EarthFest News

EarthFest News - 2018

Temple University Ambler EarthFest 2018 welcomes more than 5,000

There might have been chill winds blowing, but that didn’t cool the enthusiasm of the 5,000 students, teachers, parents and chaperones that spent April 20 celebrating the Earth at Temple University Ambler.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how EarthFest 2018 turned out this year. 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,” said EarthFest Coordinator Susan Spinella Sacks. “EarthFest was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeff Featherstone, who was one of the essential founders of the event. I think he would be very proud that 16 events later, we are still inspiring a new generation of environmental leaders.”

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 inquisitive crowds eager to interact with more than 85 exhibits for 2018, EarthFest takes a veritable army of volunteers to be successful each year.

“Our volunteers — students, faculty, staff and community members — were excellent ambassadors for Temple at EarthFest,” said EarthFest Volunteer Coordinator Eric Rivera. “We had several volunteers from outside organizations and businesses and volunteers from a variety of Temple schools and colleges, which I think shows how important the event has become in the region — people want to be a part of this special day.”

University College Vice Provost Vicki Lewis McGarvey welcomed visitors to EarthFest along with 6abc Meteorologist Melissa Magee, who returned for her ninth year as EarthFest emcee; 6abc was also the media sponsor for EarthFest 2018.

“Since its inception in 2003, EarthFest has welcomed well over 120,000 students, teachers and chaperones to campus for the singular purpose of helping them understand that they have the power to effect change — they can leave the world a better place than they found it,” said Dr. McGarvey. “That message is an essential part of Temple Ambler’s lasting legacy. Everyone can make a difference. Everyone can have an impact on the world around them. It’s why we’ve expanded EarthFest into a series of events in tandem with the Ambler Arboretum’s growing list of lectures, tours and programs”.

Magee said she hoped visitors to EarthFest came away with “an appreciation for what’s around them.”

“EarthFest engenders a greater awareness and cognizance about how we contribute to the world around us in both positive and negative ways. This is a great stage to talk about the environment and sustainability; to help kids see what is going on and take it all in, to help them realize that this isn’t just a trend,” she said. “Protecting the environment will be in their hands in the future, but it starts right here. And for the students that become exhibitors at EarthFest, they are so proud to showcase what they have learned — they become the teachers!”

EarthFest newcomers Upper Merion Middle School and Philadelphia Academy Charter High School joined with the Temple University Ambler Aquaponics Lab and Evergreen Lane Farm to showcase the potential of aquaponics systems inside and outside the classroom. They, in addition to fellow newcomers William Tennent High School and Lewis C. Cassidy Elementary School were among the more than 20 school exhibits at EarthFest, including eight from Upper Dublin High School.

At Upper Dublin, EarthFest has become part of the 10th grade Environmental Science curriculum. Students have the opportunity to present an exhibit at EarthFest as an independent or group project, according to environmental science teacher Lisa Fantini.

“It has been a great experience for the Upper Dublin students to understand what preparation and education is needed for a public event like EarthFest,” Fantini said “Our students are required to independently work through the process from beginning brainstorming of a topic and presentation type, to researching, to obtaining supplies, to preparing those models, take-homes and visuals for the kids, to practicing, to the endpoint of running the day’s event efficiently. In May, they will do reflections and have an informal discussion with classmates about their experiences.”

In addition to popular returning exhibitors such as the Franklin Institute, Barn Nature Center, National Park Service, Academy of Natural Sciences, Elmwood Park Zoo and the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, exhibitors such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulled out all the stops in sharing interactive messages supporting EarthFest’s theme of “sustaining our communities.”

Temple University departments and student organizations highlighted the possibilities of a variety of green industry professions. Division of Architecture and Environmental Design exhibitors included the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, Temple Planning Student Organization, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association, Department of Planning and Community Development, Temple University Ambler Aquaponics, Pi Alpha Xi, Society for Ecological Restoration, Food Forest Club and the Department of Architecture.

Participating Temple departments and organizations also included the Office of Sustainability, Temple Athletics, Temple University Municipal Police Academy, the Center for Obesity Research and Education, Temple University Computer Recycling Center, Temple University Summer Programs, Temple Community Garden, Temple University Infant and Child Laboratory and Aramark at Temple University.

The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University also hosted about 110 students on special tours of the campus gardens exploring the theme “Not All Bugs are Bad.” The 2018 tours were designed around the seventh grade curriculum standards in Pennsylvania. Arboretum Director Kathleen Salisbury said she hopes to expand the tours for additional grades at EarthFest 2019.

