In an effort to expand Nixon Elementary School’s Sustainability Initiative, its PTA worked with the school to transform its Fall Festival into a Green Fair with fun green activities planned throughout the day last Friday with special guests and presenters.
“Nixon first decided to make the Fall Festival “Green Themed” last year as Principal Lynch embarked upon the Rethinking Recycling initiative. She approached me because I had chaired the Fall Festival Committee last fall and she wondered if the PTA would consider putting a Green spin on the event,” explained Lenore Palen, chair of the PTA Green Fair team.
She immediately agreed, adding, “Mostly because as fun as the Fall Festival was it struck me as a great opportunity to also incorporate an educational focus to the activities. We were already focused on Recycling in the school so it seemed like the perfect time to do it.”
Principal Danielle Lynch echoed those sentiments stating, “The transition from Fall Festival to Green Fair was an exciting shift for us as an educational community.”
Palen and her green team of planners and volunteers included Allison List, Kathy Ribe, Kim Yamashita, Stacey Malone, Danielle McCabe, Patricia Riveria, Cheryl Abato, Lana Panzer, Jennifer Greve, Meghan Hoskins, Tiffany Lynch, Danielle Mohalek, Melody Simon, Krystyn DePree, Dave Lakata, Denise Dougherty, Holly Guth, Caroyln Lanza, Suzanne Mendonca, Mary and Paul Olsen, Tina Berchak, Rodney Walker with a woodworking assist from Douglas Palen.
Together they created stations and organized to have local “green” groups present like the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF), Roxbury’s Clean Communities, and the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA).
“We received amazing support from Liz Sweedy and Chris Vidal from the MUA and Kellie Ann Keyes from Roxbury’s Clean Communities. As soon as we mentioned the idea, they were enthusiastic about making suggestions, sponsoring a portion and even presenting at the event.”
Additional outside presenters included Alexandra Cavagrotti, the NJ Watershed Ambassador for the Musconetcong River and Donna Macalle-Holly and Lisa Hirschfield from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
“We appreciate each one of them for their time and support,” shared Palen.
Parent volunteers and these outside representatives helped organize and run the different planned sessions throughout the day. The program included a descriptive, hands-on walking tour of the Husky Garden, recycling question session with the prize wheel with the MUA, book reading in the Media Center with the LHF and NJ Watershed Ambassador, as well as active and creative exercises outdoors.
These outdoor activities included making large recycled mosaics with plastic lids and caps, birdhouse feeders to be hung around the school, as well as relay races and music activities.
Palen’s favorite station of the day was the mosaics out of the bottle caps. “We asked the families to collect and send in their plastic lids and caps that are normally disposable. In a very short time, we amassed over 6,500 different caps and lids weighing over 30 pounds. This was an astounding visual to me. It’s such a small glimpse of how much we throw away on a daily basis. It made me think that we have to be creative when thinking of solutions for this problem and we have to teach our children that same creativity.”
Lynch agreed, “As Mrs. Palen alluded, the bottle cap mosaics came out beautiful and I’m anxious to find homes for these recycled works of art to be displayed at Nixon School.”
Palen’s hope was that as the students rotated through the different stations, “They would foster an awareness to start them thinking and talking about reducing waste, creatively re-purposing or reusing garbage and recycling what needs to be recycled.”
The jammed packed day of stations combined education and fun, creative activities to give students lessons to be remembered and built on.
“I felt that by using recyclable objects throughout the day’s activities as well as from learning about recycling specifics from the MUA and Roxbury Clean Communities, it really tied it all together and engaged the students on a deeper level,” added Palen.
All of the outside groups that participated in the event thought it turned out great and were excited to be a part of the school’s educational initiative!
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation was established to improve Lake Hopatcong for everyone, now and in the years to come. The Foundation aims to improve and enhance the lake experience and environment while working in several areas to accomplish initiatives on behalf of the lake community and environment. LHF helps districts surrounding the lake organize field trips to the Hopatcong State Park in the spring for fourth graders.
The MCMUA promotes recycling and litter abatement programs and can assist schools with setting up comprehensive recycling programs.
Liz Sweedy, Recycling Education Specialist with the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority shared, “I assist schools to obtain their Sustainable Jersey for Schools goals in Waste Management and Recycling by doing waste assessments, waste audits, while making recommendations to improve current waste status and get them in compliance with recycling regulations, as well as assisting in planning Green Fairs.”
Roxbury Clean Communities is part of the state’s Clean Communities program that is a comprehensive litter abatement program serving New Jersey residents and visitors for over 25 years. The basic mission is to reduce litter in public places, promote the volunteer cleanup of public lands and sustain a reduction in litter through education. Roxbury’s Clean Communities has a simple and fun way to be a part of the community by looking for individuals, school groups, churches, and businesses willing to donate some time to continue to keep Roxbury beautiful with Adopt-a-Road or Adopt-a-Spot programs.