Let every day be Earth Day

Earth Day, Every Day

It seems a bit ironic that I forgot to mention Earth Day in this week’s meeting, with Earth Day coming up on Friday and many related events happening all week.

But then again, this club came into being because of my daughter’s vision of making every day one in which we protect and care for the Earth’s fragile environment.  And what better way to celebrate both Earth Day and the return of gorgeous weather than to get outside in the courtyard garden beds and get our hands (and knees, and faces…) dirty?

Earth Day and Family Night

Dublin’s Family Night is this Thursday.  Why not combine family night with an Earth Day volunteer activity?  All manner of tree planting, community clean-up, and gardening events are happening this week throughout the area.  My family pitched in on Saturday at Northwest Library’s “Garden Party,” planting trees and weeding, and it was such fun. https://www.earthdaycolumbus.org/Unfiltered.php

Courtyard Cleanup

Raking out old leaves and pulling up weeds were the main tasks of the day for this week’s Earth Club meeting, and the kids threw themselves into the work with relish – as did the adults.  In less than an hour, we nearly filled four lawn bags, and yet there was time for learning and discovery as well.  Exclamations such as “Look, an old bee hive!” and  “Hey, there’s a toad!” (as the kids encountered the resident toad – Scotty, I think its name was) were frequent.  And, following Principal Barley’s lead, the students were soon learning to distinguish the daisies from the dandelions (easy enough when they’re in bloom, of course, but with the leaves just coming up, the distinction between weed and plant was sometimes tough).

3rd grade teacher Mrs. Whipple also joined us for a bit to help guide the work and share in the discovery – for example, of a clump of wild chives with their tiny bulbs and unmistakable onion-like aroma. IMG_2080

This club meeting – spent mostly outside, after being stuck inside for the first two meetings due to cold and rain – confirmed for me what I’ve seen time and again with my own children: they are happiest in the “great outdoors” (even if it’s just the enclosed courtyard of the school or our tiny patio at home).  And not just happy, but focused, engaged, eager to help and eager to take in the sights, sounds, scents and new information.

Community Spirit

I felt a strong sense of community in this meeting.  We were joined by Quinn’s older brother, who walked over from Davis at the end of the middle school day to lend a hand; and Taylor’s dad, who volunteered to help out also.  Add in sibling members Bridget and Henry, and me and my daughter, and our group for the day included four pairs of relatives.  Having family members join in definitely makes the work more fun and meaningful.

The meeting also further highlighted what caring and supportive staff we have at OSE.  How many other school principals spend time pulling weeds with their students?  2nd grade teacher Mrs. Wardrip joined us at the first two meetings; and she and Mrs. Barley will return and other staff have also volunteered for later meetings.  A big thank you also needs to go to custodian, Mr. Neff, who seemed unphased by all the dirt that was tracked into the hallway from the courtyard.  From the first day that I proposed this club a few months ago, the response from the school has been wonderful:  enthusiastic support, ideas for this year and for future years, and concrete help in getting this endeavor off the ground.

Shared Habitats

Although most of our time was spent working in the courtyard, we did take several minutes to talk about the connections between that work and helping the earth, using the book, “Where Once There was a Wood,” to generate discussion.  This beautifully illustrated book has a thought-provoking message. Where once there was a wood

Where once there was a wood, a meadow and a creek

Where once the red fox rested and close his eyes to sleep…[and it goes on to describe many other animals, plants and birds that once were there]

 Sit houses side by side, twenty houses deep.

I asked the students if they thought that means we shouldn’t build houses, or schools.  “No!”  But, they had ideas for lessening the impact of all that building – which we are certainly seeing happening at a rapid pace in many areas of Dublin.  Building smaller homes, perhaps; living more like native Americans was another idea; and, of course, creating gardens to provide a habitat for at least some of the wildlife who have lost their homes.

Listen to the Children

Where once there was a wood, there is a school; and in that school…  a lot of recyclable paper ends up in the garbage.  You never know what kinds of ideas might come to light Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Facts-2when we give the kids some time to talk and share.  Tessa told us that she had noticed, not for the first time, that there was a lot of paper in the garbage cans instead of the recycling bins; and she wondered why the recycling bins are so much smaller than the garbage cans.  An interesting insight!  We discussed the possibility of having a team of students whose job it is to oversee classroom recycling.  Other schools have implemented such student “green teams,” who collect recyclables and enforce waste reduction, with great success.  A possibility for next school year?(https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/schools-recycling-team-means-that-its-easy-being-green/2012/05/11/gIQAdtuJIU_story.html).

