On a perfect spring day, the Friday following major state testing, elementary school students danced, played and learned lessons of the environment.

More than 600 fourth- and fifth-graders from seven schools in the Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts visited Fort Hood Earth Day events.

They learned interactively about water conservation and energy, ran a recycling relay and danced to the island rhythms of Shoemaker High School’s Pandemonium steel drum corps.

Wearing her green wig in light of a green day, Christine Luciano, Fort Hood environmental outreach coordinator said the day was an effort to impact a community, starting with the children.

Having learned science, math and reading in the classroom — subjects tested earlier this week — Luciano said the Earth Day activities helped reinforce lessons while students enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors.

“I’ve observed the reinforcement of lessons about the four regions of Texas,” said Charlotte Pernell, Duncan Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, while at a station with animal and human artifacts.

“They have made great connections about reusing and recycling,” she said. “I heard a student suggest using an old door for a table and turning an old tire into a swing. It’s also a beautiful day to unwind and to incorporate learning and fun.”

One station included a map of a watershed and showed the impact of over-fertilizing and allowing animal waste to drain into rivers, streams and lakes. Other stations addressed air quality and gardening.

Students also got to run a relay, picking up as many recyclable materials as possible and sang and danced at a station that used elements of the movie “Despicable Me” to consider despicable trash.

Fourth-graders Aiyonna Harris and Xander Rivera of Peebles Elementary School said they learned the importance of cleaning up after pets to keep animal refuse from polluting waterways.

“When people litter, they pollute and can make animals sick,” Xander said.

“I didn’t know that recycling could be a game,” said Jerich Cerrada, a Peebles fourth-grader. “You should clean up after your pets. We want the environment clean for endangered animals. Today is awesome.”

That is the testimony Luciano loves to hear. She said children take positive messages about taking care of the earth home to parents and that events like Earth Day remind community leaders of the need to care for the planet.

“It gets better every year,” she said of the event. “We moved it to the pavilion (from the former stadium) into a natural setting that emphasizes the environment.”

“The best part is they are learning to care for the earth locally,” said Peebles teacher Karen Young. “They’re learning things they can do at home — recycling, composting, learning facts about water consumption.”

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