Earth Day is More Than a Clean Up Day

By Yvette Chenaux

I teach environmental education at Oshki Ogimaag, a charter school on the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation where the students are Anishinaabe, also known as Ojibwe, or Chippewa. At school, the students have varied lesson plans, including language lessons in Ojibwe and environmental lessons from the Environmental Department staff.

I believe and know first-hand that young people care about the Earth. The students I work with have a strong connection to the environment. The students and their families collect wild rice in the fall, collect berries in the summer and fish and hunt throughout the year.

Last year students participated in a community clean-up for Earth Day. They split into groups and went all over the community to collect trash. When asked about the clean-up, they agreed that there was too much trash. Thomas said that what he disliked most about the clean-up was that “the Earth was so dirty, and no one cared about it. We had to go two feet underground to get a big bag of trash.” This year, in celebration of Earth Day, they participated in another community clean-up and they made beautiful posters and a banner to put up around town. Their hopes were high that they would find less trash and that more people would join them.

Jayson said that his favorite memory about the clean-up was that he was able to be “outside when it was a nice day out.” Shylan saw a fox while picking up some trash. When asked what Earth Day means to him, Jayden replied that it is “a day to help the Earth, which we should do everyday.” Sarah said that her family regularly turns down the heat when they leave the house, and Shylan said that she plans to ride her bike more. Sam said that she walks often and she picks up trash when she is out walking. Cleaning up the community is not just about picking up trash, but it is also about being outside and learning how to make everyday Earth Day. Miigwech! (Thank you)

About the author: Yvette Chenaux is the Air Quality Specialist for the Grand Portage Band. She monitors haze and particulate matter and performs indoor air assessments.

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