Golden Valley Health Centers gathered children from south Merced to celebrate its own version of Earth Day late last week.
Students from Alicia Reyes Elementary and Tenaya Middle School, as well as other children from the community, participated Friday in a variety of games and activities designed to teach them how to take better care of their planet.
According to GVHC Program Manager Mary-Michal Rawling, the centers celebrate Earth Day in May because students have testing and spring break in April, which can sometimes conflict with Earth Day celebrations.
Activities available for children Friday included arts and crafts with recycled materials, face-painting, a recycle relay course and information booths set up by local environmental groups.
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Some of the topics addressed were water pollution and discharge and alternative modes of transportation.
“We try to cover all aspects of what it takes to be an environmentally friendly community by teaching children how to reduce, reuse and recycle,” Rawling said.
Leah Brown, water conservation specialist with the city of Merced, said it is important to start educating children about the importance of being green at a young age.
“We just want to make sure that our children are on the right path so that they become responsible consumers of our water system,” Brown said.
She used the gathering as an opportunity to pass out reminders about the new watering schedule, information she hoped children will pass on to their parents.
The new “water diet” asks families to cut down outdoor watering to two days per week. The typical household uses about 70 percent of their daily water outdoors, so reducing usage to two days can make a significant difference, Brown said.
Similarly, Maricela Velasquez, a representative from the Air Valley District, talked to students about the “No Idling” campaign. This initiative asks parents to turn off their vehicles while they wait for their children to come out of school because vehicle emissions put children’s health at risk.
Velasquez suggested to students that they ask to be walked to school if they live within a mile. She also recommended using a bicycle to get to and from school.
GVHC’s Earth Day is an annual event organized by the centers’ staff and local members of AmeriCorps, a community service program that helps carry out health care, education and environmental protection projects.
“I think it’s just a fun way to learn about how we can improve our community as a whole,” Rawling said about putting on the event. “The reason why we do it at Golden Valley Health Centers is because we realize that people aren’t healthy unless the environment they’re in is healthy.”