Local families and visitors Saturday gathered in Center Hill for the 11th annual Earth Day celebration sponsored by CEMEX and the Sumter County School District.
The event was at the Sumter Environmental Education Center (SEEC), a joint partnership between the school district and CEMEX, with educational facilities located adjacent to CEMEX’s Center Hill quarry.
Kids and the grownups were busy throughout the event, checking on the many educational displays that gave the youngsters an opportunity for some “hands on” learning about the environment while doing activities ranging from creating terrariums in bottles and making wild bird treats with pine cones, to painting rocks, to touching a live alligator or scooping sand in the “Kids Fossil Dig.”
There was plenty for all to enjoy: free ice cream and hotdogs and entertainment from the South Sumter Middle School Band and Chorus, the South Sumter High School Raider Jazz Band, and a musical set by the Same is Lame Jazz Ambassadors, a community-based group of music teachers and others plying their talents for an enthusiastic crowd of adults and students.
The attendees could also board a bus for a tour into the mine quarry itself. That helps people understand the mining business, said Jenna Emerson from CEMEX public affairs.
The event and the educational facility couldn’t be done without the district’s support, Emerson said. There are people who started out as school students in the environmental program that now are CEMEX employees.
The SEEC provides programs for all the fourth and sixth grade students in Sumter County, she said. This year, the SEEC provided a pilot second grade program that featured owls and bats.
“They were so into it,” Emerson said. “We used a nature trail scavenger hunt on an old mine mitigation site.”
The SEEC uses curriculum related to the teaching standards for the students, she said. They learn by “hands on” activities and it helps to get the kids outside and more active.
Sumter School Superintendent Rick Shirley was among a large crowd enjoying the jazz music. “It’s a great day; absolutely beautiful day and we’ve got about a thousand here with many environmental things to do.”
“This is a good partnership with CEMEX,” Shirley said. “We have lots of staff involved – it takes a lot to pull this off and lots of business and organization partners.”
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