Steve Matson of the Harvard Energy Advisory Committee is also a professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Tufts University.  Matson made a
Steve Matson of the Harvard Energy Advisory Committee is also a professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Tufts University. Matson made a presentation to fourth and fifth grade students on energy production, carbon footprints, and global warming. (Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata)

HARVARD - On Monday, Earth Day, students at Hildreth Elementary School sat in rapt attention for a series of presentations aimed at raising awareness about environmental protection.

Students of each grade have participated in projects which will become part of the school's open-air courtyard. Kindergartners and first graders planted flower seeds to provide nectar for butterflies. Second graders made suet feeders out of cornmeal, flour, sunflower seeds and raisins.

The third grade class made feeders out of recycled soda bottles. Fourth graders made butterfly and bird houses. Fifth grade students made bird baths out of clay flower pots. All of the work was directed by art teacher Cindy Harris over the week before April vacation.

To prepare for Earth Day, students designed bird and butterfly houses which will be located in the school courtyard.  In June, students will plant flowers
To prepare for Earth Day, students designed bird and butterfly houses which will be located in the school courtyard. In June, students will plant flowers in the courtyard. (Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata)

Guest speaker Steve Matson is a member of the Harvard Energy Advisory Committee and professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Tufts University. Matson addressed fourth and fifth grade students. In recognition of the work of the Energy Advisory Committee and the installation of a solar array atop the school's gymnasium, Matson discussed the sun's contributions to the environment and, in particular, cycles that produce energy.

Matson handed out coal samples, which were passed among the students. The fossilized carbon remains the most used fuel in the generation of electricity. "A vast majority of scientists" agree that carbon emissions from burning coal "is causing the planet to warm," explained Matson.

Drought and food shortages, melted polar caps, and increased incident of violent storms can result, warned Matson. A conversion to renewable power sources like solar is the salvation, said Matson, who said he personally powers his home with wind power.

The solar array atop the school gym was installed in January. Since then, the system has generated 2,297 kilowatt hours, or enough to prevent the release of one ton of carbon emissions in to the atmosphere.

Matson praised HES for its "reduced environmental footprint" with the new solar system up and running. Fellow Energy Advisory Committee members Jim Elkind and Bill Blackwell were on hand for the presentation.

Bromfield students Emma Sullivan and Olivia Philip talked about the newly-formed "Bromfield Green Team" which works on environmental issues. One club project is for Bromfield to go energy-free for a day in May. The team is also looking to promote changes in the school lunch program to cut down on paper waste.

Fourth grade teacher Kathy Kittredge applauded her students for constructing cardboard 'solar homes' which modeled the use of awnings and solar panels to decrease energy use at home.

"This is about everybody doing a lot of little things," said Matson.

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.