“I think one of the most exciting things about EarthFest is that while our mission remains the same — promote environmental awareness and ways to sustain our communities, every year is a little different,” Spinella-Sacks said. “Sixteen EarthFest celebrations and we’ll soon start working on the 17th — this is a tremendous achievement. EarthFest has become an essential part of sharing what Temple University Ambler does best — promoting environmental stewardship in our communities.”

EarthFest 2018 sponsors included Air Quality Partnership - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Green Mountain Energy, Janet and Lew Klein, PECO Energy, American Planning Association, Pennsylvania Chapter, Schiel Family Foundation, Temple University Ambler, Township of Upper Dublin, Gold Medal Environmental and support from the University community.

According to Spinella-Sacks, EarthFest will continue to expand in 2018 and beyond, partnering with Temple And outside organizations for a variety of environmental interests.

“The need to share ideas about sustainability and protecting and preserving the environment with a wide audience is critical, now more than ever,” she said. “Temple Ambler EarthFest will be hosting a variety of events, in addition to our main event each April, in partnership with the Ambler Arboretum and other partners designed to get people really thinking about the world around us.”

Visit our Community Events page to learn more!

Animals At EarthFest Provide Important Lessons In Conservation

Throughout the 15-year history of Temple University Ambler’s EarthFest, experts have brought live animal ambassadors to the event to help students, teachers and parents connect with nature on a personal level.

The animals help visitors understand how they can make a difference in protecting and preserving animal habitats and the delicate balance between the built and natural world.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, for example, has used animals such as small birds to tell the story of how we are all connected to water (and how birds are the descendants of dinosaurs) while the Elmwood Park Zoo has highlighted conservation efforts for eagles, frogs and other endangers species — both exhibitors have been part of EarthFest from the beginning in 2003.

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. “One of the things that I love about EarthFest is that we’re all sharing a similar message — that everyone can make a positive impact on the world around them. I hope that everyone leaves the event with some ideas of simple things that they can do to help.”

Some of the Elmwood Park Zoo’s animal ambassadors include “Stella,” a Great Horned Owl raised by humans and subsequently rescued and brought to the zoo — Stella, who has been adopted as Temple University’s living mascot, cannot be released into the wild as “she has imprinted on humans,” Smith Wood said.

Noah, a Bald Eagle, fell from his nest while very young. Blind in one eye and not able to survive in the wild, Noah found a home at Elmwood’s open-air eagle aviary. Other animals Elmwood has brought to EarthFest include a Virginia opossum, a skunk and a box turtle.
Noah, Smith Wood said, is a perfect ambassador for conservation and environmental education.

“In 1963, there were only 400 pairs of nesting bald eagles in the U.S. due to toxic chemicals that washed into streams and were absorbed by fish,” she said. “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.”
Globally, however, far too many species haven’t been so fortunate.

“According to the World Wildlife Fund, from 1970 to 2010 half of the world’s wildlife has been wiped out,” Smith Wood said. “They point to habitat loss, animal exploitation, climate change, invasive species, pollution and disease.”
At the Barn Nature Center, animal ambassadors are essential to providing environmental and wildlife education as well as animal care skills to the community, according to Barn Nature Center Manager Lizzy Schechner.

“The Barn Nature Center is home to about 80 domestic and exotic animals; and it’s a home in every sense of the word. Many of our animals were pets or were rescued from bad situations,” she said. “Some people will purchase an exotic pet not realizing that they live a lot longer or get a lot bigger or need a lot more specialized care and attention — through no fault of their own, the animals become displaced. I think that is also an important message to share; you need to do your research and know the tremendous responsibility that you are taking on when you bring an animal into your home.”

Elvis, a cockatoo that most definitely lives up to his name, for example, was a pet rescue, Schechner said. Elvis has been one of EarthFest’s animal ambassadors along with the Barn Nature Center’s Argentine black and white Tegu, Caesar; Blanca, a breathtaking albino Burmese python; and several other reptiles and amphibians.

“EarthFest provides so many of us an important platform to share a message about environmental stewardship and conservation. The students we meet have the ability to positively impact the future — that message is more important now than ever,” she said. “In addition to sharing information about the animals and their habitats, we talk about what is and is not a pet. A raptor, such as a hawk or an owl is not a pet — you need a special license and certification to have animals like that.”

Air, earth, water, animals, environment, “all of these things should work in balance with the other,” Schechner said.

“I see EarthFest as a gathering of conservation ambassadors. We want to encourage a healthy respect for where we live and what we do,” she said. “Even simple things like not throwing food out of a car can make a difference. An apple core thrown out a window will attract rodents, which will in turn attract raptors leading to the bird being struck. These are impacts that we have on animal habitats that, if we think about them, are easy to avoid.”

