Support our mission
Third-grade students from Patrick Henry Elementary School in Heidelberg, Germany, learned about Earth Day through potting sunflower seeds and recycling. American school children across Europe took part in Earth Day activities.

Third-grade students from Patrick Henry Elementary School in Heidelberg, Germany, learned about Earth Day through potting sunflower seeds and recycling. American school children across Europe took part in Earth Day activities. (Rick Scavetta / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — When 9-year-old Will Smith joined classmates learning how to sort recyclables on Earth Day, recognizing the glass and plastic bottles came easy.

The apple cores and tree branches also posed no problem for Will, who identified them as garden waste. But then he came across that “white, fuzzy stuff like cardboard,” as he called it, pointing out a chunk of Styrofoam.

“It’s probably part of cardboard, like it says on the recycle bin,” Will said, adding that he wasn’t too sure.

Will and his classmates were among the 175 third-graders from Patrick Henry Village Elementary School who visited the housing area’s recycling center Tuesday.

They were also among the Department of Defense Dependents School students across Europe who took part in Earth Day activities that ranged from poster contests to planting trees.

Heidelberg classmate Marcel Simon prepared for the field trip to the recycling center by going first to the Internet. He found tons of pictures and information, he said.

“Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970,” Marcel said. “This guy… Nelson or something, he wanted the environment to have forests and trees.”

He got the gist of things.

In 1970, then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, founded Earth Day as a chance for Americans to take part in nationwide grass-roots demonstration on behalf of the environment. In the years since, the annual event has given educators a chance to influence young minds about Earth-friendly habits.

In past years, Heidelberg students visited a local nature preservation, said Astrid Blades, an environmental protection specialist from the 411th Base Support Battalion. This year, force protection measures prevented it.

“With security the way it is, we decided to just stay on post,” Blades said. “The recycling center was our only alternative under an Earth Day theme.”

After sorting recyclables, the children decorated flowerpots and planted sunflowers seeds. Students carried away their own ideas how planting flowers helps.

“They make your house nice,” Ayana Stanford said.

“It helps the community grow,” Chelsea Hattle chimed in.

“No, it helps refresh the air,” Thomas Trevino added.

The students recently finished a reading lesson on recycling, teacher Don Rayburn said.

“This was a nice way to follow up,” Rayburn said. “It puts a realistic touch to the classroom.”

Meanwhile, students as several other schools held their own Earth Day activities:

• Bitburg High School students wrapped up a three-week schoolyard beautification project where they planted 75 trees and bushes. At the elementary school, students pretended to be the Earth and wrote letters telling people how to better treat the planet. They also took trips to nearby woods and kept a journal on how the marigolds they planted are growing.

• Students at Spangdahlem and Ramstein designed paper bags that will be reused at the commissary. On Friday, Spangdahlem Elementary will hold an environmental fair with several earth-friendly displays.

• At Aukamm Elementary in Wiesbaden, students planted a beech tree in honor of James O’Donnell, a supply assistant who died in January.

• At Böblingen Elementary, students created Earth Day posters. A fifth-grade class plans to visit the Stuttgart water-processing plant.

• At La Maddalena, Italy, students dedicated a nature trail and planted vegetation around the school.

• As part of their science curriculum, students at Lakenheath High School in England regularly recycle white paper. Elementary students in Lakenheath are holding a can-collection contest that wraps up with a weigh-in Friday morning. The class with the most cans wins a prize.

• At Argonner Elementary in Hanau, students produced a play about the environment.

In Mannheim, the public works department sponsored a poster contest under the Army’s Earth Week theme of “Preserving the Environment While Protecting Our Freedom.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up