April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In Wallowa County, 4 year old Addie Austin celebrated this worldwide event by helping her family paint a stunningly blue planet, and also designing a more magenta-colored planet of her own. “Its got lots of animals,” she said. “And sparkles too.”

In the days of COVID-19 social distancing, three local non-profits, Building Healthy Families, Wallowa Resources, and Wallowology, along with other community partners,are helping to ensure that kids and families can celebrate Earth Day in fine style at home.

“We’ve made up about 150 bags of activities that people of all ages can participate in,” said Autumn Wilburn, special projects coordinator for Building Healthy Families.

The bags can be picked up at five locations around the county (see sidebar.) The activities, all of which can be done at home or an outside green space, include learning about pollinators, planting a pollinator garden and building mason bee nests out of metal cans which can no longer be recycled in Wallowa County, and paper straws. “Kind of takes the cans to a higher calling,” Wilburn said.

Other activities in the kits include ideas and materials for an Earth-orientated community art project . “There’s colored chalk to help get some ideas flowing,” Wilburn said.

“A community art piece was something everyone in the county could do—seniors, parents, single adults, and kids--just to share something with your neighbors”, said Bre Austin, who plans pre-school programs for Wallowology. “We put a lot of focus on kids because that group is really being impacted by the current situation. But all the activities can be scaled up for adults, or down for the wee ones.”

The art project can include a collage made out of newspaper and magazine clippings, a photograph, a painting, or any other visual art form. Wilburn thought that collages might be especially appropriate and thought-provoking. The groups hope that artists will share their creations by displaying them in a visible place (window of house, for example) and sharing them on social media with the hashtag #WallowaEarthDayProject.

For those not into art, there’s Wallowa County bird bingo to help teach about the species of bird that call the county home, and a hand lens for exploring the small things and the details of larger things.

Asked why Earth Day was important, 4 year-old Addie Austin said, “It’s when we really start to care for things now that its spring.”

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