Last month, from June 12 to 16, the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department introduced a special program when summer campers participated in the inaugural Going Green Rec Camp at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.
The goal was to introduce a week of camp focused on teaching environmentally friendly concepts to our 6- to 12-year-old campers. Topics ranged from basic littering prevention to learning about aquatic ecosystems.
Greg Smith of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission and the Great Lakes Environmental Center in Columbus led the hands-on field study of our park ponds. The campers got a chance to see the organisms that live in the ponds and the importance of keeping them healthy and safe.
Alex Slaymaker, an outreach specialist from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio visited to discuss the benefits of recycling with our campers. She educated campers on types of recycling materials and how to develop good recycling habits.
Another exciting activity was birding with Jen Rosa from Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Rosa is an avid bird-watcher and provided binoculars so our campers could get an up-close look at native birds in their natural habitat.
Employees of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also visited and spoke about the environmental impact humans have on animals and allowed our campers to meet several species.
The campers collaborated on a number of different environmentally friendly projects. The most labor intensive was planting a tree. Each camper contributed to digging the hole and the counselors in training -- Jake Mamula, Max Movshin and Luke Hampshire -- prepped it for the red buckeye that went in the ground.
Campers also had opportunities to create artwork that reflected their own feelings about the environment. One project used mugs that were donated to the center and repurposed as planters. The campers then created open-air terrariums with them and were challenged with keeping their plants alive at home.
When Kenny Brown, the antagonist, was spotted littering, the campers collectively encouraged him to change his behavior. After several days of encouragement and open discussions, Brown was convinced and "bought in" to the mantra that the campers created, "Go Green, Be Clean."
The enthusiasm that the campers demonstrated for positive changes in their homes and personal lives was indeed contagious.
If only it was this easy to convince everyone that sustainability is important and that each of us has a responsibility to take care of the earth. What have you done for your planet today?
Geoff Dew is recreation supervisor for the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department. The Eye on the Environment column is submitted by the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.