Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Redwood: A Student Poem

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I am blessed to have two passions in life: sharing the outdoors with kids and teaching middle school Science. I teach at a phenomenal school where staff are encouraged to use their creativity to its fullest. The Siena School is a small private school for kids who have mild to moderate learning differences that are college bound.
April is Poetry Month. Siena celebrates the student's creativity in poetic form across grade levels and cross-curricular. Recently, I listened to one of my student's read his poem "Redwood" in front of the school community. I was struck and awed by his ability to place himself in the perspective of the redwood in which to observe the world. Many adults find it difficult to see the world through another's eyes but he does it with ease and wisdom. I am always amazed when kids can share a piece of their sole with us. As adults, we need to remember to listen.

By Andrew, 7th Grade

Go inside a redwood
that would be my way.
I won't get trampled under foot like a sapling.
I am huge and so old.
I would be the giant of the forest.

Continents have drifted in my life span.
Mountains have formed, species have died.
While mountains rise and fall, while cities form,
I would just watch and grow, a gentle giant.
Even as fire and plumes of smoke destroy and kill,
I would stand tall. My bark too thick and my being too mighty
for the killing flames to claim.

Redwoods reach for the sun with such devotion
that we grow taller than the rest
Our canopies high and our roots deep,
we would peacefully rule the forest wherever we chose to grow.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mother Daughter Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

    Over Memorial Day weekend, my daughter and I, in addition to a friend and her daughter, section hiked the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. We shared challenges and adventures and created memories that will last a life time. We learned that our daughters are strong, can persevere and meet many obstacles with smiles (yes, there were grumbles but usually when they were hungry!). We are so grateful to have shared this experience with them. And, we are so proud. We hope this will inspire many mothers and daughters to seek adventure on the trails together.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Watershed Hero, Julie Lawson @srfrjulie: Reducing Litter Through Policy

      In the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, I will highlight the heroic activities of one person who is making a difference to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. One voice, activism and motivation can inspire us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world.

What is the Trash Free Maryland Alliance?
The Trash Free Maryland Alliance is a group of environmental organizations, community groups and individuals committed to reducing trash in Maryland’s environment and waterways. Brent Bolin, Laura Chamberlin, and Julie Lawson founded it in 2010.

How have you helped your community?
I have educated people through presentations and conversations about trash in their neighborhoods and communities, how it gets there and that they have the power to do something about it. I help them with the strategies to engage and enact, such as formulating articulate arguments to engage in conversations with their neighbors, friends and elected officials and write letters to the editor. It is empowering to see their name in printed journalism. During my conversations with people in community groups, I listen and hear them stewing over how much trash bothers them in their neighborhoods but they often explain they don’t have the confidence or specific language to confront and challenge the source of trash. I help them create that elevator speech or conversation starter to feel confident and proactive to combat littering in their communities.

What have you accomplished?
In 2009, I developed and led the grassroots campaign to pass the DC bag bill, entitled the Anacostia River Cleanup andProtection Act. Much of the campaign to pass the DC bill was then modeled in Montgomery County to pass its bag bill. Since 2010, I have been working with organizations from around MD to pass a state bag bill. Each year, the coalition gains more success toward its passage. During the 2013 legislative session, the House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee passed the legislation with a 17-4 vote. The bill never made it to the House floor because it was defeated in the House Economic Matters Committee.

What are your goals for the future?
I would like to:
  • Reduce plastic bag consumption
  • Eliminate the use of Styrofoam
  • Increase recycling of bottles and cans
  • Pass the MD bag bill
  • Pass a MD bottle bill (legislation for a bottle return refund)
  • Raise the profile that trash is a quality of life issue, not just a problem in our waterways (I have already witnessed positive press and more legislation introduced regarding trash in our communities, such as legislation to impose a $500 fine for stealing shopping carts)

Who inspires you?
My dad inspires me. He taught me at a young age to leave things better than I found them and modeled that standing up for what I believe in is important for forward and positive progression and solutions in a community. He was a community activist in my hometown in Florida and always took action on issues that were important to him. He also was a Marine Biologist who worked to rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Watershed Hero: Nathan Harrington, DC Teacher and Community Activist

      In the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, I will highlight the heroic activities of one person who is making a difference to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. One voice, activism and motivation can inspire us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world.

            Shepherd Parkway is a neighborhood in the Congress Heights community. This neighborhood is adjacent to the northern section of 205 acres of National Park land in Washington DC that runs along Interstate 295. The National Park Service acquired it in the 1920’s to protect the Potomac River, the wetlands in its floodplain and two Civil War forts, Fort Carroll and Fort Greble that sit upon the ridge.
            The Shepherd Parkway Community clean-up started in 2010. Since then, the Shepherd Parkway Committee, part of the Congress Heights Community Association, has held 15 clean-ups. We will have 6 more this year. Volunteers are removing trash and invasive species, in particular English Ivy that is strangling the 100-year old tree canopy. Since 2010, we have focused our efforts on 30 acres in the northern section of the National Park, between St. Elizabeth’s hospital and Malcolm X Avenue. Our goal is to finish this section by the end of 2013, then clean-up south of Malcolm X Avenue to South Capitol Street. The ultimate goal is to remove trash and invasive plants like English Ivy and Kudzu from all 205 acres and build a 3-mile hiking trail from LeBaum Street to Oxon Cove and Oxon Run Parks in Maryland.

2. How have you helped your community?
           I love that DC has large tracts of parkland; a lot of which is east of the Anacostia River. When hiking and exploring DC’s parks, I noticed the huge discrepancy between the recreational opportunities, such as trails, and the management of the parks west of the Anacostia versus east of the river.  A majority of these parks have been covered in trash for years, creating a barrier for residents to recreate in their local green spaces.
            After moving into the neighborhood, I began cleaning-up the trash on my own. I also attended community meetings to learn what bothered residents about their parkland. The resounding voices stated trash. Therefore, I was asked to co-chair the Shepherd Parkway Committee to lead the effort to clean-up the National Park land in the Congress Heights community.
            Hundreds of volunteers from DC, the US and Canada have removed 80% of the garbage in between Malcolm X Avenue and St. Elizabeth Hospital, in addition to all of the English Ivy. The Shepherd Parkway committee has partnered with organizations, such as the Luther Place Memorial Church’s Steinbruck Center on Urban Studies, the DC chapter of the Sierra Club, Washington Parks and People and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. While many young and old from around DC have volunteered, my goal is to engage more residents from the Congress Heights community.

3. What inspired you to start the project?
            I was inspired to start this project by the work that Washington Parks and People has done to restore two major parks, Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park and Watts Branch/Marvin Gaye Park. Both parks were grossly neglected and riddled with crime. Now they are central to the life and recreation of both communities.
            While studying to become a licensed DC tour guide, I became inspired by the history and beauty of the architecture and natural landscapes in Washington. I want to help bring back that natural beauty to the parks east of the Anacostia River.

4. Who inspired you to be a watershed hero?
             I have been inspired by some of my neighbors who have removed trash from parkland across from or adjacent to their homes. In addition, I am deeply inspired by Phillip Pannell, a longtime community leader in DC’s Ward 8. Pannel has been President of the Congress Heights Community Association for many years. He has championed issues such as environmental justice, gay rights and school improvement in Anacostia. Phillip is a shining example that one voice can make a difference. He inspires me to be another voice making a difference in Shepherd Parkway.

Nathan's voice, activism and motivation make him a watershed hero.