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Rio Vista kids attend environmental, career fair

Two dozen exhibitors raise eco-awareness.

Posted: April 4, 2008 7:05 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.

SCV Waste Management's Sandra Pursley and her friend Cycler talk to Rio Vista Elementary classes at Thursday's Environmental Awareness and Career Day.

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Are you smarter than a fifth-grader when it comes to environmental issues?

Volunteering representatives of local agencies had an opportunity on Thursday to find out at the second annual Rio Vista Elementary School Environmental Awareness and Career Day.

"I'm amazed at how intelligent these kids are," said Eduardo Escobedo, counselor for Los Angeles Trade Tech, one of the mentors at the event. "I've talked to high school students and 90 percent of the kids here are better listeners."

Event coordinator Linda Valdes described it as bigger and better than last year.

"It has been fan-tabulous," she said. "Students have been learning so much about the environment ... Learning how to be good stewards of it and in caring for it."

Sign of the times
Being aware of environmental issues at such a young age is a sign of the times, she added.

"It's so much a part of our culture to be cognoscente about the environment," she said.

About two dozen exhibitors including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coalition for Cleaner Air joined presenters, mentors and volunteers offering to lead kids on short nature hikes.

Roberta Brodsky, director of the recycling program at the company Planet Green, split her time between the company's information booth and lecturing to students about reusing printer ink cartridges and cell phones.

Planet Green is a company based in Chatsworth that buys used cartridges and cell phones in bulk from institutions such as schools and churches, refurbishes them and sells them.

Questions posed by kids in her class included:
* "Do you put the ink back in the cartridge?"
* "Would you keep using the same ink cartridge?"
* "If I give you a cell phone, should I take out the battery first?"
* "If I find a computer or TV near the trash, can I pick it up and bring it to you?"

Respective answers offered up by Brodsky included: "Yes, yes, no and no."

"I tell them cell phones contain a lot of chemicals such as lead, cadmium and nickel and that all these metals (when discarded) leak into the soil and then into the groundwater," Brodsky said.

Suk Ann Yee, a biologist with Environmental Science Associates, took second-graders on a hike to the Santa Clara River bed.

"When we got there they were sliding down on their butts," she said. "We found a crow's nest."

The event, sponsored by the National Hispanic Environmental Council, featured some prominent figures in Santa Clarita, who are committed to improving and protecting the environment.

Some of Thursday's presenters included four representatives of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Knowledgeable kids
Aileen McDonald, from the agency, said she was impressed at how much students already knew about the environment.

Mentors included Maria Gutzeit, an environmental engineer and member of the board at Newhall County Water District, and Jenny Nemitz of the Jaycees, who spent the day fielding questions from kids about the graphic color photos she had arranged depicting the effects of smoking on internal organs.

"They don't understand the (before and after) stroke photos of the brain," Nemitz said. "But they do get the lungs and the effects of smoking."




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