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The original item was published from 5/14/2020 4:04:43 PM to 6/16/2020 12:00:00 AM.

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Posted on: May 14, 2020

[ARCHIVED] A First for Greenwich: All Schools Earth Week

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A First for Greenwich: All Schools Earth Week

Written by: Sarah Coccaro, Conservation Commission and Laura diBonaventura, Greenwich Country Day School Director of Sustainability and Conservation Commissioner

ALL of Greenwich’s schoolchildren - every school and every grade - along with their teachers and families celebrated the first ever, Town-wide Earth Week of Action this April 20-24. Greenwich’s houses of worship joined in the celebration with a town-wide bell ringing on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

Our Conservation Commission, Greenwich Country Day School (GCDS), and Green Schools developed the all schools Earth Week of Action. They were inspired by the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and Greenwich’s own sustainability goals as set out in the Plan for Conservation & Development, and the Sustainable CT certification program.

Shifting, Not Shutting Down 

The Earth Week of Action in-school program was firmly in place by January, 2020. Face to face meetings between the Development Team (made up of faculty and staff from public and private schools and Town staff) and every school’s leadership had shared ideas and built personal connections. In March, as the reality of the coronavirus pandemic set in, the Development Team was able to shift to a synchronous at-home program.  “The personal connections across schools made it possible to shift to an at-home program, and the at-home program engaged families, students and teachers in shared activities beyond what we had originally envisioned. The ‘problem’ became a terrific opportunity,” explained Laura di Bonaventura, GCDS’ Sustainability Director.

Earth Week of Action

“We all learn by doing. The simple, daily activities engaged students, families, and faculty so they could experience the satisfaction of personal action, be a part of action on a school level, and see the power of collective, community-wide action” said Patricia Sesto, director of Environmental Affairs. “That’s why we called it the Earth Week of Action.”  Each of the five school days had a theme and suggested activity, and people could create new activities consistent with the daily themes. "Participation was perfection,” explained Greenwich Academy’s and Brunswick’s Sustainability reps Natalie Tallis and Kate Tabner.  

Connections Across Town

Earth Week kicked off with Monday’s Artists for the Earth. Greenwich students made upcycled garden flowers, bees, etc. In a sense all ~14,560 Greenwich students were flowers in Greenwich’s garden. “Children have such a strong connection to nature and the world around them. Their artwork reflects their innate curiosity and empathy for the environment,” says Le Ann Hinkle, Julian Curtiss and North Mianus Schools’ art teacher. 

Plant-based meals fueled Tuesday’s conversations. One of the biggest ways to lower your personal carbon footprint is to eat more plant-based foods. Dubbed, “Foodprints for the Future”, students and families cooked and estimated their ‘foodprint savings.’ Families shared mouth-watering photos and calculations, such as from this 4th grader: “we made lentil salad. Last night’s meatloaf could have charged 3008 cell phones, saved 3680 gallons of water, and grown 14 pounds of soybeans! Wow!”

On Wednesday’s Earth Day, Churches, businesses, residents, and organizations across town joined a ‘one minute, one action, one town, one planet’ bell ringing as a sign of unity and stewardship for the Earth. First Selectman Fred Camillo read the Earth Day proclamation alongside selectwomen Jill Oberlander and Lauren Rabin, and Director of Environmental Affairs Patricia Sesto.   

On Thursday, district and independent school citizen scientists identified over 330 unique plants and animals! Using the app iNaturalist in our own backyards families answered ‘what IS that?’  Sacred Heart science teacher Katie Donahue explained: “The app allows people to learn more about their surroundings. Once people learn about something, they’re more inclined to take care of it.”  

On Friday the Parks and Recreation department in collaboration with the Greenwich Tree Conservancy planted trees in honor of Arbor Day. “This year was special,” explained JoAnn Messina, Executive Director of Greenwich Tree Conservancy, “we were able to plant not just one tree at one school, but 9 trees at 9 public schools. A tree is a wonderful lasting legacy for future generations.”   

Every Day is Earth Day

In 2018, Greenwich was certified a ‘sustainable community’ through the Sustainable Connecticut program. The application process provided Greenwich a closer look at itself through a “sustainability lens” and spawned a number of initiatives and committees. Soon, Greenwich residents will be able to participate in a new voluntary food scrap recycling program.  

Greenwich remains committed as ever to celebrating Earth Day everyday.  Among them is a commitment to make Earth Week an annual success. In the Development team’s debrief meeting Sarah Coccaro, Town Conservation Resource Manager and Earth Week program leader looked ahead: “Earth Week 2020 raised awareness, got people doing new things and created a ‘one Town, all together’ experience. It’s a great foundation to build on every year.” 



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