Celebrating Earth Day

Local students participate in environmentally friendly activities

Second-grade students at Grass Valley Elementary participate in an insect inventory during Earth Day.

Did you know?

Earth Day’s first organizer and chair of the nonprofit Earth Day Network is Camas High School graduate Denis Hayes. Hayes has received the national Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Public Service, as well as the highest awards bestowed by the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Council of America, the American Solar Energy Society, and the Commonwealth Club, among others. Time Magazine selected Hayes as one of its “Heroes of the Planet.”

The first events on April 22, 1970, included 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other environmental laws soon followed. Earth Day Network now works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to, “broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement.” More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Source: Earth Day Network

Since 1970, people from all walks of life have gathered to do their part in making the Earth a better place.

Last week, Camas and Washougal students continued that tradition with a variety of Earth Day projects.

At Grass Valley Elementary, students participated in a nature walk to a local park, where they studied different plants, animals and insects, recording their observations on a checklist.

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Skyridge Middle School Principal Aaron Smith and Associate Principal Clint Williams plant Camas lilies during the school’s rain garden dedication on Earth Day. The project was a collaboration between parents, students, administrators, and donations from the community and businesses.

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Skyridge Middle School students celebrate after learning their school had been named a Level Three Green School, one of only five statewide.

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Grass Valley Elementary first-grade teacher Jennifer Sanchez points out a bird to her students during a nature walk on Earth Day. The students wrote down their observations of different insects, plants and animals seen during the walk.

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Cape Horn-Skye fourth-grader Samantha Mederos, plants a Western hemlock sapling using a recyclable carton that was planted with the tree. The biodegradable carton provides protection to the tree’s roots as it grows.

“The walk and the Earth Day flags you see hanging inside and out with student artwork and messages are two traditions at Grass Valley,” said Julie Della-Valle, Green Team facilitator and first-grade teacher. “Usually we participate in trash or energy audits that help us re-certify as a Washington Green School, but this year our focus is around garden activities and getting students outdoors.”

With the mix of hail, rain and sunshine, garden activities were moved indoors. These included a worm bin observation led by an Americorps volunteer, Xanna Burg, making a newspaper pot, and planting a green or red zebra-striped tomato with parent volunteers. First-graders also visited the garden to draw examples of living and non-living things, and second-graders participated in an insect census.

After a day of environmentally friendly activities at Skyridge Middle School, an energetic crowd awaited the dedication of the school’s newest “green” addition, the Lewis and Clark rain garden. It contains all native plants, including Camas lilies.

This project was a collaboration between parent volunteers, local businesses, students and the Camas Educational Foundation. Clark County Environmental Services and CEF awarded grants to the school for plants and compost, Tapani Construction donated and delivered the flower bed dirt, Camas Produce donated the boulders, and parents Shannon Turk and Jennifer Mears planted, moved soil and put in pavers.

Camas School District Superintendent Mike Nerland, Camas Mayor Scott Higgins and several other officials were in attendance at the dedication.

“I am proud of you for doing this project,” Higgins told the students. “Camas is a good place because of the quality of people who live here. You are an example of that.”

Additionally, Skyridge was also recently named a Level 3 Green School, one of only five in the state of Washington. There are 270 schools that participate in the program.

Washington Green Schools provides certification framework, educational resources and tools for all public and private kindergarten through 12th grade schools. Students and school leaders participate in projects that help build understanding of environmental systems.

Rob Guthridge, a program representative, was on hand to present the award to teacher Gayle Cooper and Green Team members. Cooper has been a leader in Green Team efforts at the school since the program began in 2009.

“The beauty of this program is that it is the students who embrace it,” Cooper said. “Because of what they believe about being environmentally responsible, the school Save Our Scraps station puts their philosophy into practice, daily. These habits then get brought home.”

Cooper recounted a recent conversation with a parent.

“She said, ‘We recycle at home because it was imposed on us by our son.’ Now that’s what we are about, changing the world one kid, one family, one piece of garbage at a time. Consider it, ‘The Green Butterfly Effect.’”

Seventh-grader Carter Erickson remarked that everyone can pitch in.

“Nobody has to do a lot, but everybody can do a little to help our community be more environmentally friendly.”

Added seventh-grader Yeh Seo Jung, “We are showing an example to other students of how to be environmentally friendly on a daily basis. At lunch, people are starting to realize that composting and recycling does matter.”

Added Guthridge, “Every day we are reminded of what an important difference students, teachers and communities like yours can make. We are so proud of everything you’ve accomplished and want to thank you for being a great example for schools not only in Clark County and the surrounding area, but also throughout the entire state of Washington.” To achieve certification at Level 3, the Skyridge Green Team conducted an assessment of “healthy school building” practices. Results indicated that stronger education on healthy measures and environmental friendly products was needed.

As a result of this investigation, the Green Team began an educational campaign and replaced all of the antibacterial spray with an all-natural, environmentally safe alternative. They also continue to maintain the changes achieved in past certifications through the implementation of recycling programs, no-idling zones, and student-led efforts to lessen Skyridge’s environmental footprint.

“Through educational measures and environmentally friendly alternatives, Skyridge’s population is now a more sanitary, sustainable and healthy place,” Guttridge said.

In Washougal, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary participated in the “Trees into Cartons, Cartons into Trees” program provided by employees of Graphic Packaging.

They planted Western Hemlock saplings using a recyclable carton that will be planted with the tree. Additionally, the biodegradable carton provides protection to the tree’s roots as it grows. All materials and tee-shirts for the students were provided by Graphic Packaging.