Kids’ Greenfest and Book Swap

Environmental sustainability on display at NCCL’s Greenfest
By Josh Shannon, Apr 10, 2017, Newark Post

The festival, organized by the Newark Center for Creative Learning, drew nearly 400 people to the school on Phillips Avenue.

Founded in 1971, NCCL is a K-8 cooperative-based school that eschews the traditional education theories in favor of a progressive model in which decisions are shared by all faculty members and instruction is based in part on questions raised by students.

A central part of the school’s philosophy revolves around environmental sustainability – the school has solar panels on the roof and a natural wildlife habitat on its grounds – and Greenfest carries on that theme.

“This is what the whole school is about,” said Nuha Ahmed, a parent who helped organize the event. “It’s our signature event.”

Ahmed said the students help plan the event each year, and many performed on the stage or volunteered at booths along with teachers and parents.

“It’s a joint effort,” she said.

At one booth, math teacher Jim Dooley and fifth-grader Victor Lowell were demonstrating a variety of solar-powered toys created by the students. The inventions were the result of the school’s “workshop week,” when students break into groups and work on projects that match their interests.

“It was really fun,” 11-year-old Victor said as he put a solar-powered boat into a tub of water. “We’d come in and look around for the right motor and solar panel.”

Dooley also showed off a hovercraft – powered by a leaf blower – he and his students built.

“It’s something I always wanted to try. I found the design online and modified it,” Dooley said. “The focus of our school is let’s dig in and learn it.”

“We went out to Glasgow Park and cruised down the hill,” he added. “We had a blast.”

Inside the school, members of the University of Delaware Entomology Club were giving kids a chance to get up-close and personal with various insects, including a tarantula, a millipede and a flat rock scorpion the club members named Dwayne the Flat Rock Johnson.

UD senior Caroline Maahs said it’s important for people to learn about and develop respect for insects and spiders. Though they may not be as cute and cuddly as other animals, they play an important role in the ecosystem.

“It’s important for conservation,” Maahs said. “People tend to overlook insects and spiders and think there’s no reason to protect them.”

In another room, UD graduate engineering students were demonstrating a robot that responds to voice commands and a contraption that lets the user use a robotic arm to draw on a piece of paper.

Christopher Neunuebel, 7, enjoyed playing with the drawing machine and said he’d like to have one at home.

“I would draw different things for all my friends,” he said.

Kylee Arnold, 12, was at a crafts table making a necklace scented with essential oils. She said she enjoyed the variety of activities at Greenfest.

“I really liked the book swap,” she said, adding that she picked up the fantasy novel “The Lightning Thief.” “I also got to pet a snake and a turtle.”

The reptiles Kylee met came from a booth set up by Tim Freiday of the Delaware Nature Society. Freiday brought various animals native to Delaware.

“It’s to teach people they’re an important part of the ecosystem,” he said. “You can find them in your backyard. It really brings nature home.”