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Nazareth Academy goes lights out for Earth Day

By JJ VELASQUEZ
April 22, 2010 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated April 21, 2010 at 11:22 p.m.

Peanut butter and bird seed cover the hands of eighth grader, Dodge Bludau of Nazareth Academy.

EARTH DAY FOUNDER

Earth Day was founded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson in 1970.

The federal government awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor it gives to civilians, for founding Earth Day.

Senator Nelson died on July 3, 2005. On his last Earth Day, although frail and in declining health, he joined his grandson at a school tree-planting ceremony to mark the day.

Source: Earthday.net

When Stacie Benavides met with Nazareth Academy Principal Scott Kloesel last week, a light came on to go lights out for Earth Day.

The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade private school in South Victoria went without electricity Thursday in observance of the global holiday for environment appreciation.

"It's a showing of appreciation for what God has given us," Kloesel said about the schoolwide shutdown of power.

The only electrical appliances used were refrigerators and freezers to store food for the day's lunch: a sub sandwich, salad and orange.

It's the first year the school went without power to observe Earth Day. First-graders, though, observed the holiday the past four years by going without power for a day, Benavides said.

"This is how first grade lives for the whole week of Earth Day," she said, gesturing to a classroom with open windows and powerless electronic equipment.

Blank computer monitors idled on teachers' desks as their SMART boards, interactive whiteboards that were introduced into the classrooms in the past few years, went unused.

SMART boards have become an integral part of instruction, and many Nazareth teachers adapted their lesson plans for the day.

Some of Sherry Kainer's third-grade students complained of the heat, but applauded their teacher for instructing the class without electricity. Students shouted, "Bravo!"

Kainer, though, said she did miss her SMART board, which can access the Web.

As she taught her class about volcanoes, she wanted to download photographs of the Icelandic eruption, but was strapped without her usual equipment.

"The hardest part is realizing how much we rely on technology," eighth-grade teacher Dana Howard said, adding that her classes enjoyed a nice breeze Thursday without the air conditioning units.

"I'm just glad Earth Day is in April and not July," she said with a laugh. "I don't think I'd be as willing."

The school's Earth Day activities also included making bird feeders out of recycled materials, planting a rosebush and releasing two doves.

Eighth-grader Shaughnessy Hall enjoyed working with the younger students on the crafts projects but said a bigger message goes along with the school's activities.

"We're in the middle of a crisis where some people just think they can throw things on the ground and it not hurt the planet," Shaughnessy said, adding that litter hurts wildlife and pollutes drinking water.

The school's conservation effort inspired Alyssa Bennett, also in eighth grade, to save power at home.

"We have never done this before, so it was like why don't I do this at my house?" she said.

Alyssa said her parents shut off the lights and air conditioning to celebrate Earth Day.

First-grade teacher Julie Janecka said, while it was tough teaching without power for the week, the school's Earth Day observance was refreshing.

"It's a breath of fresh air to just get rid of it and go natural," she said.

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