Pelham schools in permanent Earth-protection mode
BY KATHRYN HRYCUSKO
Special to the VOICE
Although Earth Day, April 22, coincided with Easter Monday this year, students of Pelham’s five elementary schools still took time to celebrate the planet in the weeks leading up to and following the official date. In fact, for many, the fact that Earth Day did not fall on a school day was a non-issue, as the schools chose to celebrate “Earth Month” rather than limit their eco-friendly celebrations and projects to one day.
Throughout April students of all ages participated in a variety of initiatives that were not only aimed at helping the Earth, but also acted as educational experiences for the students. Included were outdoor cleanups, “lights out” hours, litterless lunches, and the planting of gardens. For many of these schools however, even Earth Month is not an isolated celebration, but a culmination of everything they practice throughout the year.
Although many of the five elementary schools—A.K. Wigg, Glynn A. Green, St. Ann, St. Alexander, and Wellington Heights—practice similar eco-friendly initiatives daily, each showed their appreciation for the Earth in their own unique way.
St. Alexander students choose paper over plastic
Students at St. Alexander Catholic Elementary School spent the days leading up to Earth Day decorating paper bags to donate to Sobeys.
The grocery store, which is just down the road from the school, agreed to use the bags to pack customers’ groceries in on April 22. They were primarily used for those who had not brought their own reusable bags in an effort to cut down on plastic bag usage. Students such as Ava also hoped it would be a good way to remind customers how their shopping impacted the environment.
“We need to help the planet by not using plastic bags because they are bad for the planet,” said Ava,a Senior Kindergartener, showing off her bag which had a drawing of a girl watering a plant on it.
The bags were decorated with a variety of illustrations, done by the students and depicting messages about the Earth. Designs ranged from drawings of the Earth and messages of “Happy Earth Day,” to images of animals and facts about recycling.
Grade 4 student Ella said that she hoped people could also help the Earth by “planting more trees for every one we cut down. We should build parks instead of so many houses.”
Inside the school, teacher Kristy Clara, who had the idea to decorate the bags, was also working on a board in the front hallway to inform students about proper recycling and eco-friendly alternatives to coffee cups. Pieces of recycling had been fixed to the board under a quote taken from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” Beside the board, another was decorated with a pyramid of 120 disposable coffee cups, saved by Clara for the occasion, juxtaposed against one reusable mug. Though Clara said the board was mostly aimed at teachers, who are the primary consumers of coffee at the school, she also said that the students understand the message that the board sends as well.
It seems the message has already reached them. Grade 6 student Amelia said that it is important to celebrate Earth Day because, “We should keep our earth clean and reduce, reuse, and recycle.”
In addition to decorating the bags, the school also held a special prayer service on Tuesday, April 23, that focused on imparting the importance of the environment, and its proper stewardship to the children. This was followed by an afternoon with the lights and electronics off to conserve energy.
Green initiatives are not confined to Earth Day however. Proper disposal of recyclable materials, including the collection of old batteries and used gift cards, is something that the St. Alexander students practice daily. The school also has a community garden in which the kindergarten students help to grow fruits and vegetables.
Glynn A. Green students eager to make Fonthill trash-free
On Thursday April 18, Glynn A. Green students spread out across the school’s property and lined both sides of Port Robinson Road in an effort to rid the area of litter.
The clean up was part of a larger one being put on by the Town, called the “Pitch-In Pelham Community Clean Up”. Armed with gloves and trash bags the students in kindergarten to Grade 6 stayed on property while the Grade 7s and 8s took on the task of cleaning up the nearby street.
Splitting in two groups, the 7s and 8s started at opposite ends of Port Robinson—a group at Rice Road and one at South Pelham Street—and worked toward one another.
The school’s principal, Todd Halliday, who accompanied the group that started at Rice Road, said the amount of garbage they found was immense and that he had to limit kids to picking up garbage within a couple metres of the sidewalk, particularly around construction sites, for safety reasons and for the sake of time management.
Even so, students carried back, shingles, pieces of eavestrough, and other bits of construction materials that they had found around a new housing development.
School janitor, Mr. Beck, helped the students dispose of the materials in the proper vestibules.
Though confined to Glynn A. Green’s yard, the younger grades still found plenty of garbage.
“It’s a good thing we did this clean up,” said one student, a group of her fellow Grade 6 students nodding along with her. “We found so so much garbage.”
The girls carried pieces of garbage and signs that they had made for the occasion, reading, “I think we should have Earth Day every day,” and “Keep Earth Clean.”
