2018-04-22 / Insight

Making a difference

Students get hands-on lessons to care for their local environment
BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Turrill Elementary School Dean of Students RaeAnn Fielder headed out with students like second-grader Chezvaun Williams to collect debris around the school. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Turrill Elementary School Dean of Students RaeAnn Fielder headed out with students like second-grader Chezvaun Williams to collect debris around the school. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER COUNTY — In Jennifer Christian’s second-grade class at Turrill Elementary School in Lapeer, dozens of hands shot up. The question was asked: who wants to pitch in and collect litter outside the school? Each student volunteered, willing to head into the sunny, but still chilly, spring air armed with a garbage bag and boundless energy.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day, and students in classrooms across Lapeer County are learning the true meaning behind the holiday. The day, celebrated in more than 190 countries, was first created in the United States in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, and since then, the spirit behind the day spread throughout the globe.

Students at Turrill Elementary, along with parents, staff, volunteers and local businesses are coming together today to stage a large-scale clean up effort on the grounds around the school building, and students like second grader Taylor Morris are excited for the opportunity to pitch in. “I love spending a lot of time outside,” she said. “I’ll be helping.”

Second-grade students in Christian’s classroom have been enjoying Earth Day-themed curriculum, focused around conservation as well as making good choices. When asked what they’ve learned, again, hands shot up. In honor of Earth Day, the students will be making an effort to conserve water, turn off the lights when not in the room or, perhaps when they’re older, ride a bike instead of driving.

Earth Day isn’t just a focus for elementary aged students. At Imlay City Middle School, sixth-graders will be heading out next week for lessons on ecology courtesy of the Belle River, said teacher Kim Perreault, and the experience will be impactful. “They’ll make sure the ecosystem is good, and just observe the environment,” she said.

It’s all in an effort to illustrate to students the impact humans have on natural environments, and maybe along the way inspire a little conservation. Eighth-graders have been researching as part of Perreault’s curriculum the impact humans have had on the Earth, and ways in which they can reduce humanity’s negative footprint. “We’ve been looking at what we’re doing as humans to our planet, and looking at natural hazards and natural disasters and how they may be increasing,” said Perreault. “We’re trying to get them to understand that what we do does have an impact.”

The students have been looking at possible links between human impact and the frequency and severity of natural hazards. “For eighth-graders, they’re kind of surprised I think on how much impact we do have on Earth,” said Perreault. She said that as the students get older, their awareness of the environment grows. “I don’t think it really hits them until they’re older,” she said. “Until it really hits them on a personal level. They’re starting to see that some things we do really do have an impact.”

For their part, Perreault’s students have taken a long look at their own habits, and how some small changes in their own day-to-day life could have a positive impact on their environment. “We’ve learned that humans have polluted the Earth a lot,” said eighth-grader Emma Urbaniak, and fel- low classmate Lance Wolford added that “by 2050, there will be more trash in the oceans than fish,” Wolford continued. “We need to do a better job.”

Urbaniak said that she’s going to do her part, saying that reducing the time in the shower and reusing water bottles would be a good start. “And I don’t do it, but my parents might run the dishwasher when there’s only like four things,” she added.

Perreault’s students, after learning about humans’ impact and how small changes can make a big difference, are excited to do their part, and will, like the students at Turrill, be heading out next week to do their own cleanup day Wednesday, April 25. “Hopefully we’re going to clean up the entire area,” she said. “We’ve been talking about how long our winter has been and how much stuff is probably out there.”

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