Festival at Wissahickon Charter School combines education, fun and green ideas

At the entrance of Wissahickon Charter School’s Earth Day Festival, each attendee was given a scavenger hunt card. The goal was to visit the 10 tables and collect stamps to be eligible to win a solar car, said Juanita Nyce, director of development for WCS. A handmade toy car, that is.

The school’s parking lot was transformed into a hub of green activity for the festival last Saturday.

Tables full of used clothes, toys and household items were available for attendees to take home. There was also a presentation of biodiesel brewing, which was made by students from donated vegetable oil, and attendees were encouraged to participate in a community-built sustainable city.

Mostly the festival was a chance to display student work.

Trixie Steiner-Rose floated around different stations. At one point, she was at the piano table, where an nonfunctional piano was taken apart to make art. A big portion of the piano was made into a bench, she said.

The best part of the bench, according to Cypres Green, 8, was that the strings could still be played.

Smaller leftover pieces were spread on a table with glue and other materials to give people a chance to create art as well.

At the sustainable city table, an airport and city hall were built. But Zakariyya Allen, 9, thought it was missing one more thing: a goldfish museum, made from a Pepperidge Farm Goldfish box.

Other stations had information on how to reduce one’s carbon footprint, healthy snacks and environmentally friendly games, such as waste separation basketball, where people tossed bean bags with pictures into a compost, trash or recycle basket, said Mike Friedman, a science teacher at WCS.

“We have all our interests come together into one event,” he said of the environmentally focussed K-8 school.

Most of the tables belonged to students, but there were some outside vendors, such as Allison Zito, who danced around as she made a sign that asked why trees were important. And because she is so passionate about trees, she was ready to give people many answers.

“Trees provide so much,” she said. “They prevent erosion and are important to our water cycle. You forget these basic things when you live in the city.”

She even talked about how they provided shade – important in cities, which can also be heat sinks, and one of her favorite parts of trees. In the summer, she said, her backyard is always much cooler because of the collection of trees.

Zito has worked with WCS in the past on one of her other passions: solar cars.

She leads workshops for teachers, so that they can teach their students how to build the models to participate in the Franklin Institute’s solar car race.

Downstairs, where the playground is, everything was set up for solar car sprints. Two people could race their cars at a time. Siblings Jose Rosero, 9, and Caprice Nolan, 7, struggled to get their cars to run. So Jose went back to the table that had cars made of cups, jars and soda cans, determined to harness the sunshine and make it work.

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