Basalt elementary kids pitch in to help save Brazilian rain forest
May 13, 2002
Basalt Elementary School smelled like a brewery Friday afternoon, but never fear, it was for a good cause.
The elementary school kids saved their families’ aluminum cans for about one month to raise money to participate in a unique program to save the Brazilian rain forest.
They brought cans by the garbage-bag-full to school Friday. City Market of El Jebel donated a truck and driver to haul the cans to a recycling center in Clifton, where the freight will be weighed and a check cut to the school.
The school will then contribute the funds to the Earth’s Birthday Project, which teams with the Nature Conservancy to buy rain forest one acre at a time each year in a different part of the world. This school year the Mata Atlantica region of Brazil was targeted.
Basalt Elementary will be able to buy one acre per $40 raised.
The program was known to inspire some parents to drink a beer to save the rain forest.
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The school’s participation in the Earth’s Birthday Project was coordinated by librarian Tink Boyer. She has tied the effort in with books she has read about the rain forest as well as classwork by many teachers.
Boyer said she had previously worked with individual classes to save cans for the project when she was a classroom teacher. This was on a much grander scale since participation was open to all 550 kids in the elementary school.
Boyer knew from her past experience that the kids would embrace the project.
“They won’t let their parents throw away any cans,” she said.
Fourth-graders supplemented the effort by making banks in the shape of the globe and raising funds for the rain forest.
Boyer said she hopes the project helps kids understand that environmentalism means more than disposing properly of their litter.
To help convey that message, elementary and middle school students in the Earth Action Team presented a skit called “Take Action,” which they wrote themselves. The skit was designed to inspire the kids to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The Earth Action Team is an after-school program headed by fourth-grade teacher Megan Arensdorf. Students studied ecology and environmental science issues, specifically how human activity affects the natural world.
The kids also applied their knowledge by undertaking environmental projects, such as litter patrols and the school’s first internal recycling program.
Arensdorf said she had to limit the after-school program to 10 students, but hopes to expand it to 30 next school year. She said she’s witnessed how environmental issues grab students, including some who aren’t inspired by traditional academics.
As part of the presentation at school Friday, Arensdorf read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. The story passes on a lesson, as only Dr. Seuss could, about greed and its effects on nature, specifically the loss of rare trees.
And that’s exactly the lesson taught by the Earth’s Birthday Project. According to the organization’s Web site – earthbirthday.com – the Mata Atlantic area is considered a top priority for protection by ecologists around the world.
Only about 7 percent of the once vast rain forest remains. Nevertheless, it is one of the most ecologically diverse corners of Earth.
An estimated 50 mammals and 200 bird species are found nowhere else on Earth. A study also found 450 tree species on 2.5 acres of the rain forest on Brazil’s southern coast. The same acreage in a U.S. forest typically has no more than 10 tree species.
In addition, 75 percent of the plants found there are found nowhere else.
The Mata Atlantica has been heavily logged for timber since the Portuguese arrived in 1500, according to the Earth’s Birthday Project Web site. Forest has been cleared for sugar cane plantations and ranches as well as cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Basalt school kids will be sent certificates during the summer notifying them of how many acres they helped save in this special place, Boyer said. Even if it’s just a few acres, it will make a huge difference.
“All the tiny pieces add up to a big gift to the Earth,” said the project’s Web site.