Arkansas State University celebrates Earth Day

Tracy Klotz, a biology professor, showing off Georgia, his 12-foot albino Burmese python to local elementary school students. Klotz
and his wife, Barbara Parks, frequently attend outreach events to help people overcome their fears of snakes.

Arkansas State University celebrated Earth Day in the Red WOLF Center on Friday.

This year’s theme was “Invest in Our Planet,” in which numerous booths and speakers discussed recycling, conservation and Earth-friendly practices. It was hosted by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).

 A-State has hosted an Earth Day celebration since 2009.

Open to the community, the event saw an estimated 479 elementary students, 120 parents and 200 A-State students and staff. The elementary students came from 10 schools in the area.

“We’ll be talking to students about the importance of using trash cans and not throwing things on the ground or letting them get into the ditches,” said Melissa Dooley, director of EHS, who was dressed as Dr. Seuss’s character “The Lorax” at the event. 

The event was initially to take place at Heritage Plaza Lawn, but was moved inside due to weather. 

While Earth Day fell on a Saturday, Jennifer Bouldin, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said the event was hosted on Friday to allow school kids to come. 

Many A-State organizations came and spoke, including the Environmental Club. Club representatives Arissa Farmer and Katie Willis talked to the elementary students about reusable and recyclable materials.

“(We told them) about how reusable straws and paper straws are better for the environment and what they can do to get those things, like where to buy paper straws. We also have pamphlets that students have made for our club about how to check your self care products for sustainable ingredients,” said Farmer, a senior marketing major from Trumann and vice president of the club.

The Environmental Club is part of the planning committee for Earth Day. 

“We used to have a really big (event) before COVID and then we obviously didn’t have them for a while. We’re finally getting it back up to where we’re getting all kinds of students from the community, college students and just trying to raise awareness about going green in our community,” said Willis, a senior psychology major from Blue Springs, Missouri, and president of the Environmental Club.

Also at the event was Tracy Klotz, a biology professor, and his wife, Barbara Parks, who works in the Office of Behavioral Research and Evaluation. The couple brought their snakes and other animals, including a frog, bearded dragon and a tortoise, for the students to hold and get pictures with. 

“We do a lot of outreach to help people get over their fear of snakes,” Klotz said. “One of the most common phobias is fear of snakes. So we bring up our nice snakes and show them that they’re not big, bad, scary critters that they should be afraid of.”

Klotz added the snakes also act as a wow factor, especially when they “see a big one like Georgia.” Georgia is a 12-foot albino Burmese python. 

Red Wolves for Red Wolves, the student organization dedicated to promoting conservation of the American red wolf, was there as well, educating students on protection and conservation efforts for the species. 

“We’re trying to really just spread word: stop killing them. Stop killing our red wolves,” said Lilly Newton, a junior animal science major from Little Rock and club member.

Planning for the event began in January. Those in attendance were provided lunch, which was donated from various businesses, including Sodexo, Textbook Brokers, Frito-Lay and Coca-Cola. 

On the same day, International Programs hosted a Mother Earth Day celebration. Taking place on the back patio of the International Studies Building, students painted terracotta pots and planted wildflower seeds. 

“They’re gonna have something to take home with them that will eventually grow pretty little flowers,” said Abigail Speights, assistant director of campus experience.

Nathaly Gonzalez, a senior business economy major from El Salvador, said the event was not only a way for students to help care for the Earth, but also provide an opportunity for international students to meet domestic students.

“That’s our main goal, to create a space where international students can hang out together as well as meet domestic students,” Gonzalez said.

Scheduled for that day was a Campus Cleanup, hosted by Volunteer A-State, but it was canceled due to weather.

Anna Cox, copy editor, contributed to this report.

Categories: News

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