Wadsworth’s Eco Swag Fair Thursday: Saving the Planet 900 Students at a Time
FlaglerLive | April 20, 2011
If you’re lucky enough to make it to Wadsworth Elementary’s first annual, student-driven environmental fair Thursday afternoon (from 3:30 to 6:30), you’ll discover what some 900 of the district’s youngest school-age children are capable of thinking up, crafting, organizing and presenting, largely on their own, in what amounts to a jump start on Earth Day the following day.
You might have noticed announcements and fliers to “Put on Your Eco Swag,” as Wadsworth’s event is called: Eco Swag is the acronym for Environmental Community Outreach for Sustainable World Actions to Go Green. Well then, put it on.
You might get luckier still, at Wadsworth, and get a tour of the event by the likes of Haley Craycraft, Simone Gonzalez, Brianna Flaschner, Kendall Harrington and Kayla Fair, fifth graders who know their environment in every sense of the term. They’ll show you the school’s water-recycling system near the Panther Den (a two-barrel, 220-gallon rainwater collection system used to water the school’s greenery, though light rains lately have made for hungry barrels).They’ll show you the walls covered in 100 Water Facts, drawn up and researched by the students (#35: “Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.”)
They’ll show you the World Health Wall, a continent-by-continent snapshot of the environmental threats besieging the planet, from greenhouse gases to sea level changes to ozone depletion.
They’ll also show you their pride project, which they hope to see replicated in other schools across the district: a mobile recycling center that collects, in separate receptacles, plastic bottles, aluminum caps, plastic bottle caps, newspapers, box tops and other recyclables. The center can be moved around to various parts of the school. It’s not just a recycling dump station, but a station with a purpose: every recycling group is associated with a cause beyond recycling. Revenue from aluminum and newspaper recycling goes to the Lions Club’s vision fund, which helps people who can’t afford difficult eye surgeries defray their costs. The pop tabs from all those soda cans generate revenue that goes to the Ronald McDonald Houses, where poorer families can stay when they’re caring for a family member at a nearby hospital. Plastic bottle caps benefit war dogs serving in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. And on go the benefits.
Audio: Val Sanson Sums Up Eco Swag to the County Commission
“In addition to using strategies to go green, all their ideas also help creating acts of kindness,” says Valerie Sanson, the Wadsworth Elementary teacher whose classroom is the Eco Swag hub, and whose work has inspired and guided the students to put on the event. If you’re lucky, your guides will take you to Sanson’s classroom, which on Wednesday, 24 hours before the event, looked like something out of the second or third day of Genesis, when God was too busy creating to bother with neatness: the room was a staging area for innumerable objects and displays that would be moved to their exhibit areas the following day. The students seemed entirely at home, as if aware of every item in the place. “As crazy chaotic as this looks,” Sanson said, “this functions beautifully.”
When it’s all up and ready for show, the students’ work that isn’t already covering the school’s walls will be on display in the school’s “Eco-Swag breezeway,” as Sanson describes it, and gardens, along with representatives from some 40 environmental groups, government agencies and local businesses.
“What we’re trying to do at the Eco Swag is reduce the footprint we leave on the earth,” says Haley Craycraft. When Brianna Flaschner speaks of being at the forefront of making changes, Kendall Harrington specifies: “We are the change.”
It’s an echo of a quote Sanson has one of the students read out loud from a board on her classroom, a line from the song originally written and performed by various artists for African relief in 1985, and again for Haitian relief in 2010: “We are the world/We are the children/We are the ones who make a brighter day…”
Thursday afternoon’s Eco Swag is a lot more than that, too: the schedule fills a couple of pages. It includes guest speakers, food, games, musical performances by students and, at 6 p.m., a recital by David Kushner, a professor emeritus of musicology at the University of Florida who’ll likely play some of J.S. Bach’s wonderful, child-like pieces he wrote for his wife, Beethoven’s famous Für Elise, various pieces by Chopin, Scott Joplin, Debussy and Stephen Foster (Kushner’s repertoire is lengthy: he picks and chooses depending on the audience.)
“Donations,” an event release reads, “are appreciated, but not required for this event. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds will go to local non-profit organizations and 15 percent to help internationally to support our present outreach for the well-being of this and future generations.” Among those international non-profits: Beautifulfeet.org, which helps supply shoes to children in Central America, and the Abundant Life Orphanage in India, which provides food, clothing and school supplies to orphans.
For additional information, reach Valerie Sanson by email, or call 446-6720 or 503-5028.