West Point Elementary Celebrates Earth Day by Planting Tree

Sharon Schuler Kreps
I remember the first time I heard the term Earth Day. I was a teacher in 1970 and I heard on the radio they were having this big celebration and telling all about it.”
Ethalene Harbison


WEST POINT – On Thursday, April 21, third-grade students from West Point Elementary had a special Earth Day guest. Kathy Holmes from the Cullman County Soil & Water Conservation District visited the students and spoke to them about the history of meaning of the day. Afterwards, a tree, donated by Wallace State Community College’s Agricultural Production/Sustainable Agriculture program, under the direction of department head Anthony Hilliard, was planted in teacher Audrey Parker’s outdoor classroom.

“The children learned about natural resources and our responsibility to care for the Earth and its natural resources,” said Parker. “They were taught that soil is a limited natural resource and it is very important not to pollute our soil.”

Mrs. Ethalene Harbison, a retired school teacher and volunteer, recalled the very first Earth Day in April 1970.

“I remember the first time I heard the term Earth Day,” recalled Harbison. “I was a teacher in 1970 and I heard on the radio they were having this big celebration and telling all about it, ‘We are going to run out of water and fresh air.’ I thought, ‘That’s not right. God has given us all this stuff for all these years; all my life.’ I kept thinking about that, I kept hearing about it and seeing about it on TV. Then I got to thinking about it and before I knew it, I had done a full 180-degree turnaround; I was totally convinced and began telling everybody, ‘You better start taking care of your water and you better start taking care of your air. You better take care of your soil. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Don’t waste your water; when you brush your teeth, turn off the water, don’t waste your water and don’t waste anything!’”

Harbison turned to today’s students and spoke to them.

“If you throw a glass of water out on the ground, it’s gone but where does it go? It goes into the soil. And if that water is polluted, what happens? It pollutes the soil. You see, all of you know that and here I was a grown woman with four children and going to college. I didn’t even have the knowledge to know that we would run out. So now, you already know thanks to your parents and your teachers and all your hard work. Well, that was what I needed to tell you,” she smiled at the children.

After Harbison spoke, the Earth Day lessons continued.

“The children learned that trees are very important to us,” said Parker. “Trees pull vitamins and minerals that we need to be healthy from the soil.  We eat fruit and nuts produced from trees.  The roots of trees and plants keep loose soil from eroding.” 

The students were then given bracelets to wear as a daily reminder that every day should be Earth Day. They were challenged to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as they can to protect our environment.

In the end, a beautiful tree was planted in the outdoor garden behind the library. The students were excited and enjoyed posing for pictures next to the new addition to their garden.

For more information about the Cullman County Soil & Water Conservation District, visit http://cullmanswcd.com/about.html.

Learn more about WSCC’s Agricultural Production/Sustainable Agriculture program, see https://www.wallacestate.edu/programs/technical-division/agricultural-production.