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Carol Martin-Ward, manager of the 4-H Teaching Garden, pokes into a garden plot to show how different types mulch replenish soil at the Massabesic Audubon Center's Earth Day Festival on Saturday. (Barbara Taormina))

Eath Day

Auburn families show the little things can make a big difference

AUBURN - Families built bird houses, ran recycling relays, painted, played and learned how to tread a little lighter on the planet at Saturday's Massabesic Audubon Center's Earth Day Festival.

"Earth Day is an opportunity to show people that little things are important," said Angie Krysiak, the center's program director. "People, and especially kids, see the things they do make a difference, and it all adds up."

Launched in 1970, Earth Day has long been an international green tradition that has highlighted and celebrated environmental ideas and issues. Krysiak and other Audubon staff and volunteers believe education is key, and the center reaches out with programs that try to inspire both a sense of awe and responsibility toward nature.

Carol Martin-Ward, manager for the 4-H Teaching Garden, which operates on about a half-acre of land at the center, was on hand ready to share tips on soil conservation and organic gardening. The teaching garden is divided into separate plots or smaller theme gardens, such as the pumpkin patch and the pizza garden, which will be thick with basil and tomatoes in a few months.

"We have a science garden, and every year we have some type of ongoing science experiment with elementary school kids," said Martin-Ward adding that last year, the topic was mulch.

A volunteer garden crew works with Martin-Ward on Tuesday mornings, but there is room for more hands.

"A lot of work was done by three weenie women, and after we were done we all went to the doctors," laughed Martin-Ward.

Just beyond the garden, Al Lessard, an Audubon volunteer, was tending a campfire where kids roasted marshmallows.

"This is the fifth or sixth Earth Day we've had here," said Lessard, adding the Fish and Game Department will host another Earth Day event next weekend.

"Families who come learn a lot of stuff," he said.

A large crew of Student Conservation Association members also helped run different games and events. The SCA, which operates under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, enlists young people, ages 18 to 25, for a year's stint on a variety of eco-projects. SCA-NH works with kids in Manchester, as well as Allenstown elementary and middle schools on classroom green projects and education.

"They also run after-school programs and then go on to conservation work in state parks," explained program director Teresa McNamee.

Older green activists who have been celebrating Earth Day from its start, feel the annual festivals have helped raise public awareness about conservation.

"I think everybody is a little more aware of their carbon footprint and the importance of recycling," said Jean Sweeney, an Audubon volunteer from Manchester. Still, old problems linger as new issues emerge.

"I think about the water," said Sweeney, who worries that some of Lake Massabesic's watershed may eventually be up for sale to raise money for the town. "I'm not sure Manchester understands what a resource this is," she added.

But presenting those ideas and triggering some conversation among residents is part of what Earth Day is about.

"I think Earth Day really does get a point across," said volunteer Bev Youree, who was getting a few last-minute viewers into their seats for a performance of an eco-skit.

"People go home with different ideas and hopefully, it sticks with them," she said.

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