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Earth-friendly students show care – and disgust

Every day is Earth Day at Havermale High School, students and staff say, so celebrating the official day two days late Friday was no problem.

Students such as 18-year-old Sammy Smith, who has been learning about recycling and educating others at her school, have made helping the environment a yearlong project.

The junior is responsible for obtaining aluminum and plastic recycling bins for the high school. Also, she helped arrange for a “Dumpster audit,” from which students and staff learned a majority of what they’d thrown away was recyclable.

“It’s a shame more schools don’t celebrate Earth Day,” Principal Fred Schrumpf said. “Students want to be involved in change.”

Friday’s Earth Day celebration was a schoolwide effort. The event kicked off in the gym with drumming, a poem about pollution and a student-produced video showing them with cardboard signs – “Mother Earth is not your ashtray,” “Planet Forward,” “Plant a planet.”

“Earth Day is a time to remember we share the planet,” 17-year-old Naiombi Jones told an auditorium full of staff and students. “Support Earth every day.”

Each student participated in one of 25 groups that worked on messages about how to be kinder to the Earth.

“Cigarette butts are the No. 1 littered item on the globe,” read a sign at a table where students aimed to show how 300 produced cigarettes equaled the death of one tree. To emphasize their point, they ventured out around the school each day to collect cigarette butts.

They picked up a total of 4,182 – almost 14 trees – over seven days in the area around the high school, according to the data the students presented Friday. The butts were displayed in plastic containers along with a miniature tree made of wire and the cigarette filters. They found 2,558 butts on the first day in 10 minutes.

“It was hard,” said Connie McGaughy, an art teacher who advised the group. “The kids would say, ‘This is gross.’ And they’d get angry.”

Smith had a table where students could read about recycling. Another group of students displayed a natural bird feeder – a pine cone coated in peanut butter. A papier-mâché globe hung from a tree, bearing captions describing environmental problems: soil erosion on the East Coast because of a lack of trees; oil spills in Alaska; and a polar bear population in danger because of global warming.

Earth Day “is good for our school,” 15-year-old Jamie Heitman said. “We are making an effort.”