Kids of all ages danced, sang and performed poetry under the warmth of the sun Thursday morning, celebrating the environment and its impact.
While Earth Day is Saturday, the Caring and Sharing Learning School hosted a program to involve its students with conservation efforts before school is out for the weekend.
The Caring and Sharing Learning School held its annual Earth Day program, which began with students singing and dancing and ended with the planting of six trees in the school’s back field.
The event was originally spearheaded years ago by NKwanda Jah, a community activist who works with the cultural arts coalition, to ensure the school annually planted trees and observed the holiday.
Mavis Muhammad, the school’s title one lead teacher and instructional coach, said the program and Jah’s involvement have allowed kids to enjoy themselves while becoming conservation-minded.
“This is the only Earth we have, and we have to take care of it,” she said.
This year, the event began its first-annual essay writing competition, in which students submitted pieces about the importance of caring for the planet. The best two essays received a $150 and $100 prize, respectively.
Students Myleah Rutledge and Zyon Skanes took home first and second place and read a portion of their essays to the crowd.
“If the Earth loves you,” Rutledge read, “then we should love it back.”
Later, students participated in an African drum dance and were taught on the spot by staff.
A large focus of the presentation was looking to the future — a poem recited by students Zaniya Skanes and Camryn Young focused on the beauty of trees and how they provide for the next generations.
Community leaders like Alachua County Commission Chair Anna Prizzia also attended and spoke to the kids about her background in environmental conservation.
To conclude the ceremony, students worked with the Alachua Conservation Trust, a nonprofit that works to protect natural resources across north central Florida. The students and trust volunteers planted six trees.
Amy Compare, the natural resource specialist for Alachua Conservation Trust, said involving youth in simple conservation efforts can encourage the next generation to better protect the planet.
“It all starts with things like this, planting trees at school,” Compare said. “That escalates into folks who are then doing internships with us.”
Unlike previous years, when the school planted native trees, this year students helped plant fruit-bearing ones as a symbol of their efforts to be the fruit for the people of the future.
The school also announced its recent success in the 12-hour The Amazing Give Thursday, in which it surpassed a $25,000 fundraiser goal to provide funding for additional classrooms and resources. As of 7:30 p.m. the same day, the school had earned $37,060.
Between the prizes, dances and donation announcements, students and staff returned to class happy and invested in the Earth’s conservation.
Contact Aidan Bush at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @aidandisto.
Aidan Bush is a second-year journalism major and the city and county commission reporter for the Alligator. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle. When not writing, he enjoys creating videos, water activities and spending time with his friends.