The Conservancy’s Delaware chapter continues to benefit from a new generation of conservationists emerging from Rehoboth Elementary School. During the past four school years, 5th-graders have donated funds towards conservation as part of a unit focusing on the Earth’s ecosystems and how all living things interact with each other.
During the 2009-2010 school year, Rehoboth Elementary's 38-member H.O.P.E. (Help Our Planet Earth) group chose to learn about aquatic ecosystems. Inspired to action upon learning that many local watersheds are threatened by pollution and development, the H.O.P.E. group hosted bake sales and yard sales with support from families and friends to raise more than $450. They dedicated the funds to The Nature Conservancy at their 5th grade graduation ceremony in June. Funds will support the Conservancy’s conservation easement to protect the Island Farm & Sanctuary Farm properties – a 507-acre mosaic of salt marsh, wetlands, forests and fields located adjacent to the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
“My 5th graders were amazed when they learned of the total amount that they would be donating,” says Jacquie Kisiel, the fifth-grade teacher who coordinates this annual effort. “Instead of spending money on the boardwalk or shopping at the outlets, they wanted to see their money last for a lifetime and in a natural area located close to their homes.”
This year’s achievement builds on previous years. In 2009, the 28-member “REScuers” donated more than $600 to help the Conservancy acquire additional lands for its Middleford North Preserve, an important protected portion of the greater Nanticoke River watershed. In 2008, sixteen members of “All Paws In” donated more than $500 for the Conservancy’s land acquisition projects in Africa. The previous year, four students raised more than $300 for Brazil’s rainforests as their own advocacy group, “Liv-2-Luv.”
“The philanthropy has become a school tradition, something incoming 5th-graders look forward to as they begin their school year,” adds Kisiel. “The incoming students ask me whether we’ll be having an environmental club and I proudly reply with a definite ‘Yes.’