Island Students Celebrate Earth Day at Friends of VINP Fair

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Gifft Hill School senior Carson Wessinger, center, shows a Julius E. Sprauve School student and a fellow GHS student the ins and outs of a solar powered light bulb and a solar powered toy car at the annual Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park Earth Day Fair.

From digging for artifacts to painting a mural, St. John students were all smiles while learning about the environment at the Friends of V.I. National Park’s annual Earth Day Fair last week.

While Earth Day was officially April 22, Friends of VINP hosted its annual fair to not conflict with school closings for Good Friday.

Early in the morning, students from all island schools participated in a “Litter Stomp” parade from Julius E. Sprauve School to the VINP ball field. Students waved placards they made about keeping garbage off the beaches and protecting the reefs.

Delroy “Ital” Anthony shares his knowledge of local plants with event-goers.

Gifft Hill School eighth graders even composed a chant of, “Help preserve our paradise; Help preserve our beaches; Help preserve our wildlife; That’s what Gifft Hill teaches.”

GHS Education And Resiliency Through Horticulture (EARTH) program students brought a sampling of what they’ve been propagating at the school with them to the fair. With roots, fruits and leaves on display, students showed off carrots, radishes, parsley, collards, bok choy, pineapple, bell peppers, pomegranate, okra and eggplant.

“It’s really fun to grow the plants,” said Makeda Dawson, a GHS eighth grader who takes part in the EARTH program. “I love being able to eat the food we make after all the hard work.”

Students will continue to develop their patio garden and outdoor classroom, explained EARTH coordinator Kristin Bennett.

“We hope to double the number of plants in our patio garden next year,” said Bennett. “We’ve also planted fruit trees and we’re going to expand our outdoor classroom as well.”

GHS seniors led younger students on a “fish find” on land, where students identified pictures of fish commonly found around St. John.

Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education (CORE) officials were at the fair talking about lionfish with students and what they should do if they spot one in the ocean. CORE even had several examples of the invasive fish on hand for students to observe.

V.I. Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) manager Jamie Irving brought two friends along with him to the fair. Bunny and Rabbit are red-footed tortoises and Irving taught students the difference between turtles and tortoises, while leaving at least one student hoping for a new pet soon.

“I’m going to ask my Mom if I can get a pet tortoise,” said one St. John Christian Academy student.

Dan Kreofsky of Maho Bay Glassworks

Students were able to tear cotton sheets to be used by Maho Bay Campground’s loom, turning the recycled sheets into beautiful rugs and bags. Dan Kreofsky of Maho Bay displayed his beautiful counter tops made with crushed glass and cement.

“The glass is the aggregate,” said Kreofsky. “You don’t need any sand or concrete.”

Using colored glass collected at the campground, Kreofsky created the counters for the new units recently completed at Estate Concordia Preserve and hoped to spread the word about the beautiful and eco-friendly counter tops.

“Even just crushing the glass, greatly reduces the space these bottles would take up in the landfill,” he said.

Delroy “Ital” Anthony showed students local plants and examples of jewelry and toys he crafted from trees, plants and seeds.

“I’m here making sure these kids know what these plants are and all the things they can do,” said Anthony. “And I’m making sure they are paying attention.”

Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service students at the University of the Virgin Islands brought a four paneled mural for students to paint. The mural is part of the group’s “The Reef is Closer Than You Think” campaign and officials hoped to hang the mural along the VINP field fence.

Other Earth Day Fair attendees included Annie Caswell of Kissed by Fire Creations, who showed students how to create pottery pendants, the St. Thomas Hibiscus Society, Animal Care Center, V.I Waste Management Authority, UVI’s Cooperative Extension Services and the V.I. Urban and Community Forestry Council.

Students also enjoyed face painting, yoga, drumming, hula hooping and digging in the playground sand for artifacts with VINP archaeologists.

Friends officials were thrilled with day’s success.

“Everything is going so well,” said Audrey Penn, the group’s program manager. “The fair is going better than I ever expected. This is the best one yet and I’m already thinking of ideas to make next one’s even more exciting.”