Key officials and staff members of the Town of Cutler Bay made Earth Day, Wednesday, May 14, even more significant for the students of Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary School by visiting them and the school’s faculty, playing the role of educators for a day.
Town manager Rafael Casals; Casal’s assistant, Jazmin Gonzalez; Public Works director Alfredo Quintero Jr.; Stormwater Utility manager Yenier Vega; administrative assistant Miguel Delgado, and members of the NEAT Team, Javier Aguilar, Ted Gibson and Danny Rodriguez, participated, creating lesson plans and presentations geared to teaching students the effects of pollution on the environment and simple things they can do to prevent it. Councilmembers Peggy Bell and Mary Ann Mixon also took part in the special event.
Students from grades 2 through 5 in the school’s Wave Academy were able to interact with town staff through four different work stations. The first station was a PowerPoint presentation directed by Public Works director Alfredo Quintero focusing on “stormwater runoff” and the different ways to reduce pollutants reaching canals, rivers, streams and ground water table.
Stormwater Utility manager Yenier Vega presented the second station, an enviro-scape stormwater management model representing a miniature urban watershed consisting of homes, farms, shops, roads, rivers and streams. Students were able to experience firsthand how pollutants such as oil, erosion, litter and other contaminants are carried by stormwater runoff and can pollute waterways. They used spray bottles with dyed water to represent soils and pollutants.
The third station involved a video presentation using an educational animation demonstrating the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle.
“The fourth and final station involved the rehabilitation of the school’s Butterfly Garden,” said Alfredo Quintero Jr. “The Town donated two yellow Tabebuia trees, five gardenia plants, and many other flowering plants such as Tibouchinas, honeysuckles, pentas, dwarf fire bush, regular fire bush and firecracker plants. Many other miscellaneous plants purchased from Mix’d Greens Environmental Inc. also were donated to the school’s Butterfly Garden. Students played an integral role in the restoration of their Butterfly Garden by planting the different plants and flowers, and spreading vibrant red mulch around the garden.”
After visiting each station, students returned to their normal school schedules with a “goodie- bag” filled with educational brochures and trinkets donated by FEMA, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Department, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Only Rain Down the Drain, and Miami-Dade County.
“This was one of my best and most rewarding days on the job,” Yenier Vega said. “The town is fully committed to our schools and the children in this community.” Marilyn Horne, a fourth grade teacher at Whigham Elementary, appreciated the special event.
“I continue to be impressed with the level of dedication Ralph Casals and Mary Ann Mixon have shown to our schools,” Horne said. “I would also like to thank Mr. Quintero, Mr. Vega, and their staff of workers for the beautification of our butterfly garden. We are very fortunate to have the support of the Town of Cutler Bay.”
The town’s effort made a hit with the students as well, according to fifth grader Alexander Samuel.
“This is very impressive for our town workers to come to the school,” Samuel said. “They were all very nice, friendly, and hardworking people.”