By Crystal Boyles
Creative Services

Courage and a little bit of naïveté have led a class of 11 students to organize the campus’s biggest Earth Day event.

No point in telling this group of students something isn’t possible.

“They don’t know they can’t do it,” said professor John Mittelstaedt, whose Creative Inquiry class was the launching pad for the huge event.

The annual campus Earth Day celebration has gone from a line of tents on the walk near the library to an event with live bands, inflatables, climbing wall, Velcro wall, e-waste drive, food, vendors and a concert afterward by national country music recording artist Eric Church. Events run from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22, on the Littlejohn Coliseum east lawn. At the end, coliseum doors open for the Church concert.

How did a group of 11 students pull it off? With a little help and guidance from a professor who stood back and let them have at it.

“Dr. Mittelstaedt has been a blessing,” said junior Candice Smith. “He taught us so much about how to negotiate, do marketing, get sponsors. He’s been there to guide us; he’s made us do it all.”

And he’s loved every minute.

“This has been the best teaching for me in a decade; these students’ vitality is amazing,” Mittelstaedt said. “We ought to be having them unleash their creativity like this more often. It’s one of the University’s eight emphasis areas, and we should be focusing on those.”

Technically a Creative Inquiry class of 11 students, the group has about 40 who have been helping make this Earth Day event the biggest one yet.

In the fall, the group helped put on a sustainability event on campus, then moved their focus to Earth Day. The goal: To have the biggest Earth Day event in South Carolina. The question: How’s the world going to be a better place on April 23?

From there they began to talk to some major players on campus: Tigerpaw Production, Clemson LiVE, Central Spirit. They went out in the community and pitched and received sponsorships. Bands were booked, campus students groups contacted and plans prepared.

“A lot of people don’t see South Carolina as a sustainable state; we want to put Clemson on the map,” Smith said.

After all, Clemson is a land-grant university.

At the event, educational booths will cover energy conservation, water conservation, recycling plastics, composting, sustainability, and household cleaners and chemicals.

Clemson Cyclery will offer free bicycle-safety checks. University Facilities and the Solid Green campaign will promote awareness of e-waste recycling and will offer free disposal of electronic items and secure document shredding. Shred-Away will be on-hand from 1 to 6 p.m. to destroy and recycle electronic equipment, such as computers, printers, cell phones and DVD players. The company also will shred documents on site.

ClemsonLiVE, Tigers 4 Tigers, the Wildlife Society, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the Outdoor Club and Clemson Outdoor Recreation Education also will be represented at the event. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture will have information about roadside markets and will provide fresh strawberries.

The Earth Day event is free and open to the public. Tickets to see Eric Church are $25 for floor and riser seats and $20 for lower and upper bowl seats. Tickets can be bought at the Hendrix Student Center information desk, at TicketMaster outlets or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Clemson University Media Relations contributed to this article.