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Earth Heroes 🌎

by Dr. Oakleigh Thorne, II

Students with Thorne Nature Experience.

Are you an Earth Hero? My daughter Sarah lives in Sheridan, Wyoming and runs a summer nature camp called Science Kids. One of the classes she teaches is called “Earth Heroes.” They do good deeds that help the Earth to be a better place. Even small efforts can make a difference to the environment…each one counts and adds up in a positive way.

One of their favorite activities is creating a pollinator garden. The children plant flowers that attract honey bees and bumblebees. When these insects fly from flower to flower they transport pollen to each one. This pollinates the flowers so they can then reproduce and make healthy seeds that can produce more flowers. The students also learn how to make good compost, which helps nurture their garden and improves the soil for growing plants.

Another Earth Hero project is to make bird houses and bat houses and put them up in places where they will be well used. Bats are active at dusk and in the dark hours of the night. They eat great quantities of flying insects, such as mosquitoes. I’m sure it would make you happy to know that most of the mosquitoes around your house are being eaten by bats. In addition, by encouraging birds, these feathered friends also eat lots of bugs. Swallows, for example, also eat lots of flying insects.

Earth Heroes also help by pulling up invasive plant species, such as cheat grass and bind weed. These are nonnative plants that have invaded our area and choke out our native plants. It’s important to learn how to identify nonnative from native species. The more we can eliminate these unwanted “weeds,” the more our native plants can survive and thrive.

Picking up litter is always a good project and can be done on a small scale around your home or school, or on a larger scale such as the Adopt a Highway program where a group or an organization pledge to clean up a whole stretch of a road. You can teach your friends not to litter if you see them drop a gum wrapper or empty juice bottle.

I remember years ago when I ran a dude ranch in Wyoming, guests who smoked would often drop their cigarette butts on the ground, stomp them out, and just leave them there. But they would then see me lean over, pick up their discarded butt, and put in the “litter pocket” of my jeans. They would usually never do that again!

Another favorite Earth Heroes project is recycling. They may start their own recycling program or become a “super recycler” and learn about all the different items that can be recycled; then use their knowledge to teach their friends and family. A long time ago a small group of people started a recycling organization in Boulder called Ecocycle. It grew to become nationally famous!

Building trails or working on trail improvement and clean-up is an important activity that is done by such groups as the Cottonwood Institute or the City of Boulder Junior Rangers, for example. You can sign up to help such organizations with their good work.

In the 1960s, I was a member of a small group that helped get the sales tax passed for the City of Boulder to buy open space. We worked hard to educate the local citizens and had good publicity in the newspaper and on radio. Today both the City of Boulder and Boulder County own thousands of acres of open space that is protected from development.

So you can be an Earth Hero, too! Start with small projects around your home, then ones at school, and then as you get older, ones in your community. You can make a difference!

Dr. Thorne is founder and honorary president of Thorne Ecological Institute in Boulder. They have helped “connect kids to nature” for more than 55 years. For more information about Thorne Natural Science School classes for children, check or e-mail or call (303) 499-3647.

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