Earth Day revolves around Nelson - one last timeBlame it on a child's complaint.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Blame it on a child's complaint.
Fifteen years ago, Steve Nelson's second-grade daughter came home with news that there wouldn't be a spring field trip that year for her class.
The seed was planted.
"I'd been toying with the idea of an environmental seminar," said Nelson, a Red Wing High School teacher.
The solution he settled on became the first Earth Day at Red Wing High School, an event that has been pairing high schoolers and elementary students since 1994.
The goal was simple, he said.
"To make people aware of the need to think of the environment and the protections that are necessary," he said.
But as the event marks its 15th anniversary today, it also represents Nelson's last year as coordinator. He retires at the end of the school year.
High School Principal Beth Borgen said enthusiasts of the popular event shouldn't fear.
"It is my intention to keep Earth Day as Steve envisioned it and has grown it to become," she said.
She knows the impact the event has had. In fact, Borgen said she recently spoke with the parents of high school students who had constructed bird feeders years ago at Earth Day as second-graders.
"They are still hanging in the tree," Borgen said.
The event got on its feet with the help of Nelson's fellow teachers. After spreading the word, David Glover and Mark Johansen said they would help prepare stations for the now-iconic birdhouses.
"They just volunteered," Nelson said Monday.
As the years passed, more Earth Day activities were added. More departments joined in. The event had become a hit.
This year's event, which runs all day at the high school, includes everything from the high school's theater department to a state forester. First- and second-graders will move from station to station, where high school students and outdoors experts present learning activities.
"They just love it," said English and theater teacher Jillynne Raymond.
She is overseeing the high school student-produced play "Hug a Bug," which aims to teach elementary students the usefulness of bugs in a garden.
Junior Andrew Szatkowski will be part of a presentation on local stream life. Younger students will get a chance to scoop up aquatic life gathered from local creeks, then put them under a microscope.
It's cool, Szatkowski said - "teaching them about the stream and what goes on in a stream."
The birdhouse operation has been refined to a virtual science. Once students arrive in the industrial technology workshop, they will assemble one every eight minutes and 49 seconds, Nelson said.
Glover's special education students have played a critical role in fabricating birdhouse materials, Nelson said.
"We could not do that without their assistance," he said.
This year students will plant about 1,000 trees on the high school's southeast lawn. Over the years, elementary students have helped plant white pine, white cedar, white spruce, red pine and oak.
Today also marks the beginning of a new tradition Borgen hopes will endure. Dubbed the Community Day of Caring and Sharing, the event puts every high school student and staff member in touch with local projects. Activities include planting trees, cleaning local parks, reading to children, and building sand volleyball courts.
"Hopefully the Community Day of Caring and Sharing will gain the respect and the following that Earth Day has at the high school," Borgen said.