Sorting through a basket of handmade cards during Bodkin Elementary School's 11th annual Environmental and Local Culture Fair on Saturday, fifth-grade student Alex Lyons retrieved a card she made by hand.
The card was decorated with colorful thumbprints and read "thumb body loves you."
Alex said she decided to buy the card because she thought it was funny and she wanted to support the Chesapeake Bay Fund which received all proceeds from the sale of student-made eco-crafts.
Her twin sister, Heidi, also purchased the handmade eco-craft she created. Painted to look like a fox, the craft was the bottom half of a recycled water bottle containing a tiny tree.
Hundreds of community members attended this year's fair which featured educational groups, local vendors and artisans, musicians, arts and crafts and more. Held in the Pasadena school's auditorium, rows of tables featured environmentally conscious goods, crafts sponsored by SCRAP B-More and educational presenters such as Anne Arundel County Recycling, Maryland Department of Environment, and Eco Adventures.
Outside, a mobile van filled with creatures from local waterways belonging to Philips Wharf Environmental Center entertained guests of all ages. The fish tanks inside the van displayed a variety of turtles, seahorses, horseshoe crabs, and blue crabs.
In the auditorium, tables featured handmade eco-crafts made by Bodkin students like Alex and Heidi. The sisters created their crafts during the school's global studies class taught by educators Melissa Major and Dana Kirby.
This year, students in kindergarten through fifth grade designed and created eco-crafts from reusable materials like water bottles, clothing, and bottle caps. In addition to recycled cards and tree planters, students created bowls, birdhouses and necklaces. Fourth-graders also created drawstring bag games made from sleeves of recycled tee shirts.
Major said she was particularly impressed with the "ingenuity" her students demonstrated when designing and creating the drawstring bags.
"The kids constantly amaze us and surprise us by what they're capable of," she said.
Bodkin adopted the project-based global studies program last year. It's part of the Triple E Program, enhancing elementary excellence, which is slowly being rolled out in schools around Anne Arundel County, Major said.
When Bodkin announced its need for a global studies teacher, Major said she knew it was her calling. She previously taught second grade at Bodkin for 10 years.
Major said the new course teaches students how to solve environmental issues such as the "plastic problem." The course also teaches students how to be "global citizens," helping them feel comfortable in other cultures.
Major said global studies teaches students to see "beauty in the world."
The environmental fair is the culminating event for the global studies environment unit.
Working behind the scenes to create a fun and educational event for the community were three mothers and PTA members whose sons are students at Bodkin.
Event co-chairs Jen Aiken, Kristin McCreery and Andrea Palmisano have previous volunteer experience at the environmental fair; the women are also educators in different capacities.
McCreery began volunteering as an event co-chair five years ago. She says the fair has continued to evolve. While the fair has grown, she reveled, "it's mission has remained the same, environmental awareness."
The fair was started 11 years ago to help spread environmental awareness to students, parents and the surrounding community.
Aiken says the women are "kindred spirits" who care about being environmentally friendly. She began volunteering for the fair two years ago. Aiken is a part-time educator at the National Aquarium and feels the fair is "right up her alley."
Palmisano, a teacher in Baltimore County, said she volunteers because she's learning more about the environment and making sure her son is "well aware of it." She started helping with the fair three years ago.
The women started planning this year's fair at the beginning of the school year. McCreery estimates each co-chair has invested 30 to 40 hours of time into planning the event.
"It's a big effort," she said.
At least 10 other PTA parents also volunteered at the event. Plus, many of the vendors selling goods are parents or grandparents of Bodkin students.
McCreery, a teacher at Magothy Cooperative Preschool, says the fair was an overall success due to community involvement.
Aiken, McCreery, Palmisano all say Major's global studies class has impacted their children's environmental awareness.
"I love the curriculum in the global studies class...it's incredible," Aiken said.
Whether participating in beach clean-ups, collecting trash from the roadside or bringing a reusable straw to a restaurant, Aiken, McCreery and Palmisano say their sons are learning from a young age about making responsible, impactful choices to improve the environment.
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