6th-graders take a walk to benefit the Earth

At least $2,400 pledged to aid Centennial Park

April 19, 2000|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Clouds and chilly temperatures did little to affect the enthusiasm of about 200 sixth-graders from Dunloggin Middle School last week as they arrived at Centennial Park for an Earth Day project.

The children from the Ellicott City school participated Friday in the "Walk for the Earth" by walking around Centennial Lake. The event was sponsored by the National Parks and Conservation Association's March for Parks to mark Earth Day, which is Saturday .

The park was quiet except for chirping birds and a few walkers and joggers as pupils' four buses, two at a time, pulled in and the children bounded off to assemble for the walk. Anna Olson, who moved to Howard County six months ago, was among about a half-dozen parents joining the group. She said she had been planning to visit the park but hadn't had a chance until now.

Collecting pledges from parents and friends, the sixth-graders had earned about $2,400 at the time of the walk with more expected this week. Last year, $1,500 was collected.

The money from the environmental project will go to Centennial Park to be used for repairs and enhancements.

In past years, money earned from the walk has helped clean the duck pond, plant trees as a wind break along Route 108 and replace trees damaged in ice storms. When schoolchildren from prior walks return to the park, they see the results of their efforts. These sixth-graders will have the same opportunity in the future.

The group in front carried a banner with "March For Parks" printed in large black letters. Shouts, laughter, chanting and talking could be heard across the lake as the kids progressed. Jessica Kraus thought it was "fun helping the community," while Barbara Jensen and Megan Joesting enjoyed the scenery.

It took about an hour for the Dunloggin sixth-graders to finish circling the lake, and they were still full of exuberance at the end. Yixin Li said it was "really tiring" to walk around the lake but enjoyed the chance to "get some exercise and help the park." Classmates Michael Teeters and Alex DeCosta thought it was a worthwhile cause, saving animals and planting trees.

Lisa Weinstein and Teri Swinson said they enjoyed themselves and got the chance to see how their efforts would help the park -- which is exactly what teacher Matt Jens had hoped the walk would accomplish.

"Using a tangible activity" gives them a chance to see what is needed, and "the kids get a sense of why we do it," Jens said.

The sixth-graders have been learning about the national park system and its importance to society during their exploratory studies class since mid-January. Environmental issues such as recycling, wildlife preservation and deforestation are part of their studies.

The class also helps the Dunloggin children focus on their role in the community and ways they can contribute. March For Parks is a service project to help schoolchildren earn service learning credits and meet course objectives.

Another sixth-grade teacher, Claire Meitl, who has been in charge of the event for the past four years, knows the children have made an impact. Nearly $6,000 has been raised by Dunloggin Middle in that time.

"People have thanked them for remembering our responsibility to the Earth -- it would be exciting to see more people involved," Meitl said.

While the children got a chance to burn off some energy on the last day before spring break, the walk was not all fun and games. Upon returning to school, the pupils were to reflect and write a paragraph on what they learned from the experience.

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