In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Sandy Ridge Elementary School in Waxhaw spent two days before their spring break with all 893 students in an effort to help the earth.
Master Gardner volunteers from N.C. State University's Cooperative Extension Service led students as they dug, divided and transplanted daylilies. The volunteers also educated the students on the lifecycle of the flowers and how they are pollinated by butterflies.
Students also planted nearly 200 loblolly pine trees to create a green screen between the school and the adjacent neighborhood.
"The kids will always look back, see these trees grow, and know they were a part of it," said teacher Larae Biggerstaff.
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Another activity included creating a new bird habitat with a large bird bath, bird houses and feeders. Mike Johannes, a parent and bird enthusiast, taught the children about birds and how to attract them. The master gardener volunteers also worked with students to create a butterfly garden and vegetable garden.
Rohit Shetty, a parent and environmental engineer, and Jim Varieur of Covenant Waste Systems gave hands-on presentations on recycling and conservation.
"Getting involved with kids at this age is very important to get them interested in being environmentally conscious," Shetty said.
While planning the event, faculty and parents pointed out a need for recycling at the school. Event co-chair Tiffany Johannes researched how to get a free recycling program launched, and within weeks, the first recycling bins were rolling off the trucks.
"Covenant Waste Systems quickly and eagerly helped us put together our recycling program," Johannes said. "They also introduced us to the local Habitat for Humanity program. We're now supporting their area initiatives; every bottle or can we donate to Habitat for Humanity equals one nail to build a home in our local community."
Johannes is thankful for the way the community reached out to support Sandy Ridge's Earth Day event. Covenant Waste Systems, the Master Gardeners, Lowe's and many individuals donated resources and time to make the event successful and meaningful for the children.
"It was a great experience and an awesome way to help the earth," said second-grader Bella Maffei.
According to PTA board member, Valerie Secker, plans are already in place for the fall to build on what the students have learned.
"We're hoping to nurture an ongoing respect for our natural world among the children," Secker said.