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Wadsworth’s Eco Swag Fair Thursday: Saving the Planet 900 Students at a Time

| April 20, 2011

Eco-Swag brigade at WQadsworth Elementary: standing from left, Kayla Fair, Brianna Flaschner and Haley Craycraft, and sitting, Kendall Harrington and Simone Gonzalez, all fifth graders at the school. (© FlaglerLive)

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).

Haley and Brianna show off just two weeks' worth of cap collections. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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
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“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:, 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.

Made at Wadsworth. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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5 Responses for “Wadsworth’s Eco Swag Fair Thursday: Saving the Planet 900 Students at a Time”

  1. becky says:

    This sounds like an excellent learning opportunity for the kids as well as those who attend. The students are learning on so many different levels, the most important to me is that they can effect society with their involvement, action and lead even at a young age. As the many projects are student initiated, researched and implemented (w the help of adults), which not only helps them to think critically for themselves, the experience gives them the power to discern true from false as they research and apply what others have discovered, adding to the base of knowledge. They realize for themselves that there is more to learn and discover about this awesome, expanding creation, and that the science is not ever ‘all in’ . What exciting times for them to live in, and what a great project for them to learn in. Kudos to Valerie Sanson!

  2. lawabidingcitizen says:

    The only way we’ll save the planet is to get rid of all lefties.

  3. I don't get it says:

    Ronald McDonald House is for anyone who is caring for a sick child in the hospital. Guests pay a nominal fee ($5-10/night) must do a chore in the house and clean their room and linens at departure. I, unfortunately, have had to use the RMH in St. Petersburg and and am truly grateful for their service. A worthwhile charity!!!

  4. Frances says:

    Congratulations to the students , their teacher, Valerie Sanson, and all of those who helped make the event possible. A great experience for the children and one that they will always remember.

  5. Paul E. Kerouac Sr. says:

    My cousin Jack was the talent in the family; I’m just the environmental guy. I spent many years studying soils through UNH. I have a love for good soils. The problem I found in North East Florida is the organic content of our soil is less than 1%. Soil that is less than 1% organic can not produce healthy produce. The Agriculture community uses Herbicides, Fungicides, Pesticides and large quantities of Fertilizers in production of our agriculture products and this all ends up on our tables. The answer is clear, we need organics to augment our Agriculture community. So now come the rub; the School Departments is not divert the organic waste from lunch programs. The procedure for disposing of organic waste in our schools is to send it to the landfill. What! yes, this resource of organics from millions of students goes into landfill. Volusia, and many other school districts in addition to the organics send Styrofoam trays to the landfill. We spoke to the Facilities Managers and they told us they send 45,000 Styrofoam trays every day to the landfill; in one year the quantity would fill the Super Dome and they have been doing this for many years. We have approached our Flagler School Department and they send all their organics into landfill. We want the organics diverted from landfill and made into compost. Bio-techco is a company who does just that. The organics is a natural resource, it requires the corporation of the Principals, Teachers and Maintenance Departments of our School system to implement this simple process and save money. Why should tax payers support sending our resources to the Landfill instead of cutting costs and diverting our resources to recycling. The landfill is shortly nearing capacity. The new Landfill will cost many more times the current landfill and that’s not the big issue. The new Landfill will be located near your home…not… guess where it will be located. There will be a Public hearing where to locate it and that process usually takes over one year to decide; anyway it will be located far away from all neighborhoods and we will pay a large sum to transport it not even considering what tipping fees will be. The estimated tipping fee will be four time the current rate; and guess what, we will still be trucking our organics into the new landfill. This is an outrage. We all know better; so lets stop wasting our resources and recycle the organics; oh did I mention the organic portion of our waste is 52%.

    Paul E.Kerouac Sr.
    24 Port Echo Lane
    Palm Coast, Fl. 32164

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