Annual Earth Day Fair Returns

The Stuyvesant Environmental Club (SEC) hosted their annual Earth Day Fair this year, both virtually and in-person.

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Earth Day started in April of 1970 and was celebrated with demonstrations and cleanups occurring in New York City. To maintain this spirit, the Stuyvesant Environmental Club (SEC) shared their appreciation for Earth Day through their annual Earth Day Fair. This year’s theme was natural resources, with the goal of teaching students how they can make an impact and how larger corporations affect the use of these resources.

The event took place over the course of two days, with a remote session on April 13 and an in-person one on April 14. There was a slightly lower turnout in comparison to last year’s completely virtual fair. With breakout rooms in the virtual meeting and physical stations in the in-person event, the fair was designed to be interactive. Club members shared presentations, leaving time for games and complementary activities at the end. SEC members’ Earth Day projects were displayed, such as student-written articles on noise pollution and crafts made out of recyclable materials. Every member contributed an Earth Day project or helped out with one large committee-wide project for one of the four committees in the SEC: the Green Team, Communications Committee, Social Media Committee, and Research Committee.

While the theme of the fair varies every year, this year’s theme was chosen to address overconsumption and to keep the topic broad enough so that a variety of topics could be explored by club members. Past themes include climate change and recycling. The club decided to reuse the interactive aspects from the previous year’s virtual Earth Day Fair. “We made it more interactive, and we gave members more freedom in choosing their project, type, style, and subtopic,” senior and SEC president Nour Kastoun said. “[This] sends the message that learning about the environment and environmental issues doesn’t have to be all really sad and boring.”

There were many events at the virtual fair including a fracking storybook, a presentation on the Ogallala Aquifer, and an environmental trivia bowl. Another event was an environmentally-themed escape room, presented as a Google Form that required information about natural resources to solve. Similar to “choose your own adventure” stories, students would progress through the escape room to another question after answering something correctly until they escaped. When a student answered incorrectly, there would be a dead end that forced the student to return to the question until they answered it correctly.

Some members who attended the virtual event noticed that there were significant differences between the virtual event and the in-person one. “There was no real engagement between the audience and the presenters [in the virtual event],” freshman and SEC member Muhib Muhib said.

While this limitation on interaction presented a challenge, members of the SEC tried to incorporate more interactive activities to their virtual fair. “In the virtual fair there were interactive journeys where, while you choose your own path, you still get to learn about endangered species and the practices that are threatening them. We even had a storybook and other presentations that talk about these issues,” freshman and SEC member Vera Maganov said.

Similarly, the in-person fair was divided into several stations, including an eco-tip station, which provided information about conserving natural resources. “In the eco-tip group, we talked about different food palates for both humans and pets, activism, sustainable fashion, and energy and water conservation. Helping the environment is super important and a little knowledge can go a long way,” Maganov said.

Attendees reflect positively on the fair and its ability to reach the student population with its environmentally-related messages. “I want to applaud all the members of SEC for having put in all the work that they did for the fair and for encouraging the Stuyvesant community to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. It’s nice to see the ways that creativity and activism can intersect,” senior Leo Lin said.

As the fair was a large event, it did not come without difficulties. Due to the pandemic, many SEC members lacked in-person experience hosting the fair. “None of us in the cabinet really knew how to put up an in-person fair, and then our faculty advisor Ms. [Marissa] Maggio was out all week and so we had to figure out what we were doing,” Kastoun said.

In addition, the timing of this year’s fair conflicted with the chorus concert, and there were concerns about working around the band concert that took place after spring break at around the same time when fair preparations were being made.

There was also the general sense of apathy with the transition back to in-person school events in both the student body and the club. “It was a bit less than last year, but we were about the same as last year if you count both days together. Usually, we have over 300 people including club members, and this year it was around 200 [attendees] including club members,” Kastoun said. “It was a good turnout considering the whole transition back to in-person.”

Along with the pressure on the event planners, members who presented also faced obstacles. “Unfortunately, when we presented, we didn’t have enough time to say everything in the virtual fair. My group definitely could have cut it down short, but we covered many topics so that was difficult,” Maganov said.

As for the future of Earth Day Fairs at Stuyvesant, the club has not been discouraged by the struggles faced with putting on this year’s fair. “We haven't had elections yet and I love the club members, and whoever is in the cabinet next year is going to do an amazing job of putting on the fair and making their own ideas come to life,” Kastoun said.