More than 400 young students from across St. Croix gathered Tuesday for the Eco Fair at the St. George Village Botanical Gardens to learn how to protect the Earth. Judging by their enthusiasm and energy, the planet will be in good hands when they come of age.
This was the 19th year the Eco Fair has been held to mark local observation of the international event, Earth Day. The fair brought together island students from the fourth, fifth and sixth grades to learn about the environment. This year’s theme was "Sustainability."
Many of those young people arrived at the fair by marching more than a mile from the office of the V.I. Waste Management Authority. Escorted by police, the youngsters chanted, sang and waved signs urging passing motorists to stomp out litter as their procession stretched down the Queen Mary Highway.
Once they arrived at the garden, there was a wealth of booths and presentations by 21 agencies offering the students activities, entertainment and insight into how they can help protect the environment.
"It’s a celebration." said fifth-grader Joshua Francis, one of more than 100 students who came from Evelyn Williams Elementary School. "We’re learning how to save the Earth and to prevent all kinds of disasters."
Many of the students finished the Litter Stomp and immediately took a nature walk across the gardens, learning the names and scientific designations of different types of trees. Others sat under an awning singing an Earth Day song led by Jan Hart.
At one table, Benjamin Keularts of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources talked about how he monitors water quality; while at another table, Kinesha Sylvester of the V.I. Energy Office showed the kids a variety of alternative energy options that could lower bills and provide a cleaner environment.
John Farchette of the St. Croix East End Marine Park showed the children photos of wildlife entangled in plastic trash. David Goldstein of the National Park Service displayed how we can learn about past residents of the island by examining their trash.
Pottery shards found in Christiansted help tell a tale of white masters and black slaves working together, and even deeper finds give clues about the original inhabitants of the island, the Caribs and Arawaks.
Other individuals, agencies and businesses taking part included the naturalist Olasee Davis, naturalist Ras Lamumba, naturalist Veronica Gordon, the Seven Seas Water Corp., the St. Croix Environmental Association, the Nature Conservancy, the University of the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Reef Jam, VIWMA, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service and the Botanical Gardens.
Schools registered to attend included Alexander Henderson Elementary, AZ Academy, Charles H. Emmanuel Elementary, Claude O. Markoe Elementary, Country Day, L & D Homeschool, Eulalie Rivera Elementary, Evelyn Williams Elementary, Free Will Baptist, Lew Muckle Elementary, Pearl B. Larsen Elementary, Randolph Lockhart Christian, School of the Good Shepherd and the Good Hope School.
The Eco Fair and Litter Stomp are part of the VIWMA’s environmental education outreach to students to educate them on the hazards of littering.