Temple University Ambler EarthFest 2014 welcomes more than 7,000

Noah the Bald Eagle visits EarthFest 2014 from the Elmwood Park Zoo.

Bright spring sunshine helped welcome more than 7,000 visitors for a day of celebrating the Earth at Temple University Ambler’s EarthFest 2014 on April 25.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how EarthFest turned out this year,” said EarthFest Coordinator Susan Spinella Sacks, who is also Assistant Director of event host the Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC). “For the first time, all of our event features were together in one location and it worked out exceedingly well. Our visitors and exhibitors fully embraced the day as an opportunity to learn about and share information that will be beneficial for this and future generations.”

EarthFest is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year at Temple University Ambler. Thousands of students from all over the region come together and spend time learning about the world in which we live and the interconnected systems on which the lives of people and animals depend.

With huge crowds eager to interact with 75 exhibits for 2014, EarthFest takes a veritable army of volunteers to be successful each year, according to EarthFest Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Berger.

“Our volunteers — students, faculty, staff and community members — were excellent ambassadors for Temple at EarthFest. We had more school volunteers than ever before, which I think shows how important the event has become in the region — people want to be a part of this special day,” she said. “The support from the School of Environmental Design, as always, was examplary this year — we were thrilled to have CSC Director Jeff Featherstone and University College Vice Provost Vicki Lewis McGarvey welcome our visitors.”

In addition to extremely popular returning exhibitors such as the Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, Elmwood Park Zoo, and the Insectarium, exhibitors such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and event sponsor Dow pulled out all the stops in sharing interactive messages supporting EarthFest’s theme of “sustaining our communities” and this year’s special focus on water.

“At our booth, we wanted to have students learn what the acronym FEMA stands for — who we are and how we help communities both after a disaster and before one so they are better prepared and have reduced their risk,” said Mari Radford, Mitigation Planner for FEMA’s Region III, which includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia. “We also modeled flooding scenarios and showed where development was both good and bad. Even the littlest kids could see the difference between a straight channel and a meandering stream and could predict which one would carry the water faster.  Our hope is that when EarthFest exhibitors headed home that afternoon — and in the weeks following — they look a little more closely at structures near the water and think about their flood risk.”

For EarthFest, the Elmwood Park Zoo, celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2014, brought along a very special guest — Noah, a 13-year-old bald eagle.

“Noah fell out of his nest when he was only eight weeks old in upstate Maine — his father stayed on the ground with him and fed him until humans came and took him to a veterinary hospital. It was determined that his brain had shifted to one side of his head and that he was blind in one eye, so he could never be released back into the wild,” said Laurie Smith Wood, Director of Education at the Elmwood Park Zoo. “We currently have eight eagles — two of which are golden eagles — on exhibit at Elmwood Park Zoo. All of the eagles have wing damage and cannot be released back into the wild. Elmwood has the second largest open air eagle exhibit in the country.”

Noah, Smith Wood said, fit in perfect with EarthFest’s water theme.

“Bald eagles love fish — about 67 percent of their diet is made up of fish. They are great swimmers too; they can use their powerful wings to swim when carrying something too heavy to lift up into the air,” she said. “In 1963, there were only 400 pairs of nesting bald eagles in the US due to toxic chemicals that washed into streams and were absorbed by fish. As one of the first animals to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1967, the protection of our precious national emblem has allowed the bald eagle to make a dramatic recovery including right here in Pennsylvania.”

EarthFest makes a huge impact on childen “that may never be exposed to any number of the exhibits onsite during the event,” Smith Wood said. “I feel their eyes are opened to a number of new and exciting things including zoos and other museums, important programs like beekeeping, different corporations doing extraordinary work to save/protect the planet, and even different career choices.”

Temple University departments and student organizations in particular highlight the possibilities in a variety of professions while also helping to form the backbone of EarthFest exhibitors each year. In addition to event sponsor the Center for Sustainable Communities, School of Environmental Design exhibitors included the Department of Community and Regional Planning, Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, Temple Planning Student Organization, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Student Association, Society for Ecological Restoration and the Ambler Campus Sustainability Council.

Participating Temple departments also included the Office of Sustainability, Temple Athletics, Temple University Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE), Temple Community Garden, Temple University Computer Recycling Center, Temple University Dining Services/Sodexo, Temple University Infant and Child Laboratory and the Temple University Recycling Department.

Area schools additionally become part of the event by sharing projects and research taking place in their classrooms.

“We’ve managed to incorporate EarthFest into our curriculum and created a project-based learning experience for some of our students,” said Upper Dublin High School environmental science teacher Judy Winship. “It’s been very successful — the students learn a lot about their chosen topics and enjoy teaching community members.”

At EarthFest 2014, Upper Dublin High School had a remarkable total of 11 exhibits.

“Many of our students remember attending EarthFest when they were in elementary and middle school, so their experience really began years ago,” said fellow Upper Dublin High School teacher Erin Loch. “For the most part, the project starts out as a fun, hands-on way to learn about a topic. Once our teams have been at EarthFest exhibiting, they get a sense of the whole purpose and end up really enjoying the experience even more.”

EarthFest 2014 sponsors included Dow Chemical Company, Air Quality Partners - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Ellis A. Gimbel Trust, Janet and Lew Klein, PECO, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, Temple University Department of Community and Regional Planning, the Township of Upper Dublin and Waste Management. The EarthFest 2014 media sponsor was 6-ABC with Meteorologist Melissa Magee serving as Main Stage emcee for her fifth year.