Kindergartners from Edward V. Walton School got an eco-friendly education on Earth Day outside the classroom.
About 160 students took a trip to Whole Foods Market in Union for some hands-on learning.
"I wanted to do something special for Earth Day, and I wanted it to be focused around sustainability ," said Laura Hall, Marketing Team Leader for the store. "One of the parents who shops at our store (Springfield mom Robin Cornelison) said 'my daughter goes to Walton elementary.' That's how the idea came to connect with the school."
The students went to four stations around the store, with different local sponsors.
One station, sponsored by Wholesome Kids Cook, taught how organic farmers take care of their crops and why organic food is better for the environment.
The book Lily the Ladybug by Earthbound Farms told the story of how Lily finds a home on an organic farm. "They also learned how composting and recycling food scrapes help to create healthy plants," said Hall.
The kids made fruit kabobs out of organic strawberries and blueberries.
Another station, sponsored by Reeves Reid Arboretum in Summit, taught the kids to plant beans in "compostable planters." They got to bring home their planters.
"They're one of our 5 percent day recipients. Once a quarter we are able to select a group that has applied for a 5 percent Day and fits into our core values," said Hall. "They have an educational program and that's what interested me about the program."
Five percent of the day's net sales, more than $4,600, went to the Arboretum, said Hall, adding that inviting them into the store is a positive way "to continue our partnership."
The other two stations were sponsored by Every Drop Counts Water Conservation Education Program, an eight-year-old program based in Montville.
Susan Marinello, aka "The Water Lady," said the kids learned about "surface water" at the first station, "and how surface runoff can compromise the quality of drinking water."
"Students worked with a model town to see how both natural and man-made pollutants can enter the drinking water supply and what each of us can do to prevent contamination of water resources," Marinello said. "They also played a game which illustrates how much water there is on Earth but how little of it is fresh water that is clean and safe for human consumption."
Hall said the model taught them about everyday pollutants that they may or may not be able to see. "Maybe there's oil that spilled in our river," said Hall, "so they would pretend to add oil." They also had shakers which contained examples of different air pollutants and got to shake them out over the model.
The next water station showed "how ground water is used as a resource for humans," said Marinello. "Students viewed a model of an aquifier. They made it rain and watched as the water underground rose in relationship to the rain. They also watched the water level drop in relationship to water usage by people."
They learned how weather affects the water supply and how water ends up in the home, according to Marinello. "Students had an opportunity to carry water in an activity designed to simulate the lack of convenient water distribution that most people on the planet Earch experience."
The kids had a visual of ten gallons of water, which is "the average amount of water wasted each day if one leaves the water running while brushing one's teeth." They learned "how careful one would be with water if one had to carry it from its source each day."
Hall said the kids' reactions were even better than she had hoped.
"Each station was hands on," she said. "It's not like they were just sitting and listening. They were listening, learning and doing something to get the bigger picture of what Earth Day was."
She said the children left the store "with an overall vision of what Earth Day was. And it's something that's supported 365 days a year, and not just the month."