Grace Celebrates Earth Month

In April, Grace celebrated Earth Month with activities, guest speakers, and fun across all divisions!
Sustainability Coordinators Elena Natale and Sharifa Footman organized engaging events exploring this year’s theme: the impact of single-use plastics. 

Dean of Faculty and Green Griffins advisor Kim Chaloner visited the Early Childhood to read Elin Kelsey’s You Are Never Alone. Students learned about the ways we’re all connected to and supported by nature—from the oxygen we breathe to the microorganisms that help boost our immunity. The kindergarteners’ annual habitat study follows the life cycle of the butterfly, and this year it coincided beautifully with Earth Week activities. Students observed each phase, from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, and discovered how organisms like butterflies are intrinsic to global and local habitats. As they need to help care for butterflies, so, too, do they need to care for their habitat: the Earth! And on a brilliant, sunny day, the Early Childhood students released their grown Painted Lady butterflies into the city.

Students in the Lower School had their own fun learning more about sustainability. Laurel Zaima-Sheehy, Program Manager of Non-Degree Education and Outreach Programs at the Columbia Climate School and returning guest speaker, spoke to students about the harms of microplastics and single-use plastics in our environment with an interactive activity. Students were put to the test when they were asked to participate in a relay race to show what they learned about recycling and sorting. Click to watch a video of the relay race here! Third graders even created stop-motion videos showing how plastic products end up in landfills and oceans.

At the Middle School Earth Day Chapel, student leaders from the Earth Defenders and the Gardening Club presented their yearlong work to their classmates. The Earth Defenders encouraged students to make greener choices for the planet by reducing plastic use. Did you know that plastic can take anywhere from 100 to 500 years to decompose? They gave suggestions for reusable items and spoke about the ways in which climate change disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities. The Gardening Club, who throughout the year planted milkweeds, bee balms, and purple coneflowers, spoke about the vital role plants play in ecosystems and the dangers of habitat destruction. Both of these clubs spearheaded a movement to phase out plastic water bottles in the school!

Students in the High School Division were visited by Noel Thurlow, Grace parent and founder of Resilience Adventures. She joined the Green Griffins to construct eel mops to aid American eels and combat habitat destruction in the Hudson River Estuary. By dethreading ropes and anchoring them to a lid, the unfurled fibers mimic the underwater grass habitat that has been decimated by climate change. Anya Tetzeli, junior and co-leader of the Green Griffins, said, “I don’t think people think about habitat loss in New York…and how climate change negatively affects the ocean most, including the New York waterways.” Ms. Thurlow delivered the finished eel mops to be submerged in the New York/New Jersey harbor to rehabilitate the estuary.  

The ninth graders also took part in Earth Week activities by searching the East Village to find words and inspiration in a scavenger hunt. By taking pictures of letters they found across city facades, each advisory was tasked with creating a collage that spelled out different quotes related to the Earth. Ms. Laurence’s advisory, for example, wrote out “Think Global, Act Local.” 

After a busy week of Earth Day activities, students sought more ways to further the work they learned with direct action. With Ms. Footman’s coordination, the Lower School obtained Terracycle Boxes in order to dispose of candy wrappers, pens, pencils, and markers properly. 

With these initiatives, students and adults from across divisions are learning all of the small ways they can leave a positive and lasting impact on Grace and the environment.
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Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for nearly 800 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.