World revolves around children at Voelker Orth Earth Day fete

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The sun shined on the Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing last Thursday for its annual Earth Day celebration.

The glorious spring day was a chance for the institution to teach children and families about the importance of protecting the environment while at the same time showing off the 19th-century home and its beautiful Victorian garden.

The second-annual event expanded on last year’s inaugural fete, bringing a number of environmental and educational organizations together to further the mission of the museum.

From a display on the initiatives the MillionTreesNYC program is undertaking to increase the city’s tree canopy to a demonstration on worm bin composting presented in partnership with the Queens Botanical Garden’s Queens Compost Project, attendees had a wide range of offerings to expand their knowledge of environmental issues.

Dr. Marjorie Hendler, a professor of elementary and early childhood education at Queens College, hosts a monthly storytelling event at the museum, at 149-19 38th Ave., and she read children’s books about the Earth and wildlife during the event.

“I want the kids to learn something about the Earth because it’s Earth Day, and also for them to learn about animals,” Hendler said. “It’s wonderful doing this at the museum.”

But Linda Lavalle, a Voelker Orth docent who led tours during the event, said the celebration’s most important purpose was offering an opportunity for city children to connect with nature.

“They enjoyed being outdoors — all the tulips and rolling around in the grass. I think that’s their favorite part, just being in nature,” she said.

Nine-year-old Flushing resident Skylar Blechner seconded that notion, but said she also learned a lot about the world around her and the role she plays in protecting it.

“I learned about the environment and I learned about worms and bees. I also learned that you can reuse anything, like milk cartons, to help animals by making bird feeders and other things. Also, if we plant trees, we can give animals homes,” she said. “The Earth takes care of us and without the Earth we have no home.”

One new feature of this year’s Earth Day extravaganza was a demonstration by Long Island City artist Nancy Rakoczy, who weaves discarded plastics, melts them into pliable sheets and cuts them into shapes in an attempt to visually represent the importance of reducing and reusing plastic waste.

“It’s to bring attention to plastic because discarded plastic becomes invisible,” she said. “It’s to heighten our awareness of what we throw out and to really do something with it.”

William Brunn, 7, of Flushing, heard that message loud and clear at the soiree.

“If we don’t take care of the environment, plants and people could die and we won’t have a nice place to live,” he said.

For more information about the Voelker Orth Museum and its programming, visit

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 11:01 am, October 12, 2011
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