Earth Day Festival makes caring for environment fun

April 24, 2011

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Chia creatures, beware! Some homegrown competition is sprouting up.

Visitors at the Earth Day Festival on Saturday at the Smith River Sports Complex learned from local Girl Scouts how to make dirt babies.

To make a dirt baby, fill a panty hose leg with grass seed and dirt, roll it up so it looks like a head and decorate it with a face, said Shawna Murdock, a member of Girl Scout Troop 53.

With watering and proper care, “it will grow out grass that looks like hair,” said 10-year-old Will Jarrett of Martinsville, who made one.

Watching the hair grow “can be really fun,” Murdock added.

The Earth Day Festival, sponsored by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, featured fun activities targeted toward young people. Along with the dirt babies, the activities included inflatable games, such as one similar to a basketball court with nets at each end. The children were tethered to the center of the game, which made it hard to reach the nets and dunk objects into them.

Live music and kayaking opportunities also were provided.

The purpose of the event was to help people learn how to have fun outside and care for the environment, as well as learn about resources available locally to help them do so, according to Tamara Poles, nature and outdoors education manager for the museum.

An attendance estimate was not available, but a large crowd was there looking at exhibits and playing on inflatables and athletic fields.

One exhibit taught people how to recycle to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. It noted that materials such as glass, plastic, paper and metal can be recycled to make new products such as toilet paper, jackets, purses and automobile parts.

Yard waste, such as grass clippings, and scrap food can be put in compost piles where it will erode and become vitamin-enriched fertilizer that can be strewn on gardens and house plants, the exhibit mentioned.

The Dan River Basin Association’s exhibit featured a large plastic container filled with water and macroinvertebrates — small creatures such as crayfish and snails that lack backbones. Macroinvertebrates found in rivers and other water bodies help maintain water quality, such as by eating bacteria.

Many people who stopped by the exhibit dipped their hands into the water and picked up the creatures for closer inspection.

The association provided festival-goers with information on the importance of keeping water clean.

“Several students were telling me more information than I’ve been giving them,” said DRBA President Wayne Kirkpatrick. He said that is good because it means they are retaining what they learn about the environment.

Kimberly Wilson of Martinsville brought her two children to the festival. She said it was nice because it was “something for families to do together.”

Kristen Jarrett, Will’s mother, said the sports complex itself is “just fantastic.”

“Anything they have out here to promote the community is just wonderful,” she said.


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