Reader Contributed Schools

Earth Week at Norfeldt Elementary: Celebrating Sustainability and Community

Planting native, pollinator-friendly plants and bushes near the Norfeldt sign. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

West Hartford’s Norfeldt Elementary School involved the entire school community in an Earth Day celebration.

New soil ready to fertilize the Norfeldt garden. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

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. 

Norfeldt students and caregivers hard at work in readying the garden. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

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.   

Norfeldt students and caregivers hard at work in readying the garden. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

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. 

Completing earth week bingo earned students tomato and marigold saplings as a prize. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

“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.”


Author Carrie Firestone speaking to attendees. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

Families browsing a display of posters and art work about environmental issues. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

CT Audobon Society used a model to demonstrate water runoff and the importance of vegetation in preventing it. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

Farmer Lauren Little helping Norfeldt students dress up as bees, butterflies, and beekeepers. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

Building a trellis for snap peas. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

It was a wonderful afternoon to work in the Norfeldt garden. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

Building a netted hoop around the strawberry plants to protect them. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

The garden shed and supplies were organized, ready to be used in teaching. Norfeldt PTO donated gardening gloves for students to use. Photo credit: Gunjan Sharma

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