West Hartford’s Norfeldt Elementary School involved the entire school community in an Earth Day celebration.
By Amita Ferreira
On Friday, April 21, Norfeldt Elementary School held its Earth Day Fair and Community Service event. Organized by Meghan Girard, Gunjan Sharma, and Lauren Ursillo, the event was designed to inform and educate the Norfeldt students and community about environmental issues such as pollinator population decline and pollution, as well as about the power of small steps in solving large, seemingly unsurmountable problems.
At the start of the week, students were invited to participate in an Earth Week Bingo game comprising of easy sustainable practices such as “Turned off water while brushing teeth,” “Planted something,” “Recycled,” etc. Almost 250 students returned completed bingo sheets, and received tomato and marigold saplings and seeds as prizes. Norfeldt students were also invited to prepare some posters/informative displays about environmental issues such as global warming and sustainability. Over 30 submissions were received and displayed at the Fair. They will be displayed in Norfeldt’s main hallway next week.
These activities culminated in Norfeldt Earth Day Fair which was inaugurated by Nutmeg-nominated author Carrie Firestone. Her book “The First Rule of Climate Club” is about the adventures of fifth graders who decide to start a climate club in their school. Firestone spoke to Norfeldt students about simple steps they can take in their daily lives that can make them better stewards of the environment such as reducing food waste, composting, and being mindful of the impact of fast fashion on the environment.
An important part of the event was community service. Teachers Steve Muska and Gabby Sebastiao and Ken Blanchard –a fifth grade caregiver – led Norfeldt students and caregivers in waking up the Norfeldt garden. Families engaged in tasks such as raking and weeding garden beds, turning the garden beds to ready them for planting, adding new soil, organizing gardening supplies, creating a hoop top for the strawberry bed, and constructing a trellis for a bed of snap peas. Other families signed up to pick up trash, branches and other unwanted things from Norfeldt grounds. Some families helped master gardener Annmarie Reiner, and Suzanne Miller (an intern in the Master Gardener program) in planting sustainable, pollinator-friendly native plants and bushes around the school sign.
The event had several informative booths and workshops. The CT Audubon Society hosted bird watching sessions for families, and used a model to demonstrate the importance of plants and trees in protecting water sheds. Nakia Alexander from Root2Rise – a local organization that believes that all children deserve to feel a sense of belonging to the land – taught kids how to make nature journals using majority recyclable materials. Lauren Little, a farmer and educator, hosted a “Pollinator Party,” teaching participants about pollinator-friendly herbs and mindfulness and self-care through the creation of treats such as balms, hand or lip scrubs, infused honeys, snacks and teas. Norfeldt Student Council will be hosting an informative booth and selling seeds to raise money for the Norfeldt Garden, and also helped Norfeldt PTO sell “No Mow May” yard signs.
“The Earth Day Fair at Norfeldt is a new event, and one that we hope will occur every year,” said Principal Jen Derick. “It was a great combination of fun and informational activities, and community building. In addition, it supported our educators by readying the garden so that it can be used to enhance the curriculum.”
Firestone, the author who spoke to the community, said, “The Norfeldt Earth Day Fair was a magical event. Families gardened, learned about birds, soil, pollinators, and so much more, while we enjoyed a picture perfect day. What a wonderful community.”
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