BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College celebrated Earth Day with a week of events designed to embrace and enhance the college’s natural landscape.
Many of the events were coordinated by Greener Bethany, a student group that began in 2020 with a mission of making the campus eco-friendly. President Ian Nelson, a sophomore environmental science major, said he was pleased with the turnout overall, particularly with COVID-19 and the academic year nearing its end.
“I am especially proud of our work for the campus cleanup, as well as Tuesday’s events such as our convocation with Joan Maloof and our concert and owl walk,” Nelson said. “Ideally, I would like to plan a similar set of events for next year and try to make Earth Week an annual thing.”
On Sunday, Bethany College students, faculty, and staff, and members of Bethany Memorial Church came together to plant several trees, near the church, Cochran Hall, Pendleton Heights, and the Old Meeting House.
Friday’s installment of Feel Good Fridays, sponsored by the President’s Office, took an environment approach as well, offering students dirt dessert and the opportunity to plant and take flowers, fruits, or vegetables.
On Thursday, members of Greener Bethany and TriBeta, the biology honor society, braved the chilly temperatures to plant irises at the Buckelew Trailhead. Students were also invited to plant and take ferns.
The Buckelew Trail is named after Dr. Albert “Jay” Buckelew, a professor emeritus of biology. The path is the newest in the Bethany College Trail System, which takes hikers through the Parkinson Forest on campus.
In 2019, Parkinson Forest was added to the Old Growth Forest Network, which aims to identify and protect one forest in each of the U.S. counties where forests could grow and relies on volunteers to nominate the forests.
The Old-Growth Forest Network includes more than 116 forests in 24 states. Parkinson Forest was the first site in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle to be listed.
On April 20, Dr. Joan Maloof, the founder of the network, spoke via Zoom of the importance of protecting forests. In August, her latest book, “Treepedia: A Brief Compendium of Arboreal Love,” will be released by Princeton University Press.
Later that day, Harald and the Hott Pockets performed at Bethany’s Outdoor Classroom, while Travis Straub, associate professor of English, led a nature writing exercise. Then, Dr. Bill Hicks, professor of biology, led a group on an owl walk to see a pair of barred owls.
The week kicked off April 18 with a campus cleanup that drew about 40 students who filled dozens of bags with recyclables and trash.
The Black Student Union and Greener Bethany presented an Environmental Justice Night moderated by Dr. Tahirah Walker, Bethany’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The students will plant a magnolia tree near Richardson Hall.
“We wanted to plant a tree in honor of environmental effort improvements by current black students and by black alumni,” said Bethany senior Celesté Marchbanks said. “We have to realize as a community that environmental change doesn’t occur by just a few doing the work, it has to be everyone contributing in unity and that is simply what this tree aims to do.”
Several students also responded to a call for environmental-themed art, submitting photographs and sketches on display in the back of the cafeteria.
Hailee Vizyak won first prize for her photograph “Wildflower Garden,” and Dorcas Raber’s photograph “Blossoms” and Kat Hulver’s drawing “Flora” were runners-up.
ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE
Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.