Grade 6 student, Eva Bernardi said that it was important for them to participate in Earth Month activities because they needed to “keep Earth safe.” She expressed worry that “people are cutting down trees which pollutes the air and polluting the ocean. This kills animals and makes less oxygen.”
For Bernardi and her fellow Grade 6s, the clean up was a way for them to help.
Even the kindergarten students participated, though many expressed concern that the gloves were making their hands “gross and sweaty.” For every kid worried about their hands, however, another three would run up to the teachers supervising the clean up to show them a scrap of garbage they had found, or to ask if odd-looking sticks and chestnuts should be thrown out too.
This clean up was an extension of Glynn A. Green’s year-round green projects, such as recycling, and litterless lunches. Cora McGlynn, a Grade 6 student and member of the school’s Eco-Team, said that as part of Earth Month the team had presented to each class, teaching them about proper recycling habits and and why respecting the environment is important.
“Not everyone knows how to recycle properly, and it can cause health problems for people and the environment,” said McGlynn.
The Eco-Team, with the rest of the school, has also recently wrapped up the “Plastic Bag Grab Challenge” during which they collected plastic bags to dispose of properly, as well as their “Bag2School” initiative. For the latter, the school accepted donations of used textiles, including clothing and linens, which they then donated to charity or took to the textile recycling location to be disposed of in an eco-friendly way.
A.K. Wigg students save hundreds of plastic bags from landfills
Like Glynn A. Green, A.K. Wigg students also participated in the “Plastic Bag Grab Challenge,” a challenge that was issued to elementary schools on a nationwide level. Students at A.K. Wigg set their target at 1000 plastic bags, and set about collecting them from parents and neighbours. As of Thursday, April 25, the second to last day of the challenge, they had 660. The Grade 1 students in teacher Rachel Dumas’ class, and the Eco-Team members, including Grade 2 student Tenley Kennedy, sorted them into groups for easier counting.
“We put them in bundles of ten,” said Kennedy. “It was all stuff and tie, stuff and tie, stuff and tie.”
Another student, and Eco-Team member, Grade 1 Ava Allen said they were doing it because they want to make sure everything is recycled properly.
“We like to recycle, and we want to help the Earth and the animals,” said Allen. “We want to make sure no animals eat the plastic.”
The group was excited to make a large collage out of their plastic bags once they have all been collected.
Maddox Kennedy, a Grade 1 student, said they have “brainstormed lots” about what to make out of the bags. He suggested that they shape the bags into an image of a plastic bag, with two recycling bins around it.
The Eco-Team, which has around 25 members, participates in recycling programs and other environmentally friendly activities as well. There is a schedule of kids who go around the school to help collect recycling and make sure it is sorted properly. Rachel Dumas, who is the Eco-Team leader, says that the students are always eager to help.
“They’re really passionate about it here,” said Dumas.
Many of the same students, as well as some of the Grade 8s have also helped Mrs. Bedard, the school’s custodian, clean up the schoolyard in the past few weeks. They have picked up some 40 garbage bags of litter, leaves, and other debris that accumulated over the winter. On a larger scale, the entire school participates in light-free Fridays, where they turn off all non-essential lights, and students try to bring litterless lunches—lunches that are packed in reusable containers.
Outside of school, A.K. Wigg students continue to try to be environmentally friendly.
Grade 1 student Meredith Repchull says that at home she likes to eat yogurt and her mum always washes out the containers before putting them in the recycling.
Older students, such as Grade 4 Maddy Breadner, take up the initiative themselves.
“I like the Earth because it is clean, and so when it was really windy and garbage was everywhere, me, my sister, and friend picked it up and sorted it properly,” she said.
St. Ann students organize day of activities celebrating the Earth
Teachers at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School let the students take the reins this past Earth Day when three girls approached them with an idea. Priscilla, Emma, and Georgia, all Grade 6 students and active Eco-Team members, came up with the idea to celebrate Earth Day with a series of environmentally oriented activities for kindergarten through Grade 6 students, and an environmental-themed Jeopardy game for the Grade 7s and 8s.
The girls divided the school’s kindergarten to Grade 6 students in groups and set up rotating stations in the gym. At one station, the kids were asked to draw a superhero with an environmentally friendly superpower. Ethan, a Grade 3 student, drew a hero that makes plants and animals strong and healthy, while others drew superheroes that “saved the Earth,” or “shot water out of their eyes.” The following station saw artwork being made out of newspaper as the kids glued it into the shape of a koala’s face, while at another the kids planted seeds.
Though it was the messiest station, with dirt everywhere, the school’s principal, John Romano, insisted on thanking Rice Road Greenhouses for donating the seeds, and enabling the students to learn about planting.
