Part: Une: The week of Earth Day is always a busy time for me. Between starting seeds indoors, pop-up educational workshops, planting, creating earth-friendly art, and the annual Rodale Earth Day event. Things are sprouting non-stop right into my schedule.
Kids' Earth Day event at Emmaus Community Park
Friday, April 22, 2022: 6-7:30pm
This year I, acting on behalf of the Emmaus Arts Commission's "Art in the Garden committee", had the pleasure of collaborating with the Joint EAC— Emmaus/Upper Milford Environmental Advocacy Council as well as the Creative Kindness Coalition with Tassia Schreiner. Together we presented stories, activities, and brief info sessions about planting seeds, making seed bombs, the importance of bees and pollinators, composting at home, and we planted a wildflower garden along the creek of the Emmaus Community Park by the pool.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
While there are often so many events that are offered on or around Earth Day many of them have to do with park clean-ups, recycling, or planting trees but not as many of these events are specifically focused on and directed at children. We had a great turn out at the Emmaus Community Park where we hosted a collaborative Kids' Earth Day Event. The Environmental Advocacy Council and Creative Kindness Coalition, planned and gathered resources including funding to offer a seed bomb activity as well as plant a small wildflower meadow by the community pool. They are offering pollinators a safe place to find a tasty treat as well as encourage beneficial insects and animals to take care of the unwanted bugs that frequent this area when too much water is sitting around. Earlier in the week only four people had confirmed attendance to the event. In the morning on Friday, the number increased to 56 families. Participants ranged in age from 18 months-65 years old as babies, children, parents and grand-parents all worked together to get in on the fun. We were able to fill an entire pavilion with children and families who were interested in learning how to take small steps to make big changes.
Here Tassia is reading her book, which starts at the end, or does it? Children squish mud and clay with seeds to make their seed bombs. A child uses tweezers to pull apart pinecones for our compost activity.
Small steps, big changes
We started off with a story that Tassia wrote and illustrated called " The Magical, Mythical Bees". The Emmaus High School's National Honor Society was able to gather about 15 teenagers to volunteer their time in order to help facilitate while the children all made seed bombs. Children squished mud, clay, dirt, and wildflower seeds together so they could take them home and plant in their own gardens. Children and families had the opportunity to dig, plan, and plant seeds by the creek to create a pollinator meadow. The Joint EAC had worked with the borough to obtain permission to plant this new addition at the Emmaus Community Park.
“The ground's generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty! Try to be more like the ground.” ~Rumi
Children work together to sort materials. They use scissors and hole punchers to make nature confetti, pluck apart pine cones and plants with tweezers, smash up leaves to small bits, and organize greens and browns to make just the right mix.
My portion of the evening took place at the tables. I started with a plastic bag of garbage, and told everyone I was going to throw away this big bag of garbage. No big deal, right? However, after a moment to think over what I was doing, I wondered, "Does this all belong in the garbage? Is there something else I can do with these things?" As I started to rummage through my rubbish, I would hold it up and describe it... "Hmmm. I have some scrap paper, it doesn't have my name or address on it, there is no plastic, what should I do with this?" Children shouted, "Garbage! Recycle it! Draw on it!" And while I agreed that it could be recycled, I thought it was important to mention that not everything that goes to a recycling facility is, in fact, recycled. This was a great example of something I could cut up or shred and add to my compost because I need 2-3 parts Carbon (brown or dry material) to 1 part Nitrogen (green or fresh, moist material). We went through my entire bag of garbage a visually full plastic bag that we would normally toss out. I had baskets and bins in front of me: browns and greens for compost, recycling, reuse, mend, and a closed container for garbage. As we sorted I placed each item in the bin so they could not see them as we were sorting. What about this dryer lint? If you pick out the pennies and plastic, it can go in the compost. This tea bag with no staples or shiny paper, compost. This glass jar can be reused, repurposed, or recycled. This mailer can go in recycling but take off your address first. This paperboard can be recycled but flatten it out, if it is printed with soy or plant-based inks and on mixed FSC paper it can be cut up and placed in the compost. The participants were very excited and interested. What about this old cashmere sweater that someone left out. It has some holes. Mend it! A child called out, and while that is always the best option, sometimes wool, cashmere, silk, linen are beyond repair and it is time to return them to the Earth. This time, we will cut it up and add it to our compost. This will add some rich material to break down. Other items that we discovered were unwaxed cardboard, apple cores, carrot peels, hair from a brush, a cotton shirt that had been used as a rag but was all torn up, cotton swabs on bamboo sticks, a crumbled up napkin, a bunch of junk mail, broken shells, pieces of wood or bark, black/white newspaper articles, and a week's worth of unsolicited mail.
