By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – In honor of Earth Day April 22, the Marion E. Zeh School Environmental Team had its annual Environmental Awareness Week the last week of April. Activities and presentations were planned for each day of the week to encourage students, teachers and families to learn about the importance of taking care of the earth.
The week was kicked off with a presentation on honeybees by Worcester County Beekeepers Association Program Director Ken Warchol. He is a sixth-generation beekeeper and has been interested in beekeeping since he was 5 years old. During his presentation he discussed the type of bees and their duties to the hive, the honeybee life cycle, pollination and the importance of honeybees to people.
Students also enjoyed learning facts about honeybees, such as the queen bee lays 1,200 eggs each day; bees travel up to three miles from their hive; about 100 pounds of honey can be made from just one hive; and to start beekeeping as a hobby only takes about $100.
Warchol has been collaborating on a Harvard University study on why honeybees are dying. There is much concern over the use of pesticides and the effect on the health of honeybees.
“Over 30 percent of the food we eat is thanks to honeybees,” he said. “There is a big impact if honeybees keep dying.”
Other events at Zeh included a Walk and Bike to School Day and a Read Outside Day. In addition, students helped plant flowers around the school gardens and learned about the importance of reducing waste as students started to compost during lunch time.
The Environmental Team was created by a student a few years ago who had interest in determining the amount of trash produced at school. Trash was weighed classroom by classroom for a week with the goal of raising community consciousness to reduce waste by reusing and recycling. The team evolved from there with specific goals to raise awareness of environmental challenges and human responsibilities and to enable the means for the development of healthy bodies, minds and environments. The team is led by parent volunteer Selvi Oyola and the success of the group is due to the efforts and support of Principal Susan Whitten and additional parent volunteers Lisa Gascamp, Jeanette Morgan and Meg Varnes.
The team is comprised of students in third through fifth grade who meet during lunch hours for 8- to 10-week sessions in the fall and spring. Students help to generate ideas for learning and then engage in volunteer-developed lesson plans and discussions while carrying out activities to green the school.
The lessons vary but in the past included topics on waste management, no-waste lunch boxes, energy use, conservation, water cycle, life cycle, endangered species, sustainability, soil and natural habitats.
Zeh School is currently the only Northborough Public School with a composting program in operation. The compost bins were purchased with profits from the team’s annual electronics recycling event. Students have conducted scientific experiments to evaluate the soil and use the compost in the school gardens.
Whitten recently announced that their efforts and commitment to being green has earned a membership in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Team. This is a statewide program providing materials and educational resources for K-12 schools to encourage school and community members to be green.
“The team is excited to continue to run their existing programs while looking for more opportunities to being more sustainable by expanding their recycling programs and community events,” said Whitten.