From there, they moved on to obstacle courses that incorporated questions about the environment, and finally a rest station, where they were invited to watch a clip from the movie “The Lorax.”
Emmett, a Grade 6 student in charge of running the station said, “I like to help because people don’t know that if we don’t take care [of the Earth] then global warming will come, we will be in a situation where our world will be bad. We teach the kids so they can teach theirs.”
The day was all about teaching and learning about the environment in a fun way said Priscilla, one of the organizers.
“Earth Day was yesterday. With global warming and all, it’s fun for our generation to help save the Earth. Fun and practical really,” said Priscilla. “We help [the other students] so when they are older they will want to go planting and save koalas.”
Later in the day she, Emma, and Georgia ran the Jeopardy game for the older students. It featured questions such as, “How many plastic bags are used by the average family of four per year?” and, “Which city is the most environmentally friendly in the world?”
Priscilla, Emma, and Georgia are part of a large group of St. Ann’s students who participate daily in eco-friendly initiatives. The school’s Eco-Team consists of nearly half the school and, although the teachers oversee the activities, students are allowed much autonomy. They often call meetings themselves to organize events such as Earth Day, or to organize their schedule of recycling collection and inspection. It is a task that the students take seriously—each month a “golden garbage can” is awarded to the class that best sorted their waste.
Grade 6 student Emma said, “We celebrate the Earth because clean up and care for the Earth should happen everyday.”
Throughout the month of April (and the rest of the year) students have taken on other projects as well. They regularly remove litter from their schoolyard, and twice yearly take to the streets to clean the surrounding neighbourhood. Following Easter, the students planted the flowers that had been used by the church for their holiday services. Planting and gardening is a well-established practice at St. Ann. The grade 7s and 8s have built garden boxes, a greenhouse, and a shed on the school’s property, and younger grades regularly help with planting a butterfly garden. In the near future the children also hope to start their community gardens again, the produce from which they hope to give to migrant farm workers who are in the area during the summer months.
Earth Month just kicking into gear at Wellington Heights
Kindergarten students at Wellington Heights kicked off the school’s Earth Month activities April 18 with a planting session. Using bulbs that had been dug out of the gardens of the former Pelham Centre School, the kids planted a garden on the school grounds. One student explained that the flowers, which consist of daffodils and tulips, “will grow next year,” adding that she got to plant four herself.
The planting allowed the kindergarteners an opportunity to dig for worms, a favourite pastime for many of them.
“I like animals and worms and caterpillars,” said Junior Kindergartener Emilia Denton, who made sure to put the worms back after showing them to her teacher.
Another student added that they should “plant more trees, to make more trees, and worms can go under them.”
Last Tuesday, April 23, the kindergarteners continued their eco-friendly activities with a clean up of the schoolyard and nearby Cherry Ridge Park. Senior Kindergarten students Eva Hartwick and Selina Scolaro assisted in picking up trash.
“We helped clean up the schoolyard,” said Scolaro. “We even cleaned the big kid yard.”
Hartwick thought it was important to help clean up the environment because it would help nature and birds, both of which she really likes. She agreed with Scolaro’s thought that they should “help clean up [garbage] every single week.”
Hartwick was also ready to join in on part two of the plan as Scolaro added that they could maybe fly around the world and clean up everywhere, including in Japan.
Students in the intermediate grades will also take part in a clean up sometime in May, though theirs will extend to the surrounding neighbourhood. In past years they have picked up litter in downtown Fenwick and in Centennial Park.
Like the clean up, many of Wellington Height’s Earth Day activities are yet to happen. May is looking to be a busy month of environmentally friendly initiatives. In addition to the neighbourhood clean up, the school plans to hold a large scale garage sale on May 25. Students will collect donations of used items
The sale is coupled with an e-recycling initiative. Students are accepting old, used, and broken electronics such as laptops, monitors, and stereos, which they will drop off at Shift Recycling. They are hoping to receive a lot of donations of recyclable material, because after a certain weight they will receive 7 cents per pound of material. Money from the e-recycling and from the garage sale will be put toward further green projects.
Wellington Heights, which was previously a kindergarten to Grade 3 school, only has a playground for younger children, but the school hopes to build one that Grades 4 and up can use as well.
There is also a plan for an outdoor classroom, complete with rock seats and plants. Near the intended location for the classroom, the school plans to plant a butterfly garden.
This project will take place over the next couple of months. Though the kindergarten students will be in charge of the planting and the maintenance of the gardens, intermediate students will help make the designs for the garden as well as undertake some of the harder labour.