The ninth annual Earth Day Birthday just started Sunday afternoon when Sam Emel Jr., of State College, and his son approached a table set up for the event at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center.
Penn State senior Lexi Kern, a volunteer at the event, sat behind a box that contained dirt and about 150 earthworms and asked him what he knew about the creepy crawlers.
“They’re good fish bait,” Emel joked.
Reading from a stack of facts about the worms, Kern rattled off a few more kernels of information about the worms. An acre of land can hold up to 1 million of them, there are about 2,700 different species and they enrich the soil they inhabit, she said.
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The earthworm adventures table was one of dozens of stations set up at Millbrook Marsh on Sunday. Each had a theme related to animals, plants or sustainabilty. At some, children could make crafts and live music was also featured.
About 800 to 1,000 people usually turn out for the event, said Kathleen Raupach, an instructor of recreation, parks and tourism management at Penn State. Students from her event planning class have organized the event since its inception, she said, and are involved in every aspect of putting it together. Her students also plan the Historic Harvest Festival held at the marsh each year, she said. Raupach said the event is a good way to promote environmental awareness and learning and get people outside. They usually try to plan different stations each year, she said.
It’s not just the guests who are learning, said senior Lex Hoffman, one of Raupach’s students. Planning the event provides real-world experiences, she said.
“Definitely the knowledge and the experience we get will really help us,” Hoffman said. “No matter what business we and end up working for, we’ll eventually be asked to do marketing, customer relations and fundraising.”
Emel and his son, Sam Emel III, 13, have come to the event every year and spoke of the variety.
“There’s always something interesting and it changes every year,” Emel said. “There’s always something informative for people of all ages.”