Earth Day Program a Hit!

April 26, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Aberdeen Proving ground recently held Earth Day/Arbor Day Celebrations.
  • 500 students participated in the events.
  • Several hands-on experiments were held.

Under clear blue skies and seasonably warm temperatures, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) held its Earth Day/Arbor Day Celebration at the APG Youth Services Center, Friday, April 13.

The event was co-hosted by Child and Youth Services and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), and was largely funded through the ARL National Defense Education Program grant.

About 500 students from three Harford County Elementary Schools and the APG youth centers at Aberdeen and Edgewood participated in the event that ran from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. ARL and North Harford High School (NHHS) conducted nine hands-on experiments for the students, including one on alternative energy (snap circuits), how to collect insect specimens in the environment, and how animals adapt to their surroundings.

The students enjoyed quite a diverse experience at the Earth Day program. In addition to the ARL and NHHS hands-on science experiments, they learned about butterflies and bugs from a NHHS student whose hobby is entomology. In the afternoon, the U.S. Army Public Health Command presented their Entomological Sciences Program display that included hissing cockroaches.

The students also had the opportunity to see many different types of birds (American Kestrel, Red-Tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture and a Great Horned Owl) and reptiles (a wood turtle and a gray rat snake) that were on display by Scales and Tails from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Harford County Public Libraries Learn, Explore, and Play (LEAP) Coordinator from the Edgewood Library shared the LEAP: Science is FUN! Kits with the students. The LEAP Program is a series of fun, free, educational programming, and equipment kits that enhance interest and competence in these fields through the public library. Additionally, students saw firsthand how master gardeners worm compost and were provided demonstrations on the gardener's plant-a-seed program. The students also had the opportunity to participate in several hands-on presentations to include projects related to LED and incandescent light, making crafts out of recyclable materials and many other outdoor activities.

"It was exciting to have so many students come out and join the day's activities," said Dr. Sandra Young, of ARL. "We also had a couple of our GEMS (Gains in the Education of Math and Science) students from NHHS come with the environmental class and work with the younger students on Earth Day activities. It's a great example of our emphasis in train the trainer – where we mentor others, but emphasize them also mentoring their peers as well as younger students."

GEMS is a program that ARL runs at APG where students partake in a one-week hands-on experience working with scientists and engineers. Older students are asked to come for two weeks and mentor younger students.

The former GEMS students who participated through NHHS were Nicole Racine, daughter of Terri Racine, Survivability Lethality Analysis Directorate, and Shelby Pridgeon, daughter of Lori Pridgeon, Weapons and Materials Research Direcotrate. The ARL experiments revolved around energy topics.

"Nicole worked with students on electrical conduction through the human body and how it can complete a circuit to light up a ball," said Young. "She also explained the process of diffusion to the elementary school students through a 'Planet Earth Coffee Filter Craft."

"The Earth Day event was a huge success not only for the elementary school students, but for me and all the other young adults volunteering," said Racine. "I have been mentored by ARL scientists and engineers through the GEMS and SEAP programs, and this event was a wonderful opportunity for me to mentor the younger students and teach them how much fun and intriguing math and science can be."

Shelby hosted an outdoor activity where the students learned about animal communications. During the activity, students were blindfolded and instructed to made sounds like animals. The students then had to try to find another student making the same animal sound.

In addition to the day's activities, several students participated in the Earth Day poster contest. The students were invited to create a poster that celebrates the theme "Rethinking Recycling – It's Easy to Be Green." Students were encouraged to design their posters to be fun and motivational. Students were advised to create their posters so that they would inspire other students to discover the connections between science, chemistry, and recycling.

"It is interesting to see the visual expression of the Earth Day theme exhibited in the posters we received," said Dr. Lisa Marvel, of ARL. "The children are really creative!"

The poster contest winners will receive a DVD of the movie Earth, and a recycling bin from the Maryland Section of the American Chemical Society, and recognition from the ARL-APG Earth Day committee.

ARL scientists and engineers have a history of doing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) outreach during Earth Day. They've spent five years helping at Earth Day clean-ups and working with university student groups at the Maryland Science Center Earth Day event. They also ran a very successful Earth Day program at the APG Youth Center in 2010. Because of the positive impact of the 2012 Earth Day event/hands-on activities had on their students, teachers from North Harford Elementary School are forming a STEM group at their school.


Last Update / Reviewed: April 26, 2012