ARLINGTON — Eagle Creek Elementary’s EcoFest put its students in an environmental state of mind on Friday, April 19, just in time for the weekend prior to Earth Day, with a series of rotating activities presented and supervised by a host of community groups.
While the Arlington Garden Club taught kindergarteners such as Patricia Ellen and Kyler Allen how to plant seeds for crops like lettuce, Shian Rashid of the WSU Snohomish County Extension Beach Watchers taught first-graders how to create crayon rubbings of sea creatures native to the Puget Sound region.
“This way, they’ll recognize the marine life and know its name,” Rashid said as the children colored their handmade scrapbooks. “Then they can go to the beach and say, ‘I saw that animal in class.’ Puget Sound has such colorful marine life that it’s exciting to see, with things you wouldn’t believe.”
While one group of fifth-graders used strings of beads to create their own bookmarks representing the life cycles of salmon, another bunch of fifth-graders was busy learning the anatomy of salmon through a painting exercise, while Jesse Scott of the Evergreen Fly Fishing Club answered their questions with diagrams.
“Hopefully, these kids will grow up with an appreciation for our natural resources,” said Scott, who lamented the diminished numbers of salmon since his own youth. “These fish need to be protected. Of course, not all of these kids will grow up to be biologists, but if what we do here and now can influence them to plant a tree or get involved in some way, it will have been worth it. I’m 80 years old now. Maybe in 70 years, you’ll be up here talking to the next generation of kids,” he told a young girl who had been listening to him attentively.
While John Carroll of the Banksavers Nursery explained how sugar is harvested from beets in Washington state, the Granite Falls High School “Shop Girls” showed off their solar-powered vehicle, and were even able to start it up in spite of the day’s dark skies and dismal downpour.
Although Sandy Shelton is quick to deflect credit for her first year of coordinating the EcoFest by noting that she benefited from the procedures that had already been documented and compiled in binders before the event was passed onto her, various officials from both Eagle Creek Elementary and the Arlington School District as a whole were effusive in their praise for her role.
“It’s the parents, teachers and volunteer presenters who came together to share their knowledge and passion with the children,” said Shelton, who cited the praise that Seattle-based presenters Triangle Associates received from several teachers for how well their talks synched up with the curriculum. “All told, we had about 10 different organizations represented by 27 presenters, with a total of 40 volunteers overall. I could have coordinated the schedule a bit better with our teachers, but they were relaxed enough to switch things around so that they worked.”
Shelton hopes that the hands-on lessons provided by EcoFest will influence the students’ outlooks and help set habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.
“I want them to come away from this with a knowledge of their surroundings and the power of the choices that they make, to help or hinder the Earth,” Shelton said. “We have the chance to plant seeds for the future through them.”