Earth Day a creepy, crawly hit at Eastern Elementary

Published 7:26 pm Friday, April 20, 2012

Worms. Bugs. Snakes. And a puppy named Mocha.

Be it earth, insect, or animal, it’s likely that it took part in Eastern Elementary School’s annual Earth Day celebration on Friday.

Snakes, alive! Steve Wallace’s kindergarten class and DeAnne Smith’s first grade class raise their hands to ask Goose Creek State Park Ranger Nicole Crider about reptiles. Crider was on hand at Eastern Elementary School’s 15th annual Earth Day celebration. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Since 1997, the school has been observing the occasion with an earth science fair that teaches the kindergartners and first graders the importance of not just the environment, but how valuable the creatures living in the environment are to our ecological system. In the process, the kids get to touch snakes, pet a puppy, plant a seed and take part in many other activities that make up an entire day of hands-on learning.

‘They love it,” said Elizabeth Picone, Eastern Elementary’s school counselor. “Some of the kids, they’re just so enamored. They ask so many great questions.”

As the children rotated through 21 stations, those questions were directed at beekeeper Darlene Rosario, who explained the vital role bees play in plant propagation, and Dominic Reisig, who toted many insects for display from the Vernon James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth. Ranger Nicole Crider, of Goose Creek State Park, talked about snakes and turtles to a captivated audience and with each arriving group, a chorus of “aws” arose when veterinarian Marty Poffenberger would let Mocha out of his crate to greet the kids.

“We try to bring as many animals as we can because they can relate to things they can touch,” said Lois Hoot, to which Picone adds, “At this age, they learn through touching and doing.”

Three years ago, Hoot retired from teaching first grade at Eastern Elementary but continues to take part in the Earth Day celebration, as she has since the inaugural year. With every year, she said, the event changes depending on what organizations are able to take part, though the premise remains the same.

“Our main emphasis is to teach children the different ways that they can take care of the earth,” said Hoot. “That even though they’re small they can still take part.”

According to both Hoot and Picone, the Earth Day lessons are long lasting ones: “Two weeks from now I’ll be walking down a hallway with a water bottle and one of the kids will say ‘Mrs. Picone, you need to recycle that.’”

“I really feel like they take a lot of the Earth Day things with them,” said Hoot.

Though students at Eastern Elementary may remember Earth Day as a whirlwind tour of creepy snakes and crawly stick bugs, in future years they may recognize it for what it is: an educational introduction to being a good steward of the environment.