For anyone looking to start or expand a school gardening or nutrition program, the Growing Green Schools event at Fairlington Community Center was the place to be Monday afternoon. Aimed at providing parents and school staff in Arlington with the necessary resources to promote gardening and nutrition education, the event was a treasure trove for anyone in Northern Virginia. Read More
What a relief to have some warm temperatures and sunshine to start off the week. It was no fun to have such a warm day last Thursday and then shiver back into our winter coats again on Friday. This week is spring break for many around our area. Others’ breaks will start on Friday. If you’re anything like me, the biggest “break” about a break from school is not having to cook so much that you have enough leftovers to send in your child’s lunch the next day! I normally feel like I could never hack it as a homeschooler, but whenever I get a break on food prep, I can see the appeal!
Still, there are a lot of reasons why I have my children in public school, and one of them is because I want to be an agent for change and an advocate for healthy living for all children. Next week, two events will showcase efforts to expand the reach of gardening and nutrition programs and outdoor learning in Northern Virginia.
The Grow Your Health gardening, food & wellness festival seemed so important when it first launched in 2013, I left a yoga retreat early to make it back in time! I learned a ton that year and the following and am excited to return for next Saturday, March 28, for a third year. The featured film this year is GMO OMG.
In addition to all the great hour-long classes that parents might enjoy at 11:00 and 1:30, families can enjoy a “Gardening with Kids” class given by national volunteer organization FoodCorps during both sessions.
Attending Rooting DC is enough to make a person want to dig under the snow to get started gardening! The 8th annual gardening forum took place on Saturday, February 28 at the sparkling new Wilson High School in Tenleytown. Its tagline is: “An annual forum. A perennial movement.” With 1200 attending this day packed full with workshops and an exhibit area filled with experts, the event hosted by DC Greens was a huge success.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone living here that the air quality in the Washington DC area is poor; it gets a grade of F in ground-level ozone (smog) from the American Lung Association, putting the Metro DC among the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities in the ozone category. This matters to every living being, but especially to small children whose bodies are more acutely affected by inhaled toxins. Organizations like the American Lung Association and others advocating for healthy air quality describe breathing smog-filled air as “getting a sunburn on your lungs.”
Leaders of Northern Virginia’s environmental education scene met last week to discuss recent renovations and sustainability initiatives taken at George C. Marshall High School in Fairfax County and to discuss plans for a possible statewide environmental education organization.
Members of the leadership team of NoVA Outside, an alliance of environmental educators, took a student-led tour of the school and its green features. The school’s student environmental organizations, Earth Force and the Native Species Club, sponsored by Barbara Brown have been busy for years on environmental initiatives and were successful at getting several environmental features and design components worked into the renovation.
NoVA Outside leadership team member Elenor Hodges shared some of the sustainability components that were worked into Marshall’s recent renovation. Hodges, a member of the Arlington Public Schools Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and also the director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment said, “I was really impressed with what they had accomplished, specifically with the student-driven projects and the excitement and engagement of the students. It was very apparent that these were students who had come up with these ideas. I was inspired, and I hope that we can learn how to take a lot of what Arlington focuses on in LEED certification and take it to the level of using student leadership and student ideas.”
The best example at Marshall, Hodges said, was a green roof. A student who has since graduated wanted a green roof to be in a very visible location even if students did not have access to the roof. During the renovation, this was made possible. The money needed to install and expand the green roof was raised by students. The students who led the tour talked about what it does to reduce the school’s stormwater impact but also noted the fact that it’s a visible project that students can see every day. The students did the design, planning and fundraising for this and other projects. Hodges said Marshall has great examples of student initiatives as well as greenovation.
Hodges said there was also lots of student engagement with the two courtyards they viewed on the tour. One of which was a modern space for which, after the renovations, students in the Native Species Club designed a complementary landscape plan using native plants. One feature is this herb spiral that helps drain water down the courtyard.
Climate change has been all over the news in recent months, and moms are leading the charge. This summer, Moms Clean Air Force, the country’s largest group of moms working on climate change with over 400,000 members, organized a play-in on the Capitol in early July and later that month brought the same energy to a rally supporting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Recently, the Keystone XL Pipeline failed in the US Senate. This is good news, says MCAF. If passed, the Keystone XL Pipeline would have dramatically increased production of Canadian tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. MCAF argues that approval of the pipeline would have endangered our country, our children’s health, and the lives of many, all while worsening our dependance on fossil fuels and accelerating climate change. The issue is now to be decided by the Obama administration.
But the fight continues. On Monday, December 1, Moms Clean Air Force staff and volunteers, including local mom Jessica Hunt, delivered 175,000 comments to the EPA to ask for the strongest possible regulations on carbon pollution under the Clean Power Plan. Right now, there are no limits on the amount of carbon that can be released from coal fired plants. Our children’s health is depending on us to protect them from carbon emissions that pollute the air they breathe and lead to our warming planet.
But the Clean Power Plan is under attack in most every state legislature next year with model legislation designed to kill or gut the carbon rules. MCAF is calling on its members to join the group in demanding that states work to protect our children and communities from toxic air pollution and climate change.
An easy way to learn about local events and actions on climate change and clean air is to request to join the Facebook group for Moms Clean Air Force DC, the Facebook group for the Maryland MCAF chapter, and the Facebook group for the Virginia MCAF chapter.
Great Falls Park seemed like the perfect excursion on a sunny day during a long holiday weekend when we’d all eaten too much and not gotten outside nearly enough. Each pairing in our family of four needed to be broken up every 20 minutes. I hoped watching the water tumble over rocks would be good for all of our souls.
It was. The trip even garnered my son’s “favorite part of Thanksgiving” when asked today by the dentist. But that doesn’t mean it was perfect. My daughter, aged four, is not one to go long without whining these days. She’ll turn it off on an instant if we find the right antidote: a race, a “look over there,” and sometimes things I don’t care to share! She’s spunky and opinionated, and not accustomed to the kind of long hikes I thought I might take my kids on all the time if I hadn’t had so many postpartum (and lingering) health issues. Fortunately, her older brother has more stamina than he did when I read and wrote about the memoir Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure, but I still marvel to think about how long Patricia Ellis Herr’s 3- and 5-year-old hiked with her. And how often!
Unlike those treks to peaks in New Hampshire, our short excursion in Northern Virginia was alternately beautiful and blissful and incredibly annoying. Mostly due to the finicky nature of my four-year-old. The path was fun until her brother outpaced her and me.
The reflection of a tree north of the falls was pretty cool until she complained she was hungry (which will happen if a child doesn’t eat her lunch and her parents don’t give in to piling her with snacks instead as they might on weaker days).
The view of the kayakers was impressive and garnered lots of commentary, but once we left the overlook, it was all downhill, so to speak.
I thought we might last more than 90 minutes and actually get a little ways down the River Trail. I recalled her brother scrambling over rocks at not quite her age and enjoying it. But alas, she had to pee. And we didn’t learn until later that further into the park, just before entering the woods, was a building with a flush toilet. Read More