By Jane Hill

Daily Journal

How can paper be recycled? Why are the rain forests important to the world climate? How does an electric minivan work? What enables a tree to grow?

These and many other questions were answered by professionals and students at the Earth Day Celebration held Monday at the Tupelo Coliseum.

The event, sponsored by the Tupelo Rotary Club, the Tupelo High School Ecology Class and Tupelo Clean and Beautiful, featured about 100 information and demonstration booths designed to teach children and adults about the planet and how to conserve its water, mineral, plant and animal resources.

Participation from state agencies and business was strong at this year’s celebration, which is an extension of the Earth Day programs put on by the THS Ecology Class for the past three years.

Mike Wade, environment committee chairman for the Tupelo Rotary Club, said the expanded cooperative program with the school was the club’s way of showing its concern for the environment. Tupelo Rotary members have previously gotten involved in the Trash Bash pickup days, and have sponsored landscaping projects at the local schools, but this year decided to focus their energies on education for both children and adults.

Wade said the exhibits would be open until 6 p.m. to give adults an opportunity to come by and learn something, too. He estimated that a total of 7,500 to 8,000 children and adults would have viewed the exhibits by the end of the day.

“The whole day has gone extremely well,” Wade said. “It was the kids from the high school that really made it happen.”

THS Ecology Class teaches

High school students, including those from ecology, zoology, chemistry and biology classes at the high school, designed and set up their own booths for the Earth Day Celebration. Of the more than 80 booths submitted, 60 were graded and chosen to participate in Monday’s program based on the educational message and the effectiveness with which the idea was presented.

THS teachers Sherry Latham, Lisa Moore and Jill Hadorn were in charge of coordinating the Earth Day exhibits put on by the school.

Melissa Burgett and Ruff Thomas, both ninth-grade biology students in Beatrice Ford’s class, worked a booth showing how wastepaper could be shredded, “cooked” into a pulpy mass, drained and pressed into reusable paper.

Richard Chism, a 10th-grader who is also a teacher’s aid, was showing his 6-year-old lop-eared rabbit, Ted, to the younger children attending the celebration. Chism said the teaching experience had been an education for him as well.

“You would not believe how many girls come up to me just to see this rabbit,” Chism said.

Recycling, cycles and tigers

In addition to Ted the lop-eared rabbit, a Bengal tiger cub, a miniature burro and its 2-day-old colt, a mule, a goat, cattle, horses and numerous snakes, birds and other forms of wildlife also were on display at the Earth Day Celebration.

Tom Duke of Booneville, owner of the Bengal tiger cub, said he was surprised about how much young children already knew about endangered species. Geronimo, the 10-month-old cub, was drawing a lot of attention.

“I’ve seen kids no older than 10 or 11 coming up and asking me whether this cat was on the endangered species list,” Duke said. “I think it is important that children realize that these cats are disappearing.”

Paul Ott, a singer and environmental advocate, spoke to the children on several occasions about trees and the importance of replenishing forests.

Richard Murff and Tim Phipps, energy technicians for the Tennessee Valley Authority, were showing off their newly developed Electric Cruizer bicycle, which can operate on battery power, and a Dodge Caravan minivan that has been modified to operate on electrical power.

Other businesses displaying their wares Monday included International Floor Covering, which makes carpeting out of recycled plastic bottles.

Boyd Yarbrough, director of Tupelo Clean and Beautiful, said he, too, was pleased with the event and surprised and pleased at the number of people who had participated.

“We need to teach the children about the environment because they are the folks who are going to take over the world when we leave,” Yarbrough said.

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