If Brenda Keeling's "Save the Rainforest Club" at Ebinport Elementary School has anything to say about it, today's Earth Day might go from a second-tier holiday that has no days off from school, no special food, and plenty of sneering cynics like me, to a movement that really does save the planet.
"Really, it is super cool in this school to be in the club," said club member Trizima Eldridge, who is in this exclusive batch of kids whose sole job is to care about the planet more than TV or video games or other stuff.
This club rocks. The kids are all fifth graders. They attend after school each Monday for months. They learn about the rainforests that are the lungs of the world. They make great stuff, do snazzy projects.
Not football, not basketball, but "Save The Rainforest Club" is the coolest group in the school. It is girls and boys -- "you can be cool and a boy and care about the rainforest," said club member Michael Bailey. Under the tutelage of Keeling, 41 years turning kids into learners, kids don't talk about the rainforest. Students do for the rainforest.
Club members over the years have raised thousands of dollars, just like they will Saturday at the Earth Day Birthday event at the Museum of York County. Club members will sell recyclable bags they made themselves, auction off pictures they made in the club, sell bookmarks and other stuff. Like past years' money went to help purchase rainforest lands in places such as Borneo and Costa Rica, this year's money will go to a rainforest swatch called "El Pangan" in Colombia, South America.
"El Pahngaahn," pronounced Eduardo Camacho, who was already cool in this club, but because he speaks fluent Spanish, was now super-cool.
The club is no class. It is extra and after school. Kids have to earn the right to stay in it, and Keeling is a taskmaster who is loved and cherished by the members.
"We have learned that the rainforests are important to the world in so many ways, from the medicines we have to the oxygen we breathe to habitats for animals," said Anna Goldstein, ringleader of the these tiny lemur-loving environmental agitators. "And you know what else comes from rainforests? Vanilla, and chocolate!"
For Keeling the teacher, after more than 20 years of Rainforest Clubs and Garden Clubs, the earth is not a burden of extra work, but an extra joy in her life. She has no real budget: The projects come from the brain, and the heart. All the money raised Saturday through sales of good hand-made stuff and "rainforest pledges" the kids will sell is shipped out to save another few acres, somewhere.
"I just plain love the rainforest, and the kids who join up find out that when they learn about it, they love it too," said Keeling.
Club member Hannah McKinney's T-shirt said it all about being a kid who loves the rainforest: "Save the Earth; It's the only planet with candy!"
Want to go?
Earth Day Birthday, with events for all ages, is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Museum of York County, 4621 Mount Gallant Road, Rock Hill.
For details, call 803-329-2121, or go to chmuseums.org.
Ebinport Elementary "Save the Rainforest Club" members
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org