SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - "When is my interview'" 10-year-old Aaron Washington eagerly inquired, repeatedly.

The Solomon Elementary School fourth grader wanted to make certain he would be on-the-record concerning his views about Earth Day. He came prepared to share his environmental wisdom.

As Washington and his friends patrolled the second annual Earthday Festival at the Kalakaua community center, here, April 19, their youth was a central component of the event.

Sponsored by Army Hawaii Family Housing (AHFH), the Earthday Festival kicked off "Green Movement," a campaign to increase environmental awareness with young people.

"Of course, change comes with generations: getting younger generations in early and helping them understand what change is about, what environmental responsibility is about, and using kids as advocates of change," said Claire Ridding-Johnston, AHFH, project director, emphasizing the role Washington's generation plays in the future of the movement.

Free plants and dozens of conservation and environmental exhibits rimmed the site with children, education and the Month of the Military Child as predominant themes of the day.

More than two dozen displays offered insights and educational opportunities for children and adults concerning garrison conservation initiatives.

Recycling, water conservation, soil management and biodegradable household products were highlighted. Farmers and landscapers showcased native and locally grown plants, fruits and vegetables, and they provided tips to home gardeners.

The exhibits combined with a variety of youth-focused activities, such as T-shirt and face paintings, inflatable jumpy castles, dramatic storytellers and plenty of keiki food were more than enough activity to keep Washington and his friends engaged for a sunny afternoon.

"Earth Day is important because it reminds us to conserve and take care of our environment," Washington said, when he was asked about the significance of the day.

Washington's moment had arrived, although he did need to have a friend hold his shave ice during his media encounter.

Eighth grader, Nikki Stuart, 13, from Mililani Mauka Middle School wanted to immediately share some of her newfound knowledge with her parents, and set some new standards for herself.

"I would tell (my parents) to conserve water because we use much more water than we should. After today, I will take shorter showers because I take them too long," Stuart said.

The Earth Day movement evolved as a natural extension of Arbor Day. In the spirit of Arbor Day, a tree planting ceremony took place designating Schofield Barracks as a "Tree City USA" community.

Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii; members of AHFH; and a young local artist, Amber Mirafuentes, helped plant the tree. Mirafuentes, a Mililani Mauka Elementary School student, was recognized as the winner of the Arbor Day poster contest after the planting.

"It all starts with trying to change a generation of young kids. They're our future," said Margotta. "That's the way it is in our household.

"My two boys come home from a field trip, and they talk about sustainability, conservation, the environment ... and they tell us what they learned."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16