Environmental science can be cool, creative, and fun—that was the message at the fifth annual Cool Kids EcoFest on April 17th at Genesee Community College.
The EcoFest attracted 1,000 visitors to environmental displays and activities from over 50 green businesses and organizations—such as the Iroquois Nature Preserve, Braddock Bay Raptor Research, The Sierra Club, the Oatka Creek Watershed Committee, the NY Geographic Alliance, and the Wildlife Educators Coalition.
Lily Walker, 4, of Bergen, most enjoyed the display by The Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation. She gingerly cradled the free seedling the group gave her as her mother, Caroline, said she loved the event. Walker learned about EcoFest from a flier the Byron Bergen school district sent home. “It keeps the kids entertained while getting the message about the environment across to everyone,” Walker said.
That is the precise goal of the EcoFest’s Director Steve Appleton. Appleton created the event not just to make environmental issues appealing to children, but also to adults. “Most kids are already in-tune with recycling and the environment, but this is to help the whole family learn that environmental stuff can be fun,” Appleton said, “I specifically made it an after school event to address parents—to bring them into their kids world.”
Some displays parents seemed most drawn to were: Cabot Cheese samples, giveaways of TOPS Friendly Markets and Monroe County Dept. of Environmental Science reusable bags, a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid display and a Mercury Switch-Out sponsored by AAA of WNY where AAA removed the mercury switch hood lamp from cars 2002 or older.
Appleton also drew in people of all ages with free raffle tickets in exchange for donating e-scraps (such as old computers), old sneakers, and bottles and cans. The tickets could be used to enter drawings for green prizes, like a mountain bike. By the event’s end an astounding 26,000 pounds of electronic junk and 290 pairs of sneakers were collected for recycling.
The lessons of EcoFest made an impression on all who attended, especially a group of future teachers. The Genesee Community College Education Club staffed a “Let’s Morph – Butterfly Table.” Lauren Humphrey, an earth science major at GCC who will be transferring to SUNY Geneseo’s Geological Sciences program, learned some things she plans to apply to a future science classroom of her own. “This is such a great event for earth science,” said Humphrey, “I’ve watched the kids get so excited planting seeds and getting their free seedlings…that stuff is real and makes the environment real to them.”