Our Earth Day event had been in the planning for some time. We participate in a monthly co-op down in Piedmont, and I had volunteered to plan the April event with a dozen possible projects in mind. By the time Earth Day rolled around we had narrowed it down to a few activities, and with a car packed full of supplies and kids we headed down to Piedmont, to our good friend Monique’s property.
As everyone arrived we saw our smiles mirrored in each other’s faces, as we were buoyed by the gorgeous spring day after what had been a week of thunderstorms, clouds, rain and even hail. Once mostly everyone had arrived we settled in for a story.
The Earth Book by Todd Parr explored ways that each and every one of us can live a more environmentally-friendly life, including many small but meaningful steps such as using both sides of the paper, turning the lights off when they aren’t in use and bringing reusable bags with to the grocery store. The book is printed with recycled materials and nontoxic soy inks, and it was super-easy to encourage the kids’ participation and get them talking about the ‘green’ things they do at home with the included poster.
The kids were then ready for a hands-on project, so we moved to the picnic tables and rolled up our sleeves to make seed bombs. Jennifer had suggested this activity as a great sensory experience for the little hands that like getting dirty, and it was fun seeing the looks on their faces as we encouraged the mud play! We each got some red dirt in our bowl which we added water to, forming a muddy clay. After adding pollinator seeds to the mix we rolled the product into balls, which we let dry in the warm spring air. These ‘bombs’ can be thrown anywhere – a garden, a right-of-way, the trailside, an abandoned lot – and hopefully in the coming month will grow the native flowers so important to our local pollinators. As the kids mushed and mixed and rolled Jennifer talked about how the hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies and flies are so important to our gardens, forests and crops. Thank you Jennifer for the initiative, the seed, the supplies and the sharing!
As the kids finished up we started right in on the next project, getting seeds started. We discussed how different seeds have different needs: some need more water, some more light, some more space. Some seeds want to climb, while others want to spread. Our local Home Depot donated bio-degradable pots so that the seedlings could later be transplanted into gardens without shocking the plants, and Greater Greenville Sanitation provided us with a rich, dark soil to fill them, and a few different seeds to plant. Padulas Plants and Gardens supplied us with the rest of the seed, giving us such a variety to choose from that the kids really had a chance to discuss what would grow best in the spaces they have available and what they would like to see/eat the most. Top choices were watermelon, sunflower, moonflower and tomato! Thanks also to Lauren for the extra seed – I think it really made the planting more fun for the kids that they got to choose what seeds went into their pots.
There was some free play before we started the next project, planting trees in honor of Arbor Day (which is actually today, the last Friday of April - happy Arbor Day!!!). Monique had chosen a few seedlings for us to plant on her property, and so we got busy. One crew headed off to scoop some horse manure, while a second got busy digging holes. We mixed the manure and more of the Greater Greenville Sanitation soil in while discussing why we can’t just fill the hole with the good stuff (the tree’s roots will only grow in the super-fertile stuff and eventually become root-bound), the tree species (tulip poplar and western hemlock) and how to protect the tiny seedlings (Our neighbor had donated some garden fencing which will protect the trees from the dogs and lawn mower until they grow bigger – thanks Ms. Susan!).
The kids drifted in and out, leaving the moms to do most of the heavy work… but does it matter? The seeds have been planted – literally and figuratively! Over the next weeks as our little seedlings sprout, grow and get planted in gardens and on porches across the Upstate, there will be dozens of little hands watering them and caring for them, little eyes watching them grow. As the kids return to Monique’s over the next months, maybe years, they’ll be (hopefully) able to witness the trees maturing. And as we watch our little ones grow, we can hope that the love for nature has been planted in each and every one of them, so that they may learn to respect and care for the earth and its resources.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped make this day a reality for the kids, especially Monique, for opening up her home to us every month, to Mr. Leviner of Greater Greenville Sanitation, to Ms. McCarty at Home Depot and to Andrew Padula of Padulas Plants and Gardens!