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Seven Springs Middle celebrates Earth Day

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Published:   |   Updated: May 3, 2013 at 11:33 AM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

After being cooped up for FCAT testing all month, Seven Springs Middle School students were rewarded with a variety of fun and educational activities for Earth Day.

About 1,400 students were cycled through four different learning stations. They learned about everything from Florida birds that inhabited their campus to wetlands ecology.

Dorothy Taylor, the service learning teacher who organized the event, said she hopes students “understand the history of Earth Day and go on to take care of the environment.”

Dori Hampf, who writes books that educate children about treating animals and people with kindness and respect, brought two feathered friends, Talara, a hyacinth macaw, and Rosie, a rose-breasted cockatoo.

“I have seen kids connect with the birds instantly,” Hampf said. “Birds are true friends. They either like you or they don’t.”

Hampf told the group of eighth-graders petting the birds about the importance of preserving birds’ habitats and how macaws like Talara are nearly extinct in the wild.

“If we’re not careful, we’re going to be watching a movie about birds that were instead of birds that are,” Hampf said.

After 10 minutes, the students moved on to the next station, a bird-watching post led by seventh-grade science teacher Keith Paulk. Twenty-nine species of birds have been identified as living on or near campus and the students were given binoculars and a checklist to scout for them with Paulk’s help.

“I know it’s a foreign concept to you all but if you’re quiet, you’ll hear the birds before you see them,” Paulk said to the excited and chattering group of students.

After the required curriculum is finished at the end of the year, Paulk teaches students about native bird species. The number of names is overwhelming at first, but for many of them, it ends up being their best grade in the class.

The students were then walked across the field, past a pond and through the parking lot to another one of the school’s “outdoor classrooms,” which is outfitted with benches for students.

There, students were given cups made of newspaper to plant their own sunflowers at home and a scavenger hunt with items like “recycle a piece of litter” and “catch an insect.” Magnifying viewfinders were then provided for them to inspect bugs up close.

Other students ran around with nets chasing butterflies and dragonflies, and Cory Catts, an environmental scientist with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, taught students about wetlands ecology.

The bell rang to end another 10 minutes and students were escorted to their last station, an air-conditioned classroom where they could learn more about animals their fellow classmates kept as pets.

Three sixth-grade students brought in pets from home, including a dwarf rabbit, a bearded dragon and a sugarglider, to show off to their peers.

“I think you’d want to see exotic pets other than just dogs,” said Alex Caufman, the owner of Obi, a sugar glider, a small marsupial related to the possum with a sweet tooth and ability to glide through the air.

She smiled as students gathered around her laughing while Obi nibbled and licked at a purple Fruit Loop.

“I like to teach them about sugar gliders,” Alex said. “They think he’s adorable.”

Since 1970, millions of Americans have celebrated protecting the environment and sharing knowledge about sustainability. The passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.

Now, the Earth Day Network works with more than 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden the movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world, according to EDN.

Seven Springs has been celebrating Earth Day for four years now, and it’s a favorite event looked forward to by students yearly, Taylor said.

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