Walking to save rain forest

By Virginia Ross

Walking to save rain forest

The number of students participating in the second year of the walk has grown.

EAST PALESTINE For Tommy Patterson and Courtney Loyd, spending one class period walking the high school track is a small price to pay for making their world a better place.

The past several months, the two seventh-graders have been instrumental in promoting awareness of environmental concerns among their peers at East Palestine Middle School. On Friday they were among the 90 students and four teachers participating in a walk-a-thon designed to raise awareness and generate money to benefit and help protect and preserve the Madagascar Rain Forest. Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The Madagascar Rain Forest is often considered to be the world’s highest conservation priority, the youths explained.

“Our goal this year was to increase awareness, and we’ve done that,” explained 13-year-old Patterson, of Unity Township. “Last year, the first year we had the walk, 65 students walked. This year we had 89. That shows growth and that’s what we were after. We’re really happy about that.”

The project, Protect-An-Acre/Walk-A-Thon, was organized and promoted by the environmental club Project Green Kids 2, an effort developed by Jean Metzger’s EXCEL Program for Gifted Students at the middle school.

Metzger said efforts to protect the Madagascar Rain Forest have been conducted in more than 10,000 schools across the country through a special network of educators called the Earth Foundation. By raising funds to help the rain forest, students have a goal to adopt 20 acres or to raise at least $700 to protect plants and animals there. East Palestine Middle School pupils collected pledges for one week and raised more than $885 through walk-a-thon sponsorships, including a donation by East Palestine Mayor Sonny Hull, who also participated in Friday’s walk.

Other activities at the school have included a paper recycling program. Part of that effort involves the students’ making note pads from used paper.

“We also try to encourage everyone to do something every day to help the environment,” explained Loyd, 12, of East Palestine.

Even if it’s shutting off lights that aren’t being used, recycling, and eat waste-free lunches, the youths explained.

They said walk-a-thon participants who raised $20 or more through sponsorships and donations received a complimentary T-shirt. Pencils made out of recycled denim were distributed and the class with the most participants earned a smoothie party.

Metzger said last year the school adopted 29.1 acres of the Osa Peninsula Rain Forest in Costa Rica as part of the 20 Acre Club, raising over $700 to go toward the effort.

“The thing is it can be hard to get the kids to conceptualize an area of the rainforest when we talk about a certain number of acres that are affected or impacted by people and the way we choose to live,” Metzger said. “By walking a mile that gives them a better idea of areas and distances and everything. I think they get a better idea of what we’re talking about.”

She said the projects have helped pupils learn the impact of consumer choices on rainforests, how recycling helps and ways they can express their concerns and opinions to public officials, governmental leaders and corporations.

“We’re really pleased with how the walk turned out,” Metzger said . “It was successful and most important, it was a great learning experience that also allowed the students to make an impact by participating in a good cause. They were able to put what they’ve learned into something positive they could participate in and know they’ve made a difference. That is definitely a successful effort.”

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