Teens, Kids Celebrate Earth Day at PaliHi




10-PaliHi Earth Day-beeContinuing a tradition started 12 years ago, Palisades High School students hosted Palisades Elementary students on Earth Day, April 22. This event, under the leadership of AP environmental teacher Steve Engelmann, allows students to use their creativity to teach first- through fifth-grade students important messages about Mother Earth.

“I ask my students to think of a way to teach kids about saving the environment,” Engelmann said. “But I don’t want them to depress the kids; instead, I 10-PaliHi Earth Day-polar bear gamewant my students to figure out ways to empower the younger students.”

The PaliHi baseball field was filled with booths, displays and interactive games that highlighted environmental problems.

At one site, juniors and seniors were helping third graders make cilantro planters by putting seeds in dirt in individual egg slots from egg cartons—“The cartons are biodegradable, so the kids can plant them directly in the ground.”

At another table, Llewyn St. John said: “We’re showing kids how to make things out of recycled items.” The younger students were rolling small strips of paper from magazines into beads to put on strings to make bracelets and necklaces.

“When I was little we bought a kit,” Carly Weitz said. “But this is better because it uses the magazines that are just lying around the house.”

11-PaliHi Earth Day-windcatcherAt another booth, Justin Tahara, Bella Escobedo, Genna Torgan and Alexis Dornan displayed a collection of small stuffed animals. Kids chose one, put the animal in a mixture of oil and water (like an oil slick), then pulled it out and were given a toothbrush and soap to try to scrub the oil off.

Yet another stop had a variety of items spread out, including eggshells, tea bags, newspapers, chips and carrot shreds, and bottles and cans. Elementary kids tried to figure out where the garbage should go—compost or recyclables.

About four years ago, Karyn Newbill’s honors marine biology class joined the AP environmental students in setting up booths.

“My students work so hard,” she said. “I asked them all to produce a booth. There were 21 proposals and I chose 12.”

This year her students came up with the idea for turtle tag. As Jonah Jacobson explained, “There’s a lot of natural predators like sharks, dogs on the beach, and then there are new resorts taking away the habitat, so these kids are playing turtles trying to get to the shore.”

The turtles (kids with backpacks) lined up and tried to make it to shore (across the field) with an egg, before they were tagged by a shark (another student).

Another interactive game was polar bear icebreaker. Much like musical chairs, kids pretending to be polar bears walked around giant Legos; when the music stopped, they attempted to 11-PaliHi Earth Day-turtle + shark gamefind a place to stand on them. After each round, another Lego disappeared, much like a shrinking ice shelf—leaving less room for the bears/kids.

“We were brainstorming in class,” Phillip Bordenave said, and the idea came up.

“We were looking for a traditional game that kids play but with an environmental message,” Nick Bell added.

In the middle of the baseball field, there were colorful twirling plastic wind catchers made from water bottles. “Students wanted to alert kids that even though people recycle, water bottles are downcycled, instead of recycled,” Engelmann said.

Megan Lewis, Kaylee Chung and Griffin Finck said, “We got all of these water bottles from trash cans. Then we show the kids how to re-purpose them.”

Lewis said, “We have calculated that if you take one water bottle to school every day, starting when you’re a first grader, by the time you graduate, you will have used 2,160 bottles. We urge them to use reusable water bottles.”

Chung said, “We show them the numbers on the plastic bottles, so they know what can be recycled. But we all brought our own water bottles to set an example.”

“The thing I liked most about today,” Engelmann said, “was when my kids were setting up, some of them said ‘I remember when I was in Palisades Elementary and came here.’ Now they’re doing it.”

He told about showing a slide show from a previous year prior to Earth Day, which showed the elementary school students. One kid in his class said, “That’s me.”

Newbill said that Marquez and Canyon have also shown interest in participating, but that transportation and parking at the site are problematic. “We’re working on maybe taking an abbreviated Earth Day to those campuses.”


Leen Almahdi was part of a team that helped kids understand the importance of bees. Photo: Steve Engelmann


P.J. Bordenave removes the “ice” or Legos as “polar bears” students try to survive. Photo: Steve Engelmann


One student playing a shark tries to tag the student playing the turtle—preventing the “egg” being buried in the sand. Photo: Steve Engelmann


Palisades High students Lauren Welborn and Megan Lewis (right) work with Palisades Elementary students on wind catchers. Photo: Steve Engelmann

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