Central Queens Y holds Earth Day education fest

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The Central Queens YM & YWHA in Forest Hills was converted into a smorgasbord of Earth Day offerings Sunday afternoon with entertaining and educational activities for families from across the borough.

Featuring games, workshops and kiosks with ideas for how people can lessen their impact´╗┐ on the environment, the Y’s first Earth Day Fair brought hundreds of people together to have fun while learning how they could help the world.

Michele and Dave Slotnick of Glen Oaks brought their daughters Sierra, 8, and Miranda, 7, to the event in hopes of finding a way to celebrate Earth as a family.

“It sounded like a fun place to come with the kids to learn about recycling and the environment. They learn a lot from school, but this is another way to learn,” Michele Slotnick said. “That’s what’s most fun is. It’s not just a boring science class, it’s a fun, hands-on environment.”

Though their parents enjoyed themselves as well, children seemed to get the most out of the festivities.

Nurit Buitron, 7, of Forest Hills said she had a great time at the event and that she learned a lot by visiting the different kids’ stations, which featured face painting, necklace-making, art projects and other activities, all tweaked to offer a green lesson.

“We learned about taking empty things and recycling them,” she said. “Earth Day’s important because you’re not supposed to pollute.”

And that is the whole point of the initiative, according to Peggy Kurtz, coordinator for the YM & YWHA’s two-year greening initiative, which is currently underway and seeks to reduce the facility’s environmental footprint through innovative means such as retrofitting lights, instituting a recycling program and installing low-flow showerheads.

“My aim was that everyone who comes here today will go home with very specific ideas about what they can do for the environment at home,” she explained. “My second aim was I wanted people to feel excited and energized by all of the possibilities, all of the things that are going on, ways to take action and get involved.”

So she brought together a coalition of like-minded organizations, including the Queens Green Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, local religious groups and more, all of which offered their green ideas and solutions.

A bus owned by one such group, the Teva Learning Center, may have been the hit of the day. Fueled entirely by used vegetable oil refined on board with a simple centrifuge, the Manhattan-based group’s bus is probably the only one of its kind in the country.

Jonathan Dubinsky, the engaging, informed resident of the vehicle and Teva’s special programs coordinator, drives around the country, sharing the message of environmentalism through the history and tradition of Judaism. He enthralled children on board the bus, which he parked outside the YM & YWHA, with his tales of life cycles, worms, recycling and composting.

“Earth Day is really all of our birthdays,” he said. “Without the understanding of what the Earth is doing for you, it can be difficult to have a sense of responsibi­lity.”

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

Updated 5:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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