IS 52 marks Earth Day
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
At a street fair at IS 52, students found a new artistic medium.
The fair was organized as part of the Earth Day celebration organized by the school and a host of community organizations and businesses, including the Rotary Club of Inwood; EmblemHealth; the 32 BJ Training Fund; Con Edison; milliontreesNYC; Skraptacular; and growNYC on Mon., Apr. 22nd.
This year’s event boasted an outdoor parade, an assembly, music, and arts and crafts.
The latter was mined from what might otherwise be readily dismissed as “skrap”.
It turns out everyday can be Earth Day—and being an environmentalist can be as fun and challenging as re-thinking a yogurt container or candy bar.
“It all has meaning,” said Michelle Del Guercio, who has a love-hate relationship with trash.
The founder of Skraptacular, she finds ways of turning daily refuse like wrappers and containters into treasure.
“Our mission is to increase environmental awareness by working with children and communities by transforming trash into arts and crafts while teaching about sustainability, waste reduction and smart consumerism,” she explained.
Soon, a Skraptacular project will be seen at the 191st Street Station of the 1 train, as Del Guercio is working with students from local schools to make dream catchers that will be put on display.
Sporting a dress made of stitched together Fed Ex envelopes and wearing a hat with dangling baubles on Monday, she encouraged students to re-imagine empty yogurt containers, coat hangers, bits of string and even shredded candy bar wrappers.
The wrappers, she explained, are used in the Czech Republic for shipping.
Student Yarkiris Gómez embellished a used coat hanger with ribbon.
“I could use this to hang something,” she said.
Gómez said it was her first time doing art with trash, and she enjoyed it.
“It’s more creative. It’s definitely something you don’t see every day.”
The students were given Earth Day shirts that had been provided by EmblemHealth; the design was by Lisa Torres, an IS 52 student.
Del Guercio wasn’t the only one who had Earth Day advice to share; several students put together presentations to help inform their peers and members of the community on environmental issues.
Leslie Reyes and Emely Navarro, for example, offered information on how to protect neighborhood trees.
Don’t let dogs pee on trees, and don’t put plastic bags or strings on or near the trees, because that could affect their growth, they cautioned.
Also important to consider is the type of guard placed around the tree pit.
“Some fences prohibit growth,” they said.
Metal grates, for example, intended to protect trees them from trash end up damaging the trees.
Meanwhile, Jenny Hernández and Brittany Peralta illustrated the differences between energy-saving LED lights and incandescent lights.
“LED lights save energy and money,” they said.
Kyla Williamson, the president of the Rotary Club of Inwood, was also on hand, showing how old cartons can used to water trees in the neighborhood and to wash away harmful dog urine.
“We’re all trying to pitch in together,” she said.
Pam Scott, an IS 52 teacher, took the initiative to promote Earth Day activities at the school four years ago.
“A lot of environmentalist messages are punitive, rather than fun and inspiring,” said Scott, who sought to change that. As she spoke, students worked around her to turn trash into art, discussed the health of trees and different recycling methods.
“The fact that they do this is spectacular,” said Johnny Cobos, the Market Segment Manager for Emblem Health.
“They are so into this,” agreed Salvador Fernández, the principal of IS 52.
For Assistant Principal Luis Tejada, the approach was common sense.
“We thought we should bring the effort to the community,” he explained. “We know resources are limited and we’re going to run out.”
People are going to have to change their mindset, he explained.
“We wanted to plant that seed.”