Earth Day delights hundreds in Mountain Area

Using a rubber reptile, Chaffee Zoo educator Burleigh Lockwood demonstrates their flexibility to a group of OES first-graders during the Earth Day event at Oakhurst Feed & Pet Supply last Friday.
Using a rubber reptile, Chaffee Zoo educator Burleigh Lockwood demonstrates their flexibility to a group of OES first-graders during the Earth Day event at Oakhurst Feed & Pet Supply last Friday. Sierra Star

Earth Day was celebrated around the world on April 22 and Mountain Area schools joined in the celebration, with some at Wasuma Elementary School tending to their community garden as others from Bass Lake Unified and Coarsegold Elementary attended the seventh annual Earth Day event, sponsored by Oakhurst Feed & Pet Supply, where informational booths were set up and Smokey Bear put in an appearance.

At Oakhurst Feed, PG&E passed out small plastic company safety helmets, and Isai Negrete with Mowbray’s Tree Service, headquartered in San Bernadino, talked about safety around boom trucks and wood chippers. “This machine runs at 400 miles an hour,” he said, pointing to the chipper, “so it’s a very dangerous machine.” One eager student decided to help him with his presentation, offering up an original name for the part of the chipper that spews out the chips - “elephant nose.”

Daniel O’Dell with Crossroad Recycling in North Fork tested the students on their sense of smell, having them try to determine which small samples of different woods smelled like a number 2 pencil. Miranda Medina with Western Sierra Nursery had each child fill a small pot with potting soil, perfect for planting a sunflower seed.

Cal Fire talked about dead trees and Sierra Ambulance allowed the students to jump in the back of the ambulance, two-by-two. EMT Kyle Miller told a few of the students, “not today,” when they asked if they could be hooked up to the heart monitor. Chaffee Zoo educator Burleigh Lockwood talked about native animals, and Fresno State Sustainability Club and Project was on hand to emphasize the importance of reduce, reuse and recycle.

“This day is so important,” said Kathryn Fullerton, a first grade teacher at Oakhurst Elementary School. “This teaches the children about conservation and the importance of recycling. They learn so much on how to keep our planet Earth going and healthy.”

While waiting to have photos taken with Smokey Bear, the children sang the recycling song: “Recycle, recycle, recycle now, there’s nothing to it if you know how.”

“This is the best ever,” said Collete Goga, event organizer and owner of Oakhurst Feed. “We love promoting Earth Day. It’s all about the kids. We have to preserve the earth for them and the next generations.”

“This Earth Day celebration at Oakhurst Feed is a great way to showcase what is currently being done in the areas of conservation and recycling,” said Maureen Chase, Coarsegold Elementary School second grade teacher, “and to give our students the chance to think about how they can protect our earth.”

Lesson learned.

“We have to keep the earth clean,” explained Josie Ross, 8, a Coarsegold second-grader. “We can’t dirty it. Pick up after yourself because we all have to live here.” Younger brother, Jace, 4, had little to add, other than he likes reptiles, while eyeing the Chaffee Zoo table, littered with a slew of rubbery, scaly creatures.

At Wasuma Elementary, students of all grade levels spent the day weeding or planting in their garden and making crafts, such as scarecrows, out of recycled items like bottles and pie tins.

Leslie Peterson, a second grade teacher, said the school garden has grown into a true community project in only its third year, with parents and kids welcome to come on weekends.

“This isn’t only about caring for the earth,” Peterson said. “It’s about community, it’s team spirit, it’s ownership, and being responsible. There’s so much to learn from this, and we’re happy it’s done so well.”

The goal is to have the garden - currently growing “salsa” plants such as jalapenos, tomatoes, and basil - to help supply lunches at the school, similar to North Fork Elementary. Future plans also include a composting program, starting a garden-based pen pal program with schools in other countries, and a garden club for kids after school, Peterson said.

NOTE: Mark Evan Smith contributed to this story.