Zoo celebrates Earth Day with student activities





Ten-year-old Alondra Garcia plans to begin picking up trash and recycling all the paper she uses to do homework after learning about the impact items like that have on the Earth.

"You should just keep on having the Earth clean for all kinds of animals," Garcia said.

She was one of about 1,300 area third- to eighth-grade students who learned about the importance of recycling at Lee Richardson Zoo's Annual Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration Wednesday.

The day was filled with activities that encouraged student participation. Rosanna Quilling, customer service associate at Black Hills Energy, said kids tend to learn better when they are taught interactively, as BHE Service Technician Eric Ramirez taught some Gertrude Walker students about natural gas safety.

"Those questions are like the 'do you know' questions," Quilling said. "They're learning, but they don't realize they're learning because they're getting prizes and pretty much answering the questions."

Kids also learned about where natural gas is found.

"I never knew all the places it came from," 10-year-old Maddie Stout said.

"Migration Headache" taught students about ways animals lose their habitats, through a game involving Hula Hoops.

"The Hula Hoops represent how many habitats there are. If there's a tornado, it destroys a habitat or two and there's a number on these cards and it tells you how many (habitats) to take away and only a certain number of kids can be left in the habitat at the end — that's supposed to represent deforestation and how animals lose their habitats," 18-year-old Tristan Lindo said.

The kids also learned ways that earthquakes, floods and droughts affect habitats.

Lindo and 17-year-old Austin Calderon were at the event with their zoology class from the Garden City High School. Calderon said he also participated in an event that involved real Monarch butterflies.

"They've got chrysalises, butterflies and caterpillars and after we make milkweed, they're going to have all kinds of butterflies come out of the tent so they can go to that milkweed," he said.

In another game called "Trash Collector," Whitney Buchman, manager of distance learning and technology at the zoo, said the point was to teach kids how much energy it takes to reuse something, how much energy it takes to recycle something and how much energy it takes to throw something in the trash. The kids formed teams that raced to the buckets marked as reuse, recycle and trash, which were spaced at varying distances.

"The idea is if you reuse or compost something, that takes the least amount of energy, so that's the closest buckets. Then recycling takes energy to change it into something new ... and that's the second bucket. And then if you just throw it in the trash, you have to get a whole new one and that uses the most energy. The goal is to be the first done, so the more stuff you can reuse and recycle, the faster your team will go," Buchman said, adding that the kids also had to explain how some of the items could be reused.

Eighteen-year-old Brett Cady, a GCHS zoology student, along with Candice Dillon, commissary keeper at the zoo, shared information with the kids about life cycles, seasons and habitats, as well recycling tips.

"This table is all about different ways to recycle, whether it be turning off lights when you leave the room, or using energy-efficient light bulbs ... reusing reusable shopping bags instead of plastic, turning the faucet off when you're brushing your teeth — just simple things kids can do to get while also getting their parents involved," Dillon said. "The entire (event) is just geared for enjoying our planet and leaving it for the next generation."

She said she was surprised by how much kids already know about recycling and the effects of pollution, after observing some of them at a presentation called "Juggling the Earth's Resources."

"It's juggling, where they teach about the water cycle and about pollution and how to reduce it and a lot of the kids already knew about the water cycle — condensation, precipitation, evaporation — I was just shocked. Some of the parents didn't even know some of that stuff," Dillon said.

Misty Ayers, manager of onsite programs and special events at the zoo, coordinated the event.

"We're trying to encourage it (recycling) as much as we can, and they're having a lot of fun. There's all kinds of stuff going on, but I think they're getting the message," Ayers said. "I had a lot of them asking about recycling and where they could put recycled products on ground here."

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