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Eco Fair offers hands-on, feet-on learning

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A steady stream of people looked over the many student entries for the Eco Art Contest. 2 / 6
Third grader Madison O’Shea pedaled away on a “blender bike,” making healthy smoothie samples that were enjoyed by Eco Fair goers at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria Tuesday. Mary Shercliffe, an event volunteer, monitored her progress. The bike was donated by Jake’s Bikes.3 / 6
Al Edenloff | Echo Press Lewis Struthers gave children a taste of honey right from the hive at his exhibit at Tuesday’s Eco Fair. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)4 / 6
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A Minnesota Zoo worker introduced a 33-year-old great horned owl named Annie to the Eco Fair crowd. Her presentation was called “Cool Animals of the North.”6 / 6

Lessons about the Earth, nature and the environment took center stage at the Community Eco Fair at Discovery Middle School Tuesday.

Hosted by Alexandria School District 206 in cooperation with local businesses and organizations, the free Earth Day event combined interactive, hands-on learning with a whole lot of fun.

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Some highlights from the fifth annual Eco Fair:

Students pedaled away on a bicycle connected to a blender that churned out tasty and healthy smoothies, such as black cherry yogurt.

For an Eco Art Contest, students from kindergarten through 12th grade created art projects using recycled materials. Fifth grader Jack Struck, for example, constructed a Durable Ferris Wheel using cardboard, soup cans, egg cartons, straws, tape dispensers and Christmas tree lights.

At a honey bee exhibit, students sampled honey directly from a bee hive. Local beekeeper Lewis Struthers shared fascinating insights into the life of bees, such as the fact that the queen bee lays 1,000 eggs a day.

On a more somber note, Struthers noted that he lost about 80 percent of his bees this year because of the long, cold winter. Worldwide, bee populations have plummeted and experts aren’t sure why it’s happening. The consequences could be dire: About one-third of the food we eat, fruits and vegetables, depend on insect pollination.

Experts from the Minnesota Zoo brought in a variety of animals for students to learn from. They met a great horned owl named Annie that has such keen hearing she can detect a mouse moving in a field under a foot of snow.

Students learned about the scale of the solar system by walking inside the “ExploraDome,” a planetarium show using a 3D atlas developed by the Bell Museum of Natural History.

In the large gym, students could complete a scavenger hunt by visiting 31 exhibits and learning about topics ranging from watersheds and recycling to metal works and locally produced foods.

Students also put their own spin on “make and take” projects. They worked with the Alexandria Junior Viking Sportsmen on building blue jay houses; turned ordinary junk drawer items into works of art with help from the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center; and recycled old newspapers and bottles into seed pots for planting.

Several demonstration stations offered insights into a variety of topics – fish and fishing, veggie ID, vinegar making and vertical gardening.

According to event organizers, the turnout for the Eco Fair was great with attendance on par with previous years. They noted that it takes a lot of volunteer hours and support from many area businesses to make the event a success.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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