Temple University Ambler EarthFest 2015 welcomes more than 6,000

Sherlock the Great Horned Owl visits EarthFest 2015 from the Elmwood Park Zoo.

A sunny, cool, breezy spring day helped welcome more than 6,000 visitors for a day of celebrating the Earth at Temple University Ambler’s EarthFest 2015 on April 24.

“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). “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 2015, EarthFest takes a veritable army of volunteers to be successful each year, according to EarthFest Volunteer Coordinators Cathy Kelly and Galen Newsum.

“Our volunteers — students, faculty, staff and community members — were excellent ambassadors for Temple at EarthFest. We had an army of school volunteers, which I think shows how important the event has become in the region — people want to be a part of this special day,” Kelly said. “We also had terrific support from Temple students, staff and alumni from Ambler, Main, Center City and as far away as the Harrisburg Campus, making it a truly Temple-wide celebration of Earth Day.”

University College Vice Provost Vicki Lewis McGarvey and Center for Sustainable Communities Director Jeffrey Featherstone were joined by Shawn M. Garvin, Regional Administration for the U.S. EPA Mid-Atlantic Region to welcome visitors to EarthFest this year. 6-ABC Meteorologist Melissa Magee returned for her sixth year as EarthFest Main Stage emcee.

“EarthFest provides a unique opportunity to partner with Temple University to raise awareness about our most critical environmental challenges,” said Garvin. “With so many students attending, our participation helps EPA reach the next generation of leaders with information about how they can help protect the environment at home and at school.”

In addition to extremely popular returning exhibitors such as the Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute, National Park Service, 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.”

“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.”

EarthFest makes a huge impact on children “that may never be exposed to any number of the exhibits onsite during the event,” said Laurie Smith Wood, Director of Education at the Elmwood Park Zoo.

“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,” she said.

Temple University departments and student organizations in particular highlight the possibilities in a variety of green industry 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 Student Planning Organization, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association, Society for Ecological Restoration, Temple University Ambler Aquaponics, Pi Alpha Xi and the Ambler Campus Sustainability Council.

Participating Temple departments also included the Office of Sustainability, Temple Athletics, 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 2015, Upper Dublin High School had a remarkable total of 10 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 2015 sponsors included Dow Chemical Company, Air Quality Partners - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Ellis A. Gimbel Trust, PECO, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, Temple University Ambler and School of Environmental Design Board of Visitors, the Township of Upper Dublin and Waste Management. The EarthFest 2015 media sponsor was 6-ABC.

“The world needs solutions for big challenges like energy, climate change, water, food, housing and health. There is a critical need to inspire the next generation to take up the call,” said Justin Land, Dow’s Northeast Public Affairs Manager. “EarthFest is a perfect opportunity to connect with thousands of students who are eager to listen, learn and make a difference with Dow STEM Ambassadors.”

H.H. Dowbot, a life-sized interactive robot with a passion for STEM education, returned to EarthFest this year, interacting with students and showing off Dow’s reverse osmosis exhibit.

“Our commitment to sustainability is integral to who we are, which continues to drive change that is good for the environment, good for people, and good for business,” Land said. “As a celebration of science, EarthFest provides a fun, interactive opportunity to showcase the role each of us plays. We are passionate about our commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and recognize that by stimulating an interest in access to quality STEM education in the U.S. and the world, we will ensure a steady pipeline of talent for the future.”