Never too young to be green |

Never too young to be green

Jeremy Heiman

Education is more than just what happens in the classroom.

A play this week involving 90 Aspen Elementary School children promises to be an out-of-the-classroom experience with benefits equal to hours of classroom time. “Uncle Storkey and the Kids Who Care” will be performed by four classes of second-graders and one class of first-graders Wednesday evening.

Written and directed by the school district’s playwright, Cathy Crum, “Uncle Storkey” is a musical that weaves environmental messages into a children’s story.

“It’s funny and fun, and it has neat characters,” Crum said. “We got the facts in there as part of an interesting story.”

When Crum first began to explore ideas for the play, she sought advice on what environmental issues would be of most importance to children. Crum went to Susan Hassol, director of education for the Aspen Global Change Institute.

Hassol came up with some bad news issues and some issues with more optimistic news. Crum wrote the issues into the play.

“We’re learning the good news about the environment and some of the challenging news,” Crum said.

One of the biggest bad news issues, Hassol told Crum, is the greenhouse effect and global warming. But in other areas, the environmental tidings have improved.

“We were actually able to applaud the recycling issue,” Crum said.

One of the challenging issues is the loss of species, so children play the part of some endangered birds and animals. An orangutan, a peregrine falcon and a sea turtle are relegated to a museum, wearing eye patches and using crutches, she said.

Another issue the play dares to tackle is the lopsided distribution of wealth on Earth. Crum said she’s impressed with the children for having the maturity and patience to sing a moving song about the disparity.

“These kids are only 7 years old,” she said, “and they’re looking at these differences in resources.”

Uncle Storkey, for whom the play is named, is the stork who brings new babies to Earth, Crum said. Uncle Storkey is understandably hesitant to bring any more children because of the state of the planet. But a hopeful message comes through.

“It’s really all of us that need to take a hand in it,” Crum said.

Crum said she’s excited that her play is being considered for distribution throughout the U.S.

The curtain goes up at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Aspen School District Theater. Tickets are $5 for adults, which goes toward production costs.

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