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Calhoun County fourth graders took a field trip day to the Cane Creek Community Gardens Tuesday to learn more about the environment in celebration of Earth Day. (Photo by Trent Penny)

Area fourth-graders attending Tuesday’s annual Earth Day trip to McClellan’s Cane Creek Community Gardens didn’t spend the entire day outdoors.

As some of the more than 400 students in attendance briefly retreated from the warm outdoor weather into the air conditioning to enjoy lunch, David West, Calhoun County Extension Coordinator and organizer of the event, described why he enjoys introducing children to some of the joys of the environment.

“We want to encourage kids to go outside and realize they can be safe outside,” said West. “Nowadays, kids don’t experience the outdoors like they used to, so they are concerned that they might not be safe outside.”

The Earth Day event, which was held for two separate groups of students on both Monday and Tuesday, teaches kids about the environment by allowing them to experience it for themselves.

To learn more about the dangers of the environment, but how to stay safe around them, students rotated among 12 different stations that presented lessons on water, electrical, farming and wildlife safety. The fourth-graders were even able to interact up close with snakes, rabbits, and other animals.

To organize an educational event that hosts 800 students over two days, West and the extension office needed a lot of help.Around 100 volunteers assisted the extension office in putting together the event this year.

Renea McGathy, who volunteered at the event through her job at Anniston waterworks manufacturer Tyler Union, says she likes to help stage the event so she can reach out to kids.

“We want to invest back into the younger generation,” McGathy said.

Earth Day itself was first observed in 1970 and is celebrated each year on April 22. The county extension office’s Earth Day event is in its 20th year of telling Calhoun County kids about the day, while the event has been hosted by the Cane Creek Community Gardens for the last decade.

The president of the Calhoun County Master Gardener program, Dick Pritchett, helps maintain the 17-acre garden and said he’s happy that kids can use the location to learn and enjoy the day outdoors.

“So many children have never experienced anything like this,” Pritchett said. “A lot of them will get to experience things they’ve never done before, so I feel really good about the whole program, because it’s touched about 800 kids this week.”

John Hall, general superintendent at Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, says he’s glad the program can help lend some practical experience to back up what teachers are going over in the classroom.

“I like to be able to reinforce what the teachers are teaching in their classrooms,” Hall said. “We want to remind these kids to be good stewards of the environment.”

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.