LaunchPAD Earth Day

Caleb Bundy of Dakota City, 3, strikes down a tower made of recycled household products with a bat he pieced together using toilet paper rolls, Friday, as his dad, Andrew Bundy, looks on at LaunchPAD Children's Museum. The hands-on museum has been offering recycling programs in the days leading up to Saturday, which is Earth Day.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | When some people find an empty paper towel roll, they might see it as trash.

When Caleb Bundy finds an empty paper towel roll, the 3-year-old Dakota City boy sees it as material in which to create a weapon of mass destruction.

"You see, Caleb likes to build things up," Andrew Bundy said as his son knocked over a tower made of used CDs and empty toilet paper rolls. "And then, he likes to knock it down."

Caleb was one of the kids participating in Earth-related activities Thursday at the LaunchPAD Children's Museum. For the past two weeks, children have been discovering ways to make the planet better as a lead-up to Earth Day, which is officially observed Saturday. 

First held in 1970 and celebrated in more than 193 countries, Earth Day is an annual event where activities are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

So, what does knocking down tubes of cardboard have to do with the environment?

"By re-purposing used objects as material for experimentation, kids are also learning an important lesson in recycling," LaunchPAD education director Kalie Vanderzyden explained.

Creating things out of paper towel rolls, CDs and plastic straws will also teach children to use science, technology, engineering and math at playtime.

That probably doesn't mean much to Caleb, who seems to simply enjoy hanging out with his dad.

"Caleb's a typical boy since he loves working his hands, getting dirty and generally making a mess," Andrew Bundy said as his son playfully bops him on the head with a club made out of cardboard. 

On the other hand, Eli Profera is taking a more measured approach when it comes to building with recyclables.

The 4-year-old Omaha boy methodically created a secure base made out of straws of various lengths. This is his way to support his paper towel tower.

"Some days, Eli said he wants to become a doctor when he grows up and other days, he wants to be a mechanic working on race cars," grandmother Cathy Profera, of Sioux City, said. "I think he'd be good in either profession." 

Vanderzyden shakes her head in amazement at the roomful of budding young builders.

"It might look like the kids are playing but they're also learning through experimentation," she said. "An old paper towel tube is more compelling for a child than a new video game because it provides inspiration."

Which is important on Earth Day as well as every other day of the year.

Watching kids create impromptu dogs, cars and castles out of found objects, Vanderzyden can't help but smile.

"Who knows? We may have the next generation of scientist right here," she said.

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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