Learning doesn’t get much more hands-on than digging seeds out of cucumbers and holding red wiggler worms fresh from the compost bin. And that’s just how Grafflin Elementary School students learned about sustainability during the school’s annual Grafflin Goes Green Day last week.
Moving through a series of activities to earn an “I Went Green at Grafflin” sticker, the students learned how to pack waste-free lunches by using reusable containers rather than disposable packaging, and studied the earth’s air cycle, figuring out how they could help reduce natural and manmade pollutants. They used bottle caps to create artwork and learned about the school’s butterfly garden, which is currently being replanted.
Vermiculture was one of the most popular exhibits, drawing a large crowd. Susan Rubin, a local environmentalist and the self-proclaimed Worm Woman of Westchester, placed wiggly worms in the hands of eager students. While they watched her find the red wigglers in a worm composting bin Ms. Rubin explained how worms break down organic matter. “This is a perfect example of sustainability that the students can touch and feel,” Ms. Rubin said.
Students also harvested seeds from peppers and cucumbers, learning about the cycle of growing from plant to fruit and back to plants again; they were tested on environmental trivia topics such as carbon footprints and pollution-free living; and they saw some of the hydroponically-grown plants grown in the school’s greenhouse.
Grafflin Goes Green Day is the culmination of a year’s worth of initiatives out of Grafflin’s Environmental Committee, chaired by Cathy Hildenbrand and Lisa Haunss Sanz. This year these have included recycling drives, waste-free lunch weeks, take-home questionnaires, and the sale of reusable lunchbox items such as Kleen Kanteens and Lunchskins. “We try to remain a presence throughout the year,” Ms. Hildenbrand said.
Ms. Hildenbrand said organizers of Grafflin Goes Green hope students will take away new ideas and knowledge – as well as more environmental awareness – from the day’s events. “We hope they will try to make more responsible choices on their own, such as turning off lights or the computer, and that they will share what they have learned with their families so that they can initiate making change together,” Ms. Hildenbrand said. “We hope to create a school spirited, environmentally-driven experience for all the kids at Grafflin. We look forward to putting it on every year and we think the kids really do get something out of it.”