Earth Day
Students in Rankin Inlet top the list of young environmentalists

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 28/97) - Students at Leo Ussak elementary school in Rankin Inlet are looking into the future of the Earth.

For the third consecutive year, the school hosted Earth Day last Tuesday. Students used crystal balls to get themselves thinking about ways to save the environment.

Carla Villafana, a teacher at the school, said that each class was given a piece of scrap paper to draw a crystal ball that would show how the students want the world to look like in the future.

"They put on it what makes them happy -- ice fishing, swimming, sliding, biking and flying a kite -- they all said different things," she said.

An exercise in what the world needs to look like to keep people happy, said Villafana, it was a way to get the children thinking about how pollution affects them personally.

On Tuesday, the Leo Ussak students shared their celebration of the Earth with more than two million Canadians and 200 million people across the world.

Celebrated in more than 100 countries on April 22, Earth Day is a time to recognize environmental accomplishments and to focus on strategies for the future.

Environmentalists held the first Earth Day in the U.S. in 1970. By 1990, the celebration had grown to an international event with Earth Day merchandise that includes hats and T-shirts.

Though annual observations since then have faded in popularity in some areas, many still celebrate an entire Earth Week, complete with activities such as tree-planting, cleanups, fairs, workshops, concerts and parades.

Villafana said that the event is only one example of how the students at Leo Ussak elementary school are doing their part in saving the Earth. The students are the driving force behind all the school's environmental endeavors. "The children are the ones who are gung ho about it," she said.

The Grade 5 class learned about dumps, and even visited the community's dump to see what happens to all their garbage.

"We had recycling Olympics last year when we had to make useful things out of recycled materials," she said. "It was like a science fair."

The events are part of the daily routine at the school. "We are very environmentally conscious," she said.