At EarthFest 2018, the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium will share important information about local animal conservation with a visit from a pine snake, owl, sea star, horseshoe crab and diamondback terrapin.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Fort Washington State Park, part of nearly every EarthFest, will share their mission of conserving and sustaining Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ enjoyment. Their exhibit will include a local expert falconer, who will be on hand to answer questions about raptors and falconry. The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion will provide an up-close look at a few residents of their extensive live collection, demonstrating the natural habitats of many insects, arachnids and crustaceans.

All of the EarthFest exhibitors that bring animals are specially licensed and trained and are with the animals at all times. Animals and animal conservation are an essential part of sustaining our communities and our planet as a whole. Our EarthFest animal experts — some of whom have been with the event for more than a decade — provide extraordinary value and unique educational experiences to well over 5,000 visitors each year. They are vital to EarthFest, just as their message is vital to the Earth.

Everyone, Smith Wood said, needs to become more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to helping to preserve wildlife.

“All of these things — habitat loss, animal exploitation, pollution — are happening right in this region. One thing everyone can do is assist with pollution,” she said. “Even today, you’ll see cigarette butts on the side of the road — animals eat them, lit cigarettes destroy habitats through forest fires. Everyone, young and old, can pick up trash or simply take their trash home with them. It’s just one simple thing that everyone can do.”

Response Vehicle Highlights U.S. EPA Displays at EarthFest 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be well represented at EarthFest 2018 with a range of exhibits designed to inform and inspire.

One display that’s sure to draw a crowd is the Agency’s popular hazardous response vehicle. The Mobile Command Post has seen a steady stream of visitors each time it’s been driven to the EarthFest grounds.

The vehicle is equipped to support command and control activities, provide sample collection and storage, and distribute supplies and equipment. Local VHF and long-distance communication capabilities help EPA keep in touch with response personnel from other agencies.

Students and others will be able to see the on-board computer network and other communications systems that make this vehicle an invaluable asset in emergency situations. The vehicle has been used to provide support in local responses, preparation exercises and major events like the Presidential Inaugural and the Pocono 500.

But the rolling command post won’t be the only interesting EPA exhibit at this year’s EarthFest. Several divisions of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region have joined together to present a variety of important information on everything from water conservation and plants and pollinators to lead toxicity and watershed management.

The EPA divisions participating in EarthFest 2018 include Water Protection, Land and Chemicals, Environmental Assessment and Innovation, and Hazardous Site Cleanup, which will provide tours of the Mobile Command Post.

In addition to the Mobile Command Post, the Hazardous Site Cleanup Division will also present an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) exhibit showing the effect of XRF on soil samples and display a level A/B emergency response protective suit.

The Land and Chemicals Division will provide information for preventing lead exposures and how to make your home lead-safe. Lead poisoning can cause severe and irreversible health effects, including behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, lower IQ, and hyperactivity. Children six years old and younger, and pregnant women are most susceptible to the effects of lead.

The Pesticides and Asbestos branch of Lands and Chemicals will also present educational information on “Disease Vector Identification and Management” in the Mid-Atlantic states. Information presented will include the primary tick, rodent, and mosquito vectors, along with practical information for how to minimize and control exposure using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Information will also include guidance for kids on how to safely handle and prevent exposure to disease when having rodents as pets.

The Water Protection Division will test visitors’ “WaterSense” knowledge, highlighting ways that children can save water in their own homes. WaterSense, a partnership program by the U.S. EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products and services. The program, according to the EPA, seeks to help consumers make smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards — products and services that have earned the WaterSense label have been certified 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance.

While the Water Protection Division focuses on efficient use of water, Environmental Assessment and Innovation will share information about the effects of extreme weather trends due mainly to anthropogenic sources. The division will also demonstrate the effects of CO2 on aquatic resources.

The EPA’s goal in participating at EarthFest is to help students, teachers, families and businesses learn how they can make important contributions in protecting the environment. Even small changes in the daily behavior of individuals can have a positive impact on the health of our environment and ultimately the health of families.

Ambler Campus gets ready for EarthFest 2018

How do you plan on celebrating Earth Day this year?

EarthFest 2018, Temple University Ambler’s annual outdoor educational festival celebrating Earth Day, will be held on Friday, April 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine.

“This will be our 15th year and our 16th EarthFest celebration. This is a tremendous achievement! EarthFest has become an essential part of sharing what Temple University Ambler does best — promoting environmental stewardship in our communities,” said EarthFest Coordinator Susan Spinella Sacks. "I think the success and impact of EarthFest is certainly a fitting tribute to the legacy of (Dr.) Jeff Featherstone, who helped build the Center for Sustainable Communties from the ground up. EarthFest is again dedicated to the memory of Dr. Featherstone, whose vision, guidance and leadership helped create an outdoor, educational experience for the next generation of leaders.”

According to Spinella-Sacks, EarthFest is expanding during the 2017-2018 school year.

"The need to share ideas about sustainability and protecting and preserving the environment with a wide audience is critical, now more than ever," she said. "In the coming year, Temple Ambler EarthFest will be hosting a variety of events, in addition to our main event in April, in partnership with the Ambler Arboretum and other partners designed to get people really thinking about the world around us." Visit our Community Events page to learn about our spring semester events!

The EarthFest main event will be held on the fields near Ambler’s large student parking lot on Meetinghouse Road and planning is well underway.

“I think one of the most exciting things about EarthFest is that while our mission remains the same — promote environmental awareness and ways to sustain our communities — every year is a little different. We have several new concepts in store for this year. Instead of one 'main stage,' several of our favorite exhibitors will be providing special showcases at their exhibit space each hour,” Spinella-Sacks said. “Arboretum Director Kathy Salsibury will also be providing special tours in the Ambler Arboretum each hour exploring why “All Bugs Aren’t Bad,” which specifically relates to seventh grade curriculum standards in the state. Should this program prove popular — and we are sure it will — we hope to expand it at EarthFest 2019 for additional grades and a variety of topics!”

Temple University Ambler will also welcome many new schools to the event for their EarthFest experience.

“We think it is wonderful when schools find EarthFest for the first time and then keep coming back year after year. It’s an event that we specifically created for students and their teachers — education presented in a fun way that, hopefully makes a lasting impression," she said. "Students will learn concepts at EarthFest that they’ve never learned before, ideas that they’ll then take home and share with their parents and friends — that’s where positive change starts. In 2017, we had have more than 30 school exhibits as part of the event, more than we've ever had before!”

Volunteering at EarthFest

EarthFest is one of the most successful and 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 about 5,500 visitors and more than 80 exhibits expected for 2018, the need for dedicated individuals to help visitors get the most out of their day is critical.

“As EarthFest continues to grow, so does the need for volunteers. Last year’s event could not have been successful without the help of students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members,” said Eric Rivera, who is guiding the volunteer effort for 2018. “We are hoping that we can count on previous volunteers returning and new volunteers participating for the first time. We have dozens of positions that we need filled, and several time options to choose from. This is a wonderful way to be a part of an event that helps educate thousands of students about the environment and the world around them.”

Volunteers have the opportunity to work at an information table, help out in the exhibitor lunch area, guide visitors through the event, and much more! Shifts include: 7 to 9:30 a.m. (set-up), 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 12 to 2:30 p.m. Bus Parking shifts include: 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers may register online for their shifts.

“If you are interested in volunteering but can’t stay for a full shift, let us know what time you are available and we will make it work!” said Rivera. Volunteers get a free volunteer t-shirt “and a wonderfully fulfilling experience!” he added.

Learn more about volunteering for EarthFest. 

Exhibitors at EarthFest

In addition to extremely popular participants such as the Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, Elmwood Park Zoo, Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, the Insectarium and FEMA, Temple University departments and student organizations form the backbone of our exhibitors.

Temple departments, from the Division of Architecture and Environmental Design to Temple’s Office of Sustainability, Recycling Department and Athletics share important information about the University, environmental stewardship and more.

Temple University Ambler student organizations, from the the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association to Pi Alpha Xi, the honors society for horticulture students, also provide interactive exhibits that, while fun, teach important lessons to young visitors about recycling, protecting the environment, and preserving plants and animal habitats.

Learn more about exhibiting at EarthFest.

About EarthFest

Temple University Ambler held its first campus-wide celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2003. The inaugural “EarthFest” welcomed 40 exhibitors and 1,500 visitors — a great beginning for a new event celebrating sustainability and environmental stewardship.

EarthFest promotes environmental awareness using sustainable concepts, methods, and practices to protect and preserve our environment. Organizations, businesses, colleges, schools and individuals demonstrate sustainable concepts and technologies, and provide interactive educational displays, activities and much more.

Would you like to suggest a school to invite to EarthFest? Contact Jim Duffy at 267-468-8108 or

Learn more about bringing your school to EarthFest.