 

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Planning our courtyard garden

Upcoming area events of interest:

4/16 Northwest Library – Earth Day Garden Party, 9 a.m – 1 p.m.  Volunteer to help install native trees, shrubs and plants.  http://www.worthingtonlibraries.org/calendar/2016-4-16/earth-day-garden-party

4/23 Earth Day Celebration at the Columbus Commons.  There are also many other volunteer opportunities for tree plantings and other projects in the week leading up to Earth Day.  https://earthdaycolumbus.org/home.php#celebration

 

Week Two of Earth Club:

In the second meeting of the Earth Club earlier this week, the group jumped right into this spring’s main project of planting a pollinator garden in the courtyard.  Barbara Ray, Nature Education Coordinator for Dublin, came to talk to us about flowers and pollinators (such as butterflies, bees and birds) and their important relationship, and helped the students in selecting plants for our garden.tarantula crossing

Barbara first shared with us her story of her own beginnings as a nature lover and young animal rescuer.  As a child growing up in California, she would often insist that her parents stop the car so that she could rescue the tarantulas that liked to sun themselves on the tarmac (perhaps not so surprisingly, other drivers tended to try to run them over).  Ohio parents, be glad that tarantula territory does not extend to here (although it is home to over 600 other species of spider…).

UV flowers
Meadow cranesbill as we see it (top) and under UV light (below) © Bjørn Rørslett/NN.  Under UV light, the lines that guide bees to the pollen at the heart of the flower are very prominent.

She then gave a very informative presentation on flowers and how they are designed to attract pollinators.  The pansies she brought along, for example, may look purple and yellow to us, but as she explained, they also have colors in the ultraviolet range that are invisible to us but very attractive to birds.  The students particularly enjoyed the chance to touch, smell and feel the pansies and other flowers and seedlings she brought along.

 

The students then had a chance to examine a variety of pictures of flowers and plants, and make selections for our garden based on a variety of criteria, including color, scent, texture, and the kinds of animals they are likely to attract.  The plants they chose are the pollinator-attracting Verbena, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly weed, Milkweed, and Hollyhock; herbs including Mint and Dill; and Lamb’s Ear, whose velvety-soft leaves are so nice to touch.

 

Dublin’s Nature Education division can provide us with seeds or seedlings for some of these plants, so we will soon be on our way to adding our selections to the school’s courtyard!  A big thank you to Barbara Ray and the City of Dublin.

Earth Club begins!

About a dozen OSE second graders met on April 4th for the very first meeting of the Earth Club.  The students were very enthusiastic about their love of nature and wanting to protect the environment.

The group braved the cold to explore the schoolyard for “signs of spring.”  The kids buddied up, searched high and low, and used all their senses (except, no tasting).  Unfortunately, winter seems to have returned after an unusually warm March, so the original plan of a more extensive nature scavenger hunt was scratched and we conducted a brief, five-minute search before scurrying back inside.  Nonetheless, the kids reported back a variety of signs that spring is indeed here:  trees leafing out, flowers in bloom, greener grass, and even mosses sending up new shoots.

 

Back inside, our next focus was…  empty toilet paper rolls.  Before being told their intended use, the kids had some creative ideas for what we might be using them for.  Binoculars?   Bracelets?  A recycling project?  In fact, the project in mind was a re-use of toilet paper rolls befitting both the coming of spring and the return of wintry weather.  While it’s too cold to start planting much outside, it’s the perfect time to start seeds indoors; and toilet paper rolls make great seed starting pots (learn how to make them here:  http://www.instructables.com/id/Biodegradable-toilet-paper-roll-pots/?ALLSTEPS).   Once the seedlings have emerged and there’s no more frost, these biodegradable pots can be planted directly in the ground or a container.     toiletpaperpots

Each student made one pot, filled it with soil, and planted two Nasturtium seeds.
Nasturtium are a fun and easy-to-grow addition to your garden or
container; not only are the flowers pretty, they’re edible, as are the leaves.  They add a nice, spicy touch to a salad.

NasturtiumSalad

 

All in all, a fun start to a club with a wonderful group of kids and a good purpose!

Next week:  Nature Education Coordinator Barbara Ray will help us get started on a courtyard pollinator garden.  (Learn more about nature education in Dublin here:  http://dublinohiousa.gov/nature/.)