Day, 2008--Riverhead, NY) There is an earthiness to the atmosphere at
the Aquebogue Elementary School. On a warm day with the wind from the
south a breeze brings an olfactory reminder that the duck farm is still
just down the road. That earthy smell is a gentle reminder of Aquebogue's
rural beginnings. The sign outside the school's main entrance, with
boats on the bay, reminds us that the bay is indeed just a short walk
away. It should be no wonder then that this school capitalizes on its
location and Earth Day/Arbor Day to remind its students of how important
it is for them to be caretakers of the beauty that surrounds them.
“Make Every Day Earth Day” was the motto
that inspired hundreds of individual posters during a week of learning
events, but the art-related learning started much earlier in the year
with an art project entitled “The
PolyBear Project has received
national recognition," notes Aquebogue Principal Phil Kent. "Similarly
to last year's Bottlebug
Project (a huge caterpillar made out of large recycled detergent
bottles), this project will be featured in the coveted children's magazine,
Scholastic News. The publisher has contacted us and with our
permission asked to display pictures of the Polybear project in their
April/Earth Day issue."
All 435 students at the Aquebogue School collaborated with Maureen Ahern,
their art teacher, Marta Baumiller, a professional sculptor and milliner,
and Cliff Baldwin, a professional artist, to make four large polyethylene
polar bears from thousands of recycled plastic shopping bags collected
at the school. (Last year, they also made a 4 foot by 22 foot ceramic
wall mosaic made entirely of old broken or chipped china, ceramic tiles,
plates, mugs, beach class, rocks, shells, glass marbles and other colorful
recycled items. It was entitled “Saving
"With this outdoor sculpture project, we hope to bring attention
to climate change and the plight of Polar Bears and other creatures
living in the arctic region," explains Mrs. Ahern. "By recycling
our bags we can also learn about all the plastic we create on earth
and how we can reuse it. In addition to the outdoor sculptures placed
in and around the school,"
she continues, "we made polar bears out of clay, polar bear drawings
and created our own reusable shopping bag."
March, Aquebogue’s “Odyssey
of the Mind” team won second place in their division
in this international competition. The problem the Aquebogue team chose
to depict in the skit they presented as part of the competition centered
on “Global Warming.” Their skit, which was presented as
part of the final assembly of a weeklong celebration of Earth Day, is
a colorful representation of how three eccentric characters deal with
the effects of global warming, which has placed Aquebogue underwater.
This scenario while not immediate may be eminent.
Most of the week’s learning events, however, were focused on what
the students can do right now to help protect the environment.
The kickoff event was held on Monday, April 14th, with “The
Bodacious Book Show III” presented by Agostino Arts.
This presentation explored books about animals, adventure tales and
poetry and featured “Home in the Sky,” a classic folktale
about the sun, moon, and ocean in which the whole audience and 12 volunteers
help to create an ocean full of life.
Tuesday, April 15th, the students received a visit from the Department
of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Each class rotated
between four stations set up outside that gave them information on:
(1) the danger of oil spills and how they can be prevented and cleaned
up--stressing the fragility of the water table and the importance of
keeping the bays and sound clean; (2) the types of fishes found in water
areas around Aquebogue and what is being done to protect them presented
by an officer from the Fishery Department; (3) what the students can
do to protect wild life and endangered species in a presentation given
by a wildlife officer; and (4) how to identify insects and small animal
life found in marsh areas.
Third graders study the water cycle. On Wednesday, April 16th, the third
graders had an assembly on “Storm
Water” presented by Mark Cappellino, a storm water
educator from Cornell Cooperative. His skit featuring Detective Stormy
Waters attempts to make the students think about storm water runoff
and how oil spills, litter, “pet poo,” and other controllable
items can affect the water table and road runoff into the bays.
On Thursday, April 17th, first and second graders took a field trip
to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge to view a variety of snakes, turtles,
and tortoises and to learn about various reptiles their life cycles,
and the human impact on local species.
Friday, April 18th, the kindergartners celebrated Arbor Day early by
planting five trees donated by Peat and Son from Half Hollow Hills,
Matt’s Landscaping and Tree Farm in Manorville, and Shade Tree
Nursery in Jamesport.
The kindergarten classes each had their own tree to plant. They poured
in a carton of soil, learned about the type of tree they were planting
and then had what Principal Phil Kent called an “Oprah Moment”
when they held hands, closed their eyes and envisioned their hopes for
“I hope it has a long and healthy life,” intoned one little
kindergarten student after another.
The presentation at the final assembly kept things close to home as
Riverhead’s own “Mr.
Clean Up,” George Bartunek from the Town Council,
spoke to the children about how they can make a difference in keeping
Riverhead clean and environmentally safe.
Photo Caption: Aquebogue’s “Odyssey of the Mind” team
presented their skit on global warming at the final Earth Week assembly.
Photo Caption: Kerri Stromski’s kindergarten class watched as
a representative from the DEC showed them how a gas spill could leak
into the sound and the water table.
Photo Caption: It was a Kodak moment as PTO representative Sue Koukounas
snapped a shot of Mrs. Skop’s kindergarten class and Aquebogue
Principal Phil Kent after the planting of a Red Maple donated by Peat
and Son of Half Hollow Hills as part of Aquebogue Elementary School’s
week long celebration of Earth Day.
Photo Caption: The presentation at the final assembly kept things close
to home as Riverhead’s own “Mr. Clean Up,” George
Bartunek from the Town Council, spoke to the children about how they
can make a difference in keeping Riverhead clean and environmentally
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