They’ve got the whole world in their hands |

They’ve got the whole world in their hands

Suzie Romig
RFSD Public Information Officer

With monkeys hanging from the ceiling and other colorful props around the room, Basalt Elementary School teacher Cathy Sartor helped position a group of squirming third graders in a circle around a rain forest in a corner of their classroom.

Two boys rotate the globe to point out the Panama Canal as they talk about how rerouting transportation has affected the environment.

The students built the rain forest display together as part of science and social studies lessons in land, wildlife and conservancy issues. They practiced their parts for a special Rainforests at the Crossroads lesson they will present to first graders as part of Earth Day 2004 celebrations this week.

This school year the students have been studying about community, the physical world and a global perspective with help from such organizations as Junior Achievement, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Science Outreach Center.

“We are trying to motivate people. We can’t go to the rain forest, but we can take care of the Roaring Fork Valley,” Sartor tells the children.

Students pursue a variety of projects

From the interactive elementary school lessons to middle school students working to preserve rain forest acres in Paraguay, children across the Roaring Fork School District are keeping the Earth at the forefront of their lessons and actions.

A high school environmental club helped with a spring cleanup at the local recycling center and will work on trails. Middle school students in Glenwood Springs have planted a new tree in front of their school.

Elementary school art students have created Earth Day posters and grocery bags for local shoppers, while others will perform environmentally oriented plays for fellow students and parents.

Students at many schools are collecting aluminum cans and donations to help preserve acres of tropical rain forest. Last year, students at Basalt Elementary were able to purchase 31 acres of Brazilian rain forest through can collections and donations.

“The purpose of this project is to help students understand that they can help clean the Earth, conserve energy and protect nature at the same time,” explained BES organizer and librarian Roberta “Tink” Boyer.

Fifth-grade students in Lisa Hartert’s class at Glenwood Springs Elementary will present an Earth Day wax museum, featuring student enactments of famous environmentalists and scientists from Jane Goodall to the Sierra Club founder John Muir. The lesson connects the fifth-grade study of biographies to Earth Day.

“It delves a little deeper as to how many areas of science relate to the care of the Earth,” Hartert said. “They really like taking on the first-person and getting into costume; it helps with motivation.”

Science Outreach Center focused on rain forests

Much of the Earth Day related studies this year have focused on the rain forest, with the collaborative educational assistance of the nonprofit Science Outreach Center, based in Carbondale.

This year’s JASON Kids Teaching Kids Project at the center was called Rainforests at the Crossroads, which taught the kids about the endangered nature of tropical rain forests. During three live broadcasts at Roaring Fork High and Basalt and Glenwood middle schools, students learned from a team of scientists on Barro Colorado Island in Panama.

“JASON Kids Teaching Kids really teaches teachers how to integrate and facilitate real science into their classrooms,” said Linda Froning, Science Outreach Center director.

“We work with the kids to understand the study area and relate those environments back to our valley. The kids become aware of the power that they have to change the world and become responsible community members,” Froning said.

“It is important that our current and future citizens understand scientific concepts along with understanding the responsibility of being part of such a unique and wonderful community. Kids learn that they have a voice in their community and can even effect change in the world. They learn to encourage everyone to be responsible for our natural resources.”

Lessons from “The Lorax”

Teachers in the district are coming up with a variety of ways to tie Earth Day into the busy curriculum, from reading to social studies.

Glenwood Springs Elementary teachers Colleen Boddy and Nisia Patalan have read the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” with their first graders and turned the story into a costumed play to be presented for students and parents on Earth Day. The Lorax character speaks for the trees and tries to tell men who want to enlarge factories about the consequences.

“It’s a really pretty simple way to teach the kids about deforestation and the effects on animals, animal habitats, people and our environment,” Boddy said. “They are very enthusiastic about the play, and I think they have pretty clear concepts about the effects that people have on our environment.”

Earth Day happens most every day for the IMPACT environmental and outdoor club at Glenwood Springs High School, sponsored by Anne Swanson.

“Our main objectives this year have been to continue an ongoing recycling program within the school, assist with the Glenwood Springs recycling center, perform trail maintenance with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and send a few of our members to an environmental seminar,” Swanson said.

Art students at Basalt Middle School and teacher Jacquetta Green turned their school foyer into a paper mache rain forest complete with a jaguar, anteater, sloth, vines and monkeys.

Solar energy on display

BMS teacher Jane Douglass and the school’s new Solar Club are installing a one-kilowatt solar panel electricity system and a computer monitoring system at the school.

The club will also host a Solar Fair on April 30 following Earth Day, presented in conjunction with Solar Energy International in Carbondale and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen.

At Carbondale Elementary, fourth graders will be participating in a day-long Earth Day study including a solar cookout, Earth pledge and trash pick-up. Third graders will go on an Earth Day exploration up Red Hill, while fifth graders host the annual Science Fair.

Throughout the district, students are learning about everything from soil and biodegradability to endangered animals and conservation issues. An elementary school music class is singing Earth songs and making instruments from recycled materials.

Teachers say Earth Day projects meet social studies standards by using valuable, real-life examples such as water cycles for science and technological changes that affect the Earth. The children study economic impacts of planning decisions on communities of the world and gain a global perspective as they identify lands and water.

“My children are excited and very knowledgeable about the wildlife. They are eager to share their research with the children in the lower grades,” said Sartor of her third-grade class.

“The experiential learning really makes them much more sympathetic when people are talking about Earth Day and the idea that we have inherited what we have and our responsibilities for taking care of it.”

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