Our motto, "Anything that grew from the Earth, can be returned to the Earth." At the end of the exercise, I remembered that I needed to throw my things away. I opened my hand to reveal the garbage that was left which was the plastic sleeve we removed from a mailer envelope, our address that we cut off the recycled mailer, and a plastic straw. The crowd gasped. "And this, this is how a family of four can cut down the amount of waste they put in the garbage by more than 30%. This is what I have left to throw in the garbage. Everything else can be reused, mended, recycled properly, or composted."
Just think, if everyone could cut down their waste by 1/4, 1/3, even 1/2; that amount every week would have a significant impact on our local and regional environments. We would make less waste and pause before bringing items into our homes. Once you felt comfortable, maybe you tell your mom, your grandparents, your best friend, and they show someone. If your entire neighborhood could cut down waste, why not re-negotiate your waste management costs. If you make one bag of waste a week, why pay for four bags of waste a week? It took us several minutes because of the pauses, the questions, the short responses and explanations to go through this full bag of what seemed to be regular, identifiable garbage. Once we started the kids got on a roll. They knew right away where everything should go, and they were excited to share. Even if three families went home and paused before throwing things away, one family purchased a counter top compost system at our local sustainable market or online, one family dug a hole out in their yard to start a small compost pile, these small steps make a large impact.
After our learning demonstration, many children came up to the table then and used scissors, tweezers, hole punchers and other utensils to cut, shred, and deconstruct plant leaves, flowers, papers, and other compostable items and we made some nature confetti. It is so fun, you can use it instead of plastic glitter or confetti, it biodegrades, and it is therapeutic. We ripped up paper, smashed up pine cones, broke twigs to tiny pieces, and demolished larger multi-piece items. We cut up the fruit and veggie strips and mentioned how the smaller the items in the compost the easier they will mix up, allow for oxygen to flow, and be able to be broken down or digested by bugs, earthworms, or the microorganisms in the compost pile. Beetles, earthworms, wood lice, pill bugs, there are so many types of beneficial decomposers! We briefly touched up on the different types of compost receptacles and I handed out newsletters that I had created for the event which directed them towards books, resources, and what to do next. The newsletter had photographs of easy to access items, easy to manage steps towards change, and encouragement to take small steps. We all don't have to do this perfectly, but we can all at least try to make any small adjustment we can to give back to the Earth. Less waste, more soil, more gardens, more time in nature, more connection to ourselves, each other, and our surroundings.
Plant a seed: of change, of hope, of beauty, of food, of love
Thank you for tuning in. Life has been changing and moving around me in ways that have taken my attention from the things I wanted to do. As a result, I took a break from electronics and social media and dove head first back into my garden spaces, community service, volunteer hours, and spending time with my precious children. Check back for more resources on education, gardening with children, offering community services, and celebrating authentic childhood experiences. Pdf versions of the Earth Day newsletter are available for purchase. If you would ever like to reach out, need a consultation, or would like to collaborate, please email me at info@thefindingplace-LV.com or follow me on Instagram @thefindingplaceLV
Everything here is my own thoughts, my own interpretation of heavily researched topics, and my own adaptations of activities and presentations.