large group of parents, led students through other activities to demonstrate the importance of turning off lights to save electricity, recycling in their school and homes, proper home insulation, and more. Wendy Dew of the Environmental Protection Agency taught the students about air quality and gave them educational activity booklets.

Dianne Bennet of EDS Waste and Mereth Meade and Ginny Ades of Evergreen Alliance for Sustainability + You hosted a joint activity educating students about energy audits and showing the students simple steps to decrease energy loss in buildings and homes. EDS Waste is working with Marshdale students on a planting and beautification project at the EDS waste transfer station on Highway 73.

After many lessons learned inside, each student penned her own piece of an environmental pledge and placed it in on a large mural for all to see.

The classes headed outside to brave Friday’s blustery winds and participate in a recycling obstacle course designed by physical education teacher Chris Chambers. Classes assisted parent volunteers with spreading mulch on the Mustang Trail, the school’s environmental education trail. The PTA and student volunteers are working to revitalize the 10-year-old trail, and the mulch donated to the school by Matt’s Tree Service in Evergreen was the first step.

Nicole Renaud, a third-grader in Alisha Krakel’s class, shoveled mulch for the trail. She liked the idea of helping the school with its Earth Day celebration. “Recycling and projects like this are important to help make the Earth beautiful and clean,” Nicole said.

Finally, students learned about the life cycle of the mountain bluebird and about projects in local open space parks to encourage bluebird nesting.

“It was fun to see the kids’ eyes light up as they realized these are the birds that they see every day in their own backyards,” said Gary and Pat Toole, local birding enthusiasts. “The greater message is that studying these cavity nesters gives scientists important information about the health of particular habitats.”

In the end, the day was about conservation and education for all.

“Marshdale is providing a great opportunity for the kids to play a hands-on role in Earth Day,” said Kevin Miller, a parent volunteer who assisted with the Mustang Trail work. “It’s important for kids to gain an early appreciation for and understanding of their environment, so that it will lead to a lifetime of stewardship and enjoyment of the world around them.”