CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. More schools across the nation are incorporating the annual Earth Day celebration into their curricula as a way to teach nature and ecology. On this Earth Day, as many as 1,500 kids from 30 different schools will be marching in the streets of Portland, Oregon. It's a celebration called The Procession of the Species, and it features a parade of children dressed as animals and plants. Dmae Roberts visited Binnsmead Middle School in Portland to see how three classrooms were preparing for the event.
LASHENKO: My name's Olga Lashenko. I'm a seventh grader. And the animals I like is dogs, koalas, horses, elephants, dolphins, and a lot more.
ROBERTS: To most kids, Earth Day is a fun way to celebrate animals and plants. Kids are pretty hazy about the origins of Earth Day, but some students, like seventh grader Sue Gwen, are already thinking about ways to help the environment.
GWYNN: We can start picking up stuff while we're walking to school. Or we should be more careful with things we drop on the floor. And when we do, we should like make sure we throw in the garbage. I think that people should be more, like, concerned about things that's happening around the world.
ROBERTS: Most of the Binnsmead students don't know Earth Day began as a grassroots protest about environmental concerns. Teacher Barbara Jackson was a college student during the first Earth Day demonstrations in 1970.
JACKSON: I would say that it's become more mainstream, in that there is a larger recognition. And rather than being a protest, now, I think it's a realization of we've got to go back and honor the Earth. And in teaching, it goes along with knowledge about habitat, knowledge about what decisions we make, what are our priorities?
WALKER: I've got some materials over here. We've got paper scraps up here. I've got blue and pink. I do have a couple of bits of other things...
ROBERTS: Today in Joe Walker's seventh-grade class, students are making hats and costumes for a parade organized by Earth and Spirit, a local environmental group.
JACOB: My name is Jacob. My hat is an elephant. I made it out of paper. And I made this long strip of paper for the nose of the elephant.
KHAN: My name is Khan. I'm making a parrot for the Earth Day parade. My hat has, like, a long feathery tail, and I used cardboard to draw the parrot on. And I'm going to cut it out and glue it on the hat.
ROBERTS: By making their costumes out of recycled materials, the students are learning the value of reusing.
WEN: I'm Wen, and I'm in seventh grade. I'm worried about, if we don't recycle and keep the environment clean, then some day, when no humans exist any more, maybe when you look back it's like a big ball of junk when you look at it.
FISHER: I'm Louie Fisher. I'm 12, and I recycle for Earth Day. I think
Earth Day is a day that you, like, carpool and recycle and, like, not buy styrofoam because it's not biodegradable. Like, if you throw a six-pack container into a river, a fish could get caught in it. And so, if you recycle that or cut the loops, then a fish could be saved.
ROBERTS: In an eighth grade classroom, the older students are making bigger projects, like a giant tree puppet.
STUDENT: He's going to hold the trunk, and then us four are going to make a limb. And we're going to have our own little branch to hold up. And then we're going to have little ones around it, so it will make it look real, yeah.
ROBERTS: Teacher Joe Walker says art projects like this help kids learn more about environmental problems and to come up with solutions as a classroom.
WALKER: The way to think about the Earth is one huge family. So we are just part of the family group. And one thing we do in the classroom all the time is to work together, and to feel like we support each other.
And so, in order to help the Earth be in balance, I think we all have to support each other.
ROBERTS: The costumed kids will be supporting each other and their giant puppets as they march through the streets of Portland. For Living on
Earth, I'm Dmae Roberts.
GROUP: (Sings) Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy
Birthday to Earth Day! Happy Birthday to Earth Day! Hey!
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