Saturday, June 10, 2017

Houghton Elementary fourth graders present interactive skits on climate issues

By Michele Bourdieu

Houghton Elementary fourth graders take turns describing the advantages and disadvantages of various types of energy, from oil to solar, during their June 2 climate program, organized by volunteers from the Keweenaw Climate Community and their teachers. Each energy type was examined to determine whether or not it is "clean" and/ or "renewable." (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Last week, as President Trump made his announcement about pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, 106 fourth graders at Houghton Elementary School, coached by their teachers and several Keweenaw Climate Community (KCC) volunteers, were busy practicing for their June 2 presentation of lively, interactive, creative skits on climate issues.

The event began with a song about why we should try to "make the world a better place."

Music and art were incorporated into this introductory presentation with a motivational song and posters created by the students. Click on YouTube icon for larger video screen. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Next a game of "Jeopardy" involved all the students who, divided into groups, competed to answer questions related to renewable energy, pollution, ways to conserve energy and other climate issues.

KCC member Jim Vendlinski and his group of students take the stage to ask "Jeopardy" questions on the climate, while the fourth graders in the audience compete in small groups to be the first to answer correctly. At left, KCC member Stephen Handler assists his group by clarifying a question. The prize for the winning group: "bragging rights."

KCC member Andi Vendlinski coached a class in demonstrating -- through pantomime -- the many steps and many people involved in producing one apple that they might buy at the grocery store. Students were invited to mime the planting of seeds, fertilizing and watering the apple tree, picking the apples, driving the apples to the market and selling them in the store.

Students raise their hands to volunteer for the pantomime skit on the steps involved in growing, transporting, selling, buying and eating an apple. At center is Andi Vendlinski, KCC member and coach for the skit.

Andi Vendlinski noted the high interest and enthusiasm of the fourth graders.

"After the first lesson, all the instructors were really impressed with how much many of the kids already knew about climate change, and how eager and enthusiastic they all were to learn more," she said. "It's so much fun when the kids are into it!"

Following the presentations on different types of energy (photo above), the final skit told the story of how a local healthy ecosystem works and how its plants and animals might be threatened by climate change.

These students mime the change in trees when climate change begins to have damaging effects on the ecosystem.

Students demonstrate through pantomime the effects of extreme heat and flooding on the ecosystem that was once healthy. Click on YouTube icon for larger video screen.

KCC volunteers Rob Handler and Emily Shaw assisted teacher Ken Klein with this skit on the effects of climate change.

"We were in Mr. Klein's class for two days, talking about the effects of climate change on plants and animals," Handler said.

On the third day the students developed the skit, he added, and Mr. Klein had them practice it in class.

"They were awesome," said Shaw. "They practiced a lot."

In addition to Mr. Klein, other fourth-grade teachers who participated were Margo Hall, Neeta Jacobson, and Shannon Lehto.

Pictured here in the Houghton Elementary School cafeteria following the climate program are Keweenaw Climate Community (KCC) volunteers, from left, Hunter King, Emily Shaw, Jim Vendlinski, Andi Vendlinski, Stephen Handler, Kathy Halverson and Rob Handler. Not pictured is KCC volunteer Jenny Dunn, who also helped coach the students but was unable to attend the Friday program.

After the presentations all the students received LED energy-efficient light bulbs, donated by HEET (Houghton Energy Efficiency Team), and a reusable bag from Wal-Mart. Other sponsors were FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw), who donated supplies, and GS Engineering, who contributed funding for the project.

To learn more about the work of the Keweenaw Climate Community, visit their Web site and their Facebook page.

Editor's Note: Jim and Andi Vendlinski's children, twins Lewis and Catherine Vendlinski, who just celebrated their 9th birthday, participated, along with twins Stephen and Rob Handler, in the Keweenaw Climate Community's third Climate Café held last November. See our Nov. 30, 2016, article, "Keweenaw Climate Community to hold 4th Climate Café Dec. 1 at Orpheum Theater; video report on October, November KCC events."

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