Pacific Palisades Students Share Earth Day Festival

By Laura Abruscato
Contributing Writer
Photos by Lesly Hall Photography

Earth Day is celebrated each year in a special way by two local schools. In late April, Palisades High School students put on an environmental festival and invited Palisades Elementary School students to participate.

First through fifth graders walk to PaliHi with their classes and are divided into smaller groups, each led by a high school student. They visit some of the 30 booths set up on the baseball field, each teaching the younger children an environmental lesson in a fun way, and each created and staffed by Pali students.

“A number of my students are seniors now, but remember when they were a participant,” says founder Steve Engelmann, the school’s AP environmental science teacher. “It’s fun when it comes full circle.” Palisades Elementary Principal Joan Ingle added, “It was great seeing some of our former students—Russell Cohen, Daniel Gottesman, Whitney Neuman, Ethan Rautaport, Maude Wendell and Gene Tanaka—now working with the younger kids.”

“Murphy” the blue whale is a life-size kite which was custom-made for Palisades High marine biology teacher Karyn Newbill.

“Murphy” the blue whale is a life-size kite which was custom-made for Palisades High School marine biology teacher Karyn Newbill.

At one booth, children got their hands painted with their choice of several endangered species, such as a sloth, turtle, sea lion, hippo or elephant. In another booth, children rode on each other’s backs in a race to simulate a mother polar bear carrying her cub on her back.

One station played a game of “Marco Porpoise” to explain echolocation, and another had a rainwater conservation relay race. In the “Lower Your Carbon Footprint” booth, seniors showed the children how to reduce their carbon footprint in various areas such as transportation (carpool, walk to school) and water (shorter showers).

Engelmann started the Earth Day festival 13 years ago, and for the last five years he has been joined by marine biology teacher Karyn Newbill and her honors classes.

Left to right, juniors Mia McArthur, Madeline Goore and Colette Keating run the “Lower Your Carbon Footprint” booth.

Left to right, juniors Mia McArthur, Madeline Goore and Colette Keating run the “Lower Your Carbon Footprint” booth.

Students write proposals with original ideas for the various booths that the children visit. Newbill chose 15 proposals out of the 50 submitted from her students, and Engelmann chose 15 from his students. Other students volunteer to man the booths.

In the midst of the fun booths and games was a life-size blow-up of a 110-ft. blue whale, “Murphy.”

“This is the largest animal to ever exist,” explained senior Sam Korobkin to a group of first graders. “This whale eats up to 8,000 pounds of krill a day. His heart weighs as much as a car. His tongue is as heavy as an elephant.”

Explaining how to “lower your carbon footprint” are juniors (left to right) Mia McArthur, Madeline Goore, Quincy Carter and Collette Keating, speaking to Pali Ele- mentary fourth graders Hayden Fouquet and Michael Williamson.

Explaining how to “lower your carbon footprint” are juniors (left to right) Mia McArthur, Madeline Goore, Quincy Carter and Collette Keating, speaking to Pali Elementary School fourth graders Hayden Fouquet and Michael Williamson.

Five years ago, Newbill came across a 40- ft.-long gray whale bounce house at CIMI, a marine science camp on Catalina Island. She thought it would be a great teaching tool but it ended up being too expensive.

One of her students found a kite-maker in New Zealand who had made a 110-ft. blue-whale kite. Newbill contacted him but he had made only one of the kites for himself. It would be $5,400 to make another one. With grants from the Palisades Charter Schools Foundation, the Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club and the Palisades High Booster Club, she was able to order the whale.

After being used in the EcoFest (for the last three years), the whale is moved to the gym, and Newbill’s honors classes get to have a class on whales inside of the blowup whale.

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