• Event focuses on environmental awareness

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works hosted the 12th annual Fort Leavenworth Earth Day and Environmental Awareness Day May 3 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    Garrison Commander Col. Marne Sutten presented the Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities’ Super Saver of the Year award and two DPW Environmental Super Star Awards.
    Ukrainian Maj. Andrii Bratashchuk, a Command and General Staff College student, and his family received the Super Saver of the Year Award for their conservation efforts, which included using natural light when possible, unplugging electrical appliances when they weren’t in use, and wearing warm clothing during the winter instead of turning up the heat. They received a $100 Visa gift card from FLFHC, two tickets for paintball and laser tag, four tickets to the Kansas City Zoo and a $50 gift certificate to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
    The first Environmental Super Star Award was presented to Girl Scout Cadet Troop 5454 and Junior Troop 5413. The troops have participated in National Public Lands Day activities for the last two years, planting native flowering shrubs along Corral Creek, building flying squirrel nest boxes and planting bulbs at the Old U.S. Disciplinary Barracks. Their efforts have resulted in hundreds of volunteer hours donated.
    The second Environmental Super Star Award was presented to Alexis Buchholz of Girl Scout Troop 66. Buchholz helped coordinate the construction of the flying squirrel nests and helped place them, which led to confirmation of the continued presence of the species on Fort Leavenworth.
    The majority of event visitors were students from post schools.
    “It’s environmental stewardship. They’re going to be responsible when they grow up to rule the earth,” said Debbie Hazelbeck, Fort Leavenworth Environmental protection specialist, of the purpose of the event. “They need to know how to do it, what to consider to make good choices so that they can have the same quality of life in the future as we do right now.”
    Throughout the event, students had the opportunity to visit with different vendors including the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services, the Frontier Army Museum, Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities and DPW.
    There were also live birds — a barn owl, a great horned owl, an eastern screech owl, an American crow and an American kestrel — that are currently under the care of Operation Wildlife: Rehabilitation and Public Education. The children had the opportunity to learn about what the birds eat, their calls and why they are currently under the care of OWL.
    The StoneLion Puppet Theater out of Kansas City, Mo., presented “Reflection,” which tells the story of what happens when trash pollutes the ocean.
    “The fun puppets — it gets to them a little bit better than the stuff that’s gauged a lot higher over their heads,” said Dianna Bustraan, MacArthur Elementary School kindergarten teacher. “This is more like a storybook where they learn a little easier.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Heather Loewenstein, StoneLion lead puppeteer, said the show is a good way to introduce the subject no matter what the age.
    “When you are introducing something like this with such a heavy subject to anyone, you have to speak to their soul,” she said. “You have to make them care about it before they’re going to try and protect it or change things.”
    Loewenstein said the show allows the viewers to draw their own conclusions.
    “Our art is trying to introduce the subject without making someone feel bad,” she said. “Instead of pointing a finger and lecturing, we engage them and make them care about the problem and then give them the opportunity to let them figure out how to fix it.”
    MacArthur kindergarteners Stella Thompson and William Dubuc said they learned something watching the puppet show.
    “You’re supposed to pick up trash and not just leave it on the floor,” Thompson said. “Pick up trash whenever you’re done using it.”
    “You should not throw a bunch of trash in the water,” Dubuc said. “Save the environment. Recycle.”
    Bustraan said teaching the children at a young age is the way to keep the earth and environment in the best shape.
    “If they learn early, then they can use it throughout their lives and take care of the world that they’re going to grow up in,” Bustraan said.
    Elizabeth Brown, Astronomical Society of Kansas City media representative, said it starts with the children understanding how the earth works first.
    “Understanding our planet is important because our crops could fail during the climate changes. It’s important to know our place in space and about the solar system and the expiration of what we’re doing and the knowledge that we’re learning (about other planets),” she said. “As we gain knowledge about other planets, learn about our own planet, they can make informed choices about their futures, who they elect (and) what sciences they go into.”
    “I look at these kids and I want them to breathe clean air and drink clean water,” Brown said. “It’s important for them to understand the science behind what is clean air and what is clean water because they’re going to be facing some major problems.”
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