Knollwood turns Earth Day into health day
SALISBURY — While joining in a worldwide celebration of the planet, Knollwood Elementary School gave Earth Day its own spin.
“Normally, when Earth Day is celebrated, we focus on the recycling aspect, pollution and the environment,” Principal Shonda Hairston said. “This year, we wanted to do a different approach based on healthy living and healthy eating.”
Students and parents gathered for an outdoor “Earth Day Extravaganza” on Monday at the elementary school, where they learned easy, fun ways to eat healthy.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture brought a truck from the N.C. Farm to School program, which supplies school cafeterias with fresh, locally grown produce. It teamed up with Mobile Farm Fresh of North Carolina at the “Crunch-a-Color” booth, which featured a bright rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Visitors learned which health benefits tend to come with different colors, and they played a game that gave them points for choosing nutritious foods.
“We learned about which ones fight cancer,” said fourth-grader Elizabeth Leavitt. “I think it was really fun.”
Mobile Farm Fresh, a new year-round farmers market, will operate out of a repurposed city transit bus that is friendly to the environment. It will focus on low-income areas and offer healthy food and locally grown produce.
A nearby booth run by Novant Health Rowan Medical Center showed the other side of food, including a display showing how much fat is in various items.
Children and their parents learned about building a well-balanced meal by playing “My Plate Bingo.”
“We learned about balancing our foods. If you don’t, you could have stomach and heart problems,” said fifth-grader Bertha Figueroa. “You should eat more vegetables and fruits, because it gives your body more health.”
Parents said they enjoyed the cooking demonstration by Dennis Sipp — especially when they got to sample the results.
Students in different grade levels also participated in Earth Day activities during class time.
In the past, Hairston said, each class would usually celebrate the day on a smaller scale with individual activities. This year, the school decided to give them several common projects.
“When people typically think about Earth Day, they think about giving back to the Earth,” she said. “This year the approach is what the Earth gives to us.”
During one definitely-not-typical way to celebrate the earth, kindergartners milked a “cow” made of wood and a metal barrel. The children raced to fill milk cartons with water and transport them to the “market” in a toy truck.
In addition, the kindergartners planted beans in cups of soil and watered them, after pretending to till the ground in a plastic pool filled with soil.
“The curriculum we’ve been talking about is living and non-living things,” said Carol Lesley. “We talked about the parts of the seed and what the beans needed to grow.”
A third kindergarten station involved imitating the way chickens eat by putting their hands behind their back, pecking and clucking.
As they giggled through the different activities, the children learned about the importance of farming.
“They loved it, and I loved it,” Lesley said. “The time went by so fast.”
Third-graders also planted seedlings in cups Monday. As their lessons continue, they will watch their miniature gardens grow.
“I like that I got to experience what it was like to plant flowers,” said Kayla Cordero, who chose marigold seeds.
Philip Cressler said he planted squash.
“I thought it was fun, and we got to wear the T-shirts we made,” he said. Their matching shirts were tie-dyed blue and green, like the globe.
Rayland Anderson, a fourth-grader in the Academically and Intellectually Gifted program, said he learned about beneficial ways that humans can use the Earth. For example, instead of running on a treadmill made in a factory, people can run outside in nature.
“The Earth is here for a reason, and we’ve got to respect it and use it,” Anderson said.
Other event sponsors included:
• N.C. Farm Bureau
• Bread Riot
• Rowan-Salisbury Child Nutrition Department
• Rowan County Cooperative Extension Service
• Rowan County Health Department
• Healthy Solutions Unlimited
“I think we had a great turnout, and the parents seemed to really appreciate it,” Hairston said.
Wendy Hayes, the mother of two children at Knollwood, said she thinks it’s great that the school offered a health-focused Earth Day program.
“My father just recently had a triple bypass surgery, and my youngest son was born with a heart condition, so I’ve been looking for better ways to eat healthier,” she said. “That’s hard to do when you weren’t brought up to do things that way.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.