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Published: Monday, 1/18/2010

Ottawa Hills Elementary sends message to Obama

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maddie Freeman of Ottawa Hills Elementary adds her name to the message of change going to next week's inauguration. Maddie Freeman of Ottawa Hills Elementary adds her name to the message of change going to next week's inauguration.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Could a "green" greeting card that Ottawa Hills schoolchildren signed yesterday for President-elect Obama end up sprouting flowers on the White House lawn?

That depends on where Mr. Obama or his staff decides to plant it once they've read it.

General Motors' Saturn Division provided an oversized greeting card, promoting "change" and environmental consciousness, for several dozen Ottawa Hills Elementary School students to sign yesterday during the first of a series of stops on a company tour promoting the "two-mode" hybrid vehicles the automaker is developing.

Embedded in the giant card's fibers were dozens of wildflower seeds that are intended to sprout if the card is buried in dirt.

"It's really cool how it turns into wildflowers," said Mac Veh, a fourth-grader on the school's "Green Team" who was among participants in the school's lunchtime event.

Exactly when and where that might happen will depend on what the Obama administration does with the card after receiving it, GM-Saturn representatives said. The Ottawa Hills card and several others like it will be delivered to the incoming president's staff after the convoy of three Saturn Vue 2 Mode hybrids arrives in Washington for use as courtesy cars during inaugural celebrations next week, they said.

Curt Collins, a Saturn product marketing manager, said Ottawa Hills Elementary was chosen for the convoy's first stop after leaving Detroit because management heard about the "Green Team" that has conducted a schoolwide recycling campaign since early in the 2007-08 school year.

Company officials decided that showing the children modern, eco-friendly automobiles would reinforce their excitement about conservation of resources and "encourage them to continue with recycling," Mr. Collins said.

"You're one of the first audiences to see it," Mike Morrissey, a GM-Saturn spokesman, said to several dozen of the children as they gathered around the engine compartment of one of the three cars parked for exhibit near a school entrance yesterday morning.

The "two-mode" design, Mr. Morrissey said, uses a combination of gasoline and electric-battery power for propulsion. The new cars, not yet in commercial production, can run on electricity, gasoline combustion, or a combination of the two, depending on available battery power and acceleration demand, he explained.

"By the time you're driving, you'll all be driving cars like this," Mr. Morrissey predicted. He then urged the grade-schoolers to help with environmental and energy conservation by "challenging" their parents and older siblings who may be driving to be as "green" as possible by maintaining their vehicles properly - such as by checking tire pressure regularly and changing oil on time.

Along with the card-signing opportunity, each "Green Team" member received a fiber shopping bag and a kit of recycled materials with instructions on how to use them, using only scissors and human hands, to make a toy automobile.

Madison Jozsa, a fourth-grader, went beyond signing her name on the greeting card to add a message: "Change the World, Recycle!"

"It could save our world, the longer we live and the more generations we have," Madison said afterward. Reducing waste promotes a healthier environment and could save some animal species, such as polar bears, from extinction, she said.

Teacher Amy Lavetter-Heidan said the "Green Team" originated with a recycling effort she started in her third-grade classroom at the start of the 2007-08 school year.

"We just use a lot of paper, and there was only a little recycling going on," she said. "The students and I together made this happen."

Students pick up not just paper, but also cardboard, cans, and other recyclables from every room in the school once a week and deliver it to a collection station. School officials estimate more than 1,000 pounds of paper have been collected since the "Green Team" campaign began.

"If we don't recycle, our Earth, everywhere, will have trash," Mac said.

"Instead of just throwing out our trash, we're not polluting the world," Adrienne Johnson, a third grader, agreed.

The campaign has "had a really positive impact on the kids," Ms. Lavetter-Heidan said. "They're enjoying it, and feel like they're contributing to the community."

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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