BY Molly Congdon
‘What do we want?”
“A clean planet!”
“How can we do it?”
When do we want it?
This interaction occurred between Karigon Elementary School Principal Greg Wing (the questioner) and his students (the responders) as they kicked off the school’s 12th annual Earth/Arbor Day celebration May 29, a day on which creamy white swirls of clouds decorated the bright blue sky and the sun seemed to reach the shadiest of places.
On the grassy field of the primary playground, one may have thought that the kids had just stepped into a Skittles commercial; you could hear that voice whispering, “Taste the rainbow.” There were stripes of colors, like paint stroked on a canvas, that changed from purple, green, red, orange, yellow and blue similar to that of a rainbow — one of mother nature’s most vibrant displays. These hues were not caused by small droplets of water dispersing light and reflecting it back to the eye of the viewer like a tiny prism; instead, it was children clad in very vibrant T-shirts.
Similar to this marvel of a rainbow, the kids of Karigon opened our eyes to the true beauty of our home, Earth. Their actions served as a reminder to us all to step up our game in terms of taking care of our planet; as usual, the young are “the change we wish to see in the world,” guilt tripping those of us who have a few more years under our belts, like rings within the trunk of tree, to follow their lead.
Each row represented a different layer of the elementary school, ranging from kindergartens to fifth-graders. A large gathering of onlookers assembled in an arc around them.
Playing as they assembled was the old Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi,” updated by Counting Crows: “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got/’Til it’s gone/They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”
The kindergarteners and first-graders sang songs compete with choreographed dance moves; the second-graders crafted the banner in the front lobby of the school; the third-graders decorated the lobby display case; the fourth-graders planted a tree; and the fifth-graders wrote poems revolving around maintaining the health of our habitat.
There were also a few guest speakers who stepped up to the podium.
“Where could you take your parents on a field trip this summer?” Open Space Coordinator Jennifer Viggiani asked.
The responses included: “Ohio! African Savanna! Science Museum!”
“Those are all great answers, but there are also a lot of places that you can go to right here in town,” Viggiani said. “The Mohawk River, Vischer Ferry Preserve, Garnsey Park.”
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, another of the many adults in attendance, announced the winners of the Clifton Park poster contest awards. “We have preserved over 1,200 acres of open space just in the last decade,” he said. “It’s not just to enjoy it today, but for many years to come when you guys have children of your own.”
He continued: “At the Transfer Station, the old landfill — where we used to put our garbage — was covered and closed in the late 1980s. After lots of hard work we are finally going to be installing 3,000 solar panels on top.”
“Unbelievable!” one astonished first-grader blurted out.
The students impressed U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, as well. “Karigon gets it!” he said. “You celebrate Earth Day every day. Thank you for your actions.”
This year, there was an added element to create an even better educational experience for the kids: That morning they were able to go through many stations where they learned about topics such as hybrid cars, solar panels, composting and sustainable energy sources.
“Did you like it?” Wing asked the group.
“Yes!” the children shouted with enthusiasm.
The takeaway: Be greener, keep Earth cleaner and always remember to never to underestimate the power of a rainbow.
See the enthusiasm for yourself: