Earth Day 2017: Birds, Bees, Bats, and More!

Wind and rain would dampen most outdoor events, but it was the perfect backdrop for the Dunn community as they celebrated Earth Day (a few days early) on Monday, April 17.

This year’s event featured a wide range guest presenters and creative approaches to teaching and learning about environmental sustainability. This is also one of the few days when Middle and Upper school students come together for a day of learning.

"It is important to tear down classroom walls when it comes to education," says Upper School STEM teacher Beth McCoy, who helped plan the day's events. "The students need more than facts and data. They need experience and opportunity. It is opportunities like Earth Day that help the students develop passion for a subject." 

The morning schedule centered on a series of workshops on a variety of topics from special guests from the region:

  • Scott Simon, an educator from the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, presented on the fragility of marine biology. 
  • Tom Rem from the Beekeepers Guild of Santa Barbara brought a hive to talk about the importance of bees for biodiversity and the dangers of colony collapse.
  • Peggy Lubchenco from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, spoke about her time as a researcher on the polar icecaps of Antarctica.
  • Sue Eisigurre, executive director of NatureTrack, led a session on “Corvids of the Valley” with a special activity to match beak-types to food sources.
  • Pat Carroll, Director of Facilities at Dunn, and teacher Laura Fox helped students construct new "bat boxes" for campus to attract the nocturnal creatures, which are beneficial for the local food chain.

For lunch, Dunn students and the Dunn Kitchen prepared a farm-to-table, tip-to-top lunch with all ingredients sourced from a 50-mile radius from the school. After lunch, local falconer Lou Eisigurre brought out his hawk Pedro for a demonstration of how birds of prey hunt for their food in the wild.

The day ended with a short film festival, when students watched environmental films and discussed their key themes.

Students also prepared the ground to instal the third bank of solar panels on the school's campus, which were installed this week.

"Earth Day was a big hit," said Middle School STEM teacher Meg West, who planned the day with Ms. McCoy. "The students not only had the opportunity to learn from experts representing several different scientific disciplines and community organizations that were passionate about environmental sustainability, but they also had a chance to share their own knowledge with their peers."