CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Students from across West Virginia were in Charleston Thursday to learn about the environment.

The state Department of Environmental Protection hosted its annual Earth Day celebration at the Clay Center. More than 300 kids were on hand.

Earth Day is this Saturday, but the DEP typically holds the event at an earlier date. Terry Carrington, coordinator of the DEP’s Make It Shine program, said they want students to know how important it is to take care of the¬†world around us.

“The environment takes care of us. It provides us with food, oxygen and water. I think it doesn’t hurt to remind kids particularly at an early age that the environment that takes care of us also needs taken care of,” Carrington said.

There were 13 exhibits representing the DEP’s Division of Air Quality, Watershed Assessment Branch, Youth Environmental Program, the REAP Recycling Program, the state Department of Agriculture, West Virginia American Water Company, the Three Rivers Avian Center and more.

“The main draw is the Three Rivers Avian Center,” Carrington said. “They’ve come in with their birds of prey — their bald eagle and their various raptors.”

Kids were given the opportunity to learn about turtles, frogs and snakes at the Watershed Assessment Branch exhibit.

“This little guy is a red-eared slider,” said Kim Smith, a DEP field biologist, describing one of the turtles. “She is probably about 15-20 years old. She is really good with the kids. She lets them pet her.”

Smith said she likes to teach kids the difference between reptiles and amphibians.

“She’s a reptile,” Smith said of the turtle. “I’ll ask them what do they think she is. We’ll talk about the frogs next door which are amphibians and what the differences are so that they can start to see that when they take science classes.”

West Virginians have so much to learn about in terms of plants and animals in the state, Carrington said.

“There’s a really diverse population of plants and animal species. We have overlap of northern and southern species. Really it’s a biologist’s paradise,” he said.

The DEP’s Earth Day celebration has been around for more than 30 years.

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