By Katie Neitz

Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability partnered with the Easton Area Community Center to host local kids on campus for a day of education and inspiration.

Children enrolled in Easton Area Community Center’s summer camp visited Lafayette’s campus in July. It was a full day of fun and hands-on learning, with the goal of cultivating awareness for how kids can have a positive impact on the world around them in their everyday lives.

“Sustainability practices are ingrained into us at a very young age,” says Samantha Smith, Lafayette’s sustainability outreach and engagement manager. “We learn to value the Earth, but only if we truly understand the role that it plays in our lives. It provides us with food, water, air, and the resources we need to live. But it isn’t always so clear when we go to the grocery store or turn on the faucet. Teaching kids about sustainability, bringing them to the farm where food comes from, showing them the rocks that make the aluminum bottles they use, these are all ways we build a better understanding of our finite resources and how to act sustainably in our daily lives, in a real, and tangible nature.”

Students’ first stop on campus was LaFarm, Lafayette’s campus farm, where they toured the grounds with Josh Parr, manager of food and farm, participated in a bug identifying activity, and created bouquets of flowers to take home. They then met John Soder, Lafayette’s executive chef, who helped them make a watermelon salsa, using ingredients from LaFarm and other local farms. 

After lunch, the kids looked into microscopes with Megan Rothenberger, associate professor of biology and chair of environmental science and studies programs, to learn about pollution and the microorganisms that live in Bushkill Creek, and identified rocks and their uses with John Wilson, geology and environmental geosciences laboratory coordinator. Students capped off the day learning about the importance of playing an active role in your community from Chelsea Morrese, director of the Landis Center for Community Engagement, and Jodi Fowler, Landis’ assistant director for civic leadership.

The camp also provided students the opportunity to explore Lafayette’s campus and learn from its faculty and staff. “Lafayette College is part of the Easton community,” Smith says. “Our campus provides beautiful greenspace, learning opportunities, and educational infrastructure. It is important to bring those resources to local students and their families so they can come to campus and explore, ask questions, and participate.”

Karen Wilson-Payne, a local teacher and counselor at the Easton Area Community Center summer camp, says the experience was “priceless” for the children. “They were excited to taste vegetables straight from the earth and take some home. Eating in a college dining hall made them feel a little grown up. The campers enjoyed decorating their own rocks, and being able to take them home as a memory and bragging rights that they got from Lafayette College.”

In addition to the flower bouquets, vegetables, and rocks, each camper received a take-home packet providing information on how they can practice sustainability in their daily lives and educate their friends and family. The hope is that what they learn transcends beyond the camp and they are equipped with resources to continue to learn about sustainability and the role it plays in their lives.