Friday, June 10, 2011

A Veggy Revolution

    The First Lady has generated a lot of buzz about school vegetable gardens and made it very fashionable. Right on for her! So along with the children and nature movement, school systems across the country are starting their own revolution to teach children where food comes from and what a better teachable moment than growing a vegetable garden. 
   For a very long time, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) did not allow teachers, students or parents to plant vegetable gardens on school grounds. For over a year, a ground swelling of activism occurred to change the school system's stance. With the work from Master Gardeners, Montgomery Victory Gardens, and Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids program, the school system softened this spring and started a pilot project to allow schools to grow vegetables in containers.
   GreenKids helped seven MCPS elementary schools plant salad greens in an Earthbox or a salad table. The GreenKids Environmental Educators and school teachers integrated lessons on local food sustainability, plant parts and vegetables, what a garden looks like, and observing and taking data about the growing process. Students planted, harvested, and ate their greens at a salad party where they were able to invite other vegetables to their salad bowl. The project was a huge success due to the excitement, smiles, and willingness to try something new, particularly since they had grown it with their own two hands.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Celebrating National Trails Day: Kid Style

   On Saturday, there were two celebrations, Marisa's 4th birthday and American Hiking Society'National Trails Day. I had the pleasure of being invited to her party to lead her and her family and friends on a Beaver and Animal Adaptations hike on the Northwest Branch Trail. This trail follows the Northwest Branch, part of the Anacostia watershed, for four miles. It is noted for a lot of beaver evidence, pencil-pointed tree stumps and trees missing their bark on the lower quarter. This evidence provides invaluable teachable moments about animal adaptations. Pencil-points are examples that beavers' teeth are an adaptation for survival, providing lumber for their lodges and dams to create safety pools. While hiking, the kids and I are on a hunt for beaver evidence, searching for pencil-points. I section the trail and they count the evidence. At each stream crossing, they receive stickers or beads with the goal of counting them at the end to learn how often they observed beaver evidence along the trail. Simple scientific data collection!
   Throughout the hike, the kids learn and engage in activities about camouflage and the predator prey relationship and their importance in animal adaptations. For me, the best part of each hike is watching the kids relate to their natural surroundings in their own creative way. Some, throw rocks or splash and stomp their feet in the water or look for critters under rocks or in the stream or chase each other in their own mimic of predator and prey. Whatever they do, I love watching them and looking for critters that I can share.
    For Marisa, National Trails Day was about celebrating being four. For me, National Trails Day was about sharing my passion for trails and their enveloping ecosystems with her and her friends. Thank you Marisa for sharing National Trails Day with me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fishing Around

Do you know what is the most popular outdoor activity in America? Yup, that's right, fishing. Fishing transcends age, class, race, and gender, unlike all other outdoor sports. Why is that? My thoughts are that it doesn't require expensive equipment (a bamboo pole will do), requires limited physical activity and therefore less intimidating, and a body of water, whether a stream, pond, lake or river, can be found locally.
Yesterday, I listened to two knowledgeable speakers provide a lot of information about fishing in the DMV (District, MD, VA) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. It got me thinking about fishing, children and nature. Fishing is a great way to introduce children to nature with opportunities to observe wildlife and receive the positive and tranquil benefits of it, particularly water side. Trout Unlimited with their Trout in the Classroom and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association are two outstanding organizations that introduce fishing to thousands of children around the US. Whether you participate in one of these two organization's fishing programs or go out on your own, fishing helps children develop a relationship with nature. This relationship fosters earthmanship!