According to the EPA website, the first organized Earth Day demonstration was held in 1970 with over 20 million participants across the United States, and was spearheaded by then-Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin.
Earth Day is now observed each year on April 22 by more than 500 million people and national governments in 175 countries.
Messages for the Earth
Presentations were given to the third and fourth grade classes at Roosevelt Elementary School by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives Claudia Gutierrez-Acosta, an environmental scientist, and Nicole Kraft, an environmental engineer.
"We have been doing presentations for the classes today [and learning] about the history of Earth Day," said Gutierrez-Acosta. "We are also doing a little lab experiment with oil and water to talk about oil pollution in our open waters."
In addition to the presentation, the students were given handouts including a pamphlet that points out what makes you guilty of being a 'natural resource vampire.' It pointed out such violations as not turning out the lights when leaving the room or not recycling cans and bottles. They also had handouts to give as tickets to natural resource vampires, which carried a sentence of 'hugging a tree.'
"This is the age they start learning about being good to the environment," said Gutierrez-Acosta. "I think it's the best way to learn and they will become adults that are aware."
The entire school community also wore shirts that day, which read 'Go Green,' that were donated by the North Hudson Sewage Authority. Later, the students of Roosevelt School's gardening club went out to visually spread the message of going green.
"We are going to put up colorful [streamers] on the fence with Earth Day messages," said Mithin Nair, 10, 5th grade. "We are writing on the ribbons things about the earth like 'Earth Rocks' and 'I love trees.'"
"We had the presentations and this was the culminating activity for the Garden Club because they planted all these beautiful flowers," said Principal Anthony D'Angelo.
The garden club, which was established at Roosevelt School two years ago, started off with about 90 students and runs three sessions during the school year. The session breaks up the group into teams of 30 students each, who plant and tend to the front lawn garden at different times throughout the school year.
According to some of the students, in the last two years the garden club has planted various flowers and trees including Crab Apple Trees, cherry blossoms, and sunflowers.
"I really wanted to plant a garden like I have in my backyard," said Joseph Melgat, 10, 4th grade.
"I love gardening and I love to plant trees; I was born with trees," said Naishme Hache, 9, 3rd grade. "I love digging in the dirt and I love to carry worms."
How does your garden grow?
Last Tuesday, the students at Webster School also had their Earth Day celebrations and spent some time in their community garden that wraps around the building from Palisade Avenue to Angelique Place.
"We are doing this because it's for the earth to get more energy," said Justin Fernandez, 2nd grade, who is actually new to the school and was enjoying his first time in the garden. "We have to give back to the earth and we have to clean up and recycle all the stuff on the floor."
For the official celebration of Earth Day, the teachers and the nurses talked to the students about recycling and caring for the planet, and also had classroom projects such as making things using recycled material.
However, the 2nd graders were called upon to do the planting for Earth Day since it will be their last year at Webster School.
"It's fun and it's great to plant, we did it in first grade," said Fernando Cordova, 2nd grade.
"They are my seniors," said Colasurdo. "They are giving back to the earth and it's a great legacy to have."
For the day's planting, Lowe's Home Improvement in Jersey City donated $350 worth of original materials including bags of soil, some shrubs, and seeds for the plant boxes.
Over the last few years, Lowe's has been providing many of the materials for the garden, as well as inviting the students to participate in their free educational workshops.
Parent Teacher Association (PTA) member Enza Scardino has been instrumental in establishing this working relationship with the company.
"Enza is our Lowe's connection and arranges all the field trips to Lowe's for the children," said Lorraine Irizarry, pre-k teacher. "Lowe's has been part of the garden since the beginning. They have donated original materials such as soil and mulch and have been very generous to our school, so we are very grateful to Lowe's for all they have given us."
Representing Lowe's that day were Laticia Quinones, SOS coordinator, and Tae Colclough, credit coordinator.
"We are just giving back to the school, and [were] here all morning helping them plant," said Quinones. "Webster School has been a great participant [in our programs], and we are thankful to them."
Green thumbs all year
Webster's community garden project was started several years ago by teacher Irizarry and parent Lisa Zentner. Zentner and was instrumental in starting the garden at Roosevelt School.
"Each year, after the spring break [all the classes] start to grow the flowers from seeds inside the classroom, and every student plants the flowers in the garden in May," said Irizarry.
Inspired by the Native American story entitled "The Three Sisters," which was a reference to their main crops of beans, corn and pumpkins, Irizarry first established her Native American garden project and was soon after joined by the entire school.
"This [garden] allows the children to see that learning takes place outside of the classroom as well, and they can see how they can beautify their own school, especially on Earth Day," said Colasurdo.
Over the last few years, parent volunteers have built garden boxes for every grade in the school from pre-k to 2nd grade, and have grown many herbs, spices, vegetables, and an assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers.
Irizarry and Parents Teachers Association (PTA) member Kerry Dorio have continued to tend to the school's growing garden, along with other PTA volunteers.
"A lot of kids don't get [exposed] to gardening and I think it's very important," said Dorio, who also chairs the garden club. "I do encourage the teachers to bring their students to the garden. My motto is, 'the garden gate is always open.'"
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