Photo by Maya Hruskar ’23
Fairy lights dot the sky, resembling stars on a warm autumn afternoon. The scent of caramel and maple fills the air as children bound across the newly-fallen leaves and parents lounge on logs. But alongside stations like apple slingshot and donut-on-a-string are more unique activities. Behind the gates of the animal sanctuary, families can watch and learn about various injured native animals or touch tanks displaying marine creatures.
The Fall Festival along with the adults only Woodside Bash are the largest fundraising events Earthplace hosts for the year. These events spread the word about Earthplace’s programming while simultaneously funding them and bringing the community together.
“It’s a fundraiser and a friend raiser we like to call it,” Sophie Pullman, director of marketing and development at Earthplace, said. “It’s a great way to get people to find out about Earth Place and see what we do here.”
Earthplace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the community about the importance of nature and conservation, encouraging civic engagement from a young age. Exemplifying this spirit, the family-fun stations at the festival were run by teen volunteers. Several Staples students used the event as an opportunity to complete volunteer hours.
“We were here last year […] we come here almost every year for the [Fall Festival],” Lila Botur ’23, a member of the Builders Beyond Borders club at Staples, said.
The club requires volunteer hours from its members, which Botur accomplished through Earthplace.
“We help out with the kids with certain activities,” Botur said. “It’s for family bonding times and you can socialize with everyone.”
The publicity of the Fall Festival also draws many families who may be unfamiliar with Earthplace to learn about its mission and programming. The money raised from the Fall Festival and Woodside Bash weekend go to both running these programs and offering scholarships to families.
“We try to make our programming and summer camp accessible to everybody regardless of their financial situation,” Becky Newman, Director of Nature Programs, said.
Earthplace houses programming for all ages in its 62-acre wildlife conservatory and its learning center. Young children can attend the Earthplace Preschool, which emphasizes unhindered access to nature in learning. For teens, volunteer positions are available at the animal sanctuary and harbor watch research initiative. Classes are additionally offered in basic outdoor hiking and camping skills.
“If you find a love for nature when you’re young,” Pullman said, “you will most likely carry it on to adulthood and that’s what we’re trying to achieve: […] to get the next generation of environmental stewards to protect our local environment.”