It's known as the 'PHAT Club,' which has nothing to do with the latest fashions or hip-hop music. In this case, PHAT stands for Protecting Habitat Animals and Trees. It is a conscientious group involved in environmental issues and causes.
Shelly Witham, who was named the Hudson County Teacher of the Year last year, is the new faculty advisor to the High Tech PHAT Club this year.
Earlier in the year, when they spoke of events for the annual Earth Day celebration in April, they came up with an idea to hold a carnival.
"I think we all wanted it to be fun," Witham said.
So they turned the school's multi-media and multi-purpose room into a makeshift rain forest, complete with palm trees, green shrubs, and picturesque views normally found in a rain forest.
To participate in the carnival's fun and games, students had to bring in recyclables.
"One recyclable bottle or can entitled the student to one ticket to participate in the different events," Witham said. "That encouraged the students to collect recyclables."
Pledge to conserve
Yu Chen Zhang, a senior, said that the members of the club printed fliers and posters to promote the event throughout the school.
"We had announcements made and publicized it in the school newsletter," Zhang said. "We went around the school with the tickets, beginning the recyclable collection a week ahead of time."
"It's not easy turning a room like this into a rain forest," said Javairia Zia, a junior. "We worked very hard."
Other organizations in the school, like the Art Club and the English department under the guidance of teacher Joan Bellotti, lent a hand.
Soon everyone at High Tech became environmentally conscious a week before most people honor Earth Day.
"Every little bit counted," said junior Kang Lei Wang. "We do a lot about protecting the environment and protecting where we live, connecting the environment to the people."
Earth Day happened to fall this year at the same time that the students of High Tech were on Easter vacation, so the Rain Forest Carnival was held a week early.
It didn't matter to the 200 or so youngsters who brought recyclables to the daylong carnival. There were games of chance and face painting. There were also henna tattoos, which turned out to be a huge favorite.
Montclair State University sent its environmental club to assist in the games and events. There was also an AIDS awareness booth also, making the day informative as it was fun.
Everyone who participated had to make an Earth Day pledge, signing a card listing ways the students would be more environmentally conscious for Earth Day.
"Whether it was to walk more or take shorter showers, they all had to pledge something," Witham said.
Even this reporter covering the event pledged to turn off his computer more regularly and use his gas-guzzling SUV less during the conservation period.
"Everyone had to realize that they were doing this for themselves," Zia said. "Almost everyone in the school participated. It was definitely bigger than what anyone expected. We really addressed a lot of issues and had fun doing it."
"We had to turn some people away," Witham said. "We almost had to close the doors because we had so many kids there. It's a credit to the students, both those who organized it and those who attended."
At the end of the event, hundreds of plastic bags filled with recyclables were collected.