By Tom Budzyna, USAG Schinnen Public AffairsApril 22, 2010
SCHINNEN, Netherlands - Earth Day was celebrated by U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen with tailored presentations, an educational walk around Schinnen Pond and a poster contest to promote energy awareness, recycling and mankind's impact on the environment to more than 250 students from five nearby military and civilian community schools April 22, 2010.
The setting on USAG Schinnen, where international borders and multi-national organizations are the norm, provided an opportunity to broaden environmental and cultural awareness. The winning posters can be viewed via the Web site in the Related Link section box (located right).
At least twelve nations were represented in the group of 300 students, teachers and organizers and an air of excitement was added by interactive activities and the presence of the American Forces Network radio and television crews who were covering the event live.
In the spirit of the occasion, Dutch students from Amstenrade rode their bicycles while students from Schinnen walked, all with their packed lunches under sunny skies to the only U.S. Army garrison in the Netherlands.
"It's wonderful that they came by foot or by bike. It's good exercise," said Sylvia Mies, Public Affairs Chief for the Municipality of Schinnen, who was accompanied by Rita Hoefnagels, USAG Schinnen Community Relations Specialist. Hoefnagels, as one of the many Dutch Ministry of Defense employees on the base. took the student's entrance in stride.
"I was very happy to receive the invitation to bring our students here today. It was a very interesting and important day," Mies said.
The Dutch students are from De Verrekijker School, Amstenrade and Saint Dionysius School, Schinnen, both located near the base.
They were joined by students from AFNORTH International School, Geilenkirchen Elementary School and Kleine Brogel Elementary School.
AFNORTH International School supports service members assigned to NATO Joint Forces Command, Brunssum, Netherlands; Geilenkirchen Elementary School supports service members assigned to the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany; and Kleine Brogel Elementary School supports service members assigned to the Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium.
"This is the third year students from AFNORTH participated in Earth Day here on USAG Schinnen. Kids learn a lot about recycling, saving energy and how energy is produced. It's great, also, that they get to do see wildlife at the Schinnen pond where they get to learn about the ecology and the native plants here," said Angela Russell, a teacher at AFNORTH.
Dutch and U.S. employees on USAG Schinnen arranged an educational walk around Schinnen Pond, which is home to several varieties of protected or endangered flora and fauna. Environmental engineers on the base use the U.S. Army's Environmental Management System to protect and conserve resources on military installations.
A video in the Dutch and English language was produced by the USAG Schinnen Energy Manager, Peter Scheilen, to show how to conserve energy in the home.
Students visited the Separate or Recycle Trash or "SORT" Center located on the base where they saw how the base processes trash and recyclable materials. They also were taught how to read and understand product labels to ensure common household products are disposed properly.
"We participated in nice activities,... important activities. Keep up the good work," said Peter Vroomen, a teacher from Saint Dionysius School, Schinnen.
As part of their live radio broadcast of the Earth Day event, AFN held an interview with three 10 and 11 year-old students from Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The three students echoed the importance of turning off lights when not in use, closing doors and windows to conserve heat, closing refrigerator doors, taking shorter showers and recycling paper and plastic.
"This is truly an international event. It's great to have this opportunity to teach kids the importance of taking care of our planet because they can really make a difference. They represent the future of our planet," said Robert Mackson, USAG Schinnen Director of Public Works.
"Grown-ups play a big part, too, because conservation and environmental protection is nothing new. This is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and first held in the U.S. in 1970," said Mackson.
The original coordinator of Earth Day held in 1970, Denis Hayes, turned Earth Day into an international event in 1990. Since then, Earth Day has been observed worldwide according to Earth Day Network.
The theme for Earth Day 2010 is "Take Action; Commit to a Clean Energy Future". U.S. President Barak Obama, in his online Earth Day address, challenged individuals to take action in their homes, communities, schools or businesses to improve our environment.
To meet this challenge, USAG Schinnen is pursuing technologies, partnerships and personal accountability to increase energy security while efficiently and effectively sustaining their mission to support U.S. service members, civilians and their family members assigned throughout northern Germany, northern Belgium and the Netherlands.