Anacostia Watershed Walk (Day 2)

October 25th, 2012

The second day of our “Follow the Water” program at Kimball Elementary School, funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This time Ms. Williams’ 5th grade class learned about their local watershed as they followed a stream to the Anacostia River.

And a hearty thank you to our volunteer leaders — Michelle, Bill, Kelly, Vessie and Nick!

Also, many thanks to the local Yes! Organic Market for donating lunches for our volunteer leaders!

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Anacostia Watershed Walk (Day 1)

October 23rd, 2012

The first day of our newly developed “Follow the Water” program, where students of Ephraim Kimball Elementary School learn about the ecological health and conservation issues associated with their local watershed as they follow a nearby stream to the Anacostia River. This educational program was funded by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On day one, Ms. Brummell’s 5th grade class was the first to make the journey.

Students listen to Sean as he gives a short presentation summarizing watershed basics and the watershed address of Kimball students.

Identifying beautiful — yet problematic — non-native, invasive plants. A student holds a specimen of porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), originally from Asia. This aggressive plant climbs over vegetation, strangling out native plants and monopolizing habitat.

Where does city rain go? Storm drains line the streets along our walk, the litter, road pollution and illegal dumping that flows into them leads straight to the Anacostia River. Students ask why they are not covered to prevent trash from going in, but the unfortunate choice is pollution in the river or flooding.

Exploring a rain garden

Joyous faces as onlookers watch their fellow students burn some energy and run down a hill slope.

An unloved stream

Yes! Organic Market generously donated lunches for our volunteer leaders. Thank you, Yes!

Thank you! And a hearty thanks to our volunteer leaders — Michelle, Cindy, Vessie, and Jose! We could not have done it without you.

Kimball ES: Stormwater Campus Tour and Water Quality Testing

As part of their “Follow the Water” program stormwater educational program, Ms. Burmell and Ms. William’s 5th grade classes learn how to monitor water quality.

Students set up a kick net to find macroinvertebrates, which are studied to measure the health of streams.

Students sort through the leaf litter and detritus on their nets to find macroinvertebrates. Once they are gathered and identified, they are returned to the stream.

Water testing for temperature, turbidity, oxygen, sediment, nitrate and phosphate

Bullfrog tadpole from Fort Dupont stream in the Anacostia watershed

Thanks to the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District for their assistance!

Thank you to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, whose generous support made this program possible!

Vegetable Garden Fall Planting and Biodiversity Tour at Kimball ES

Fall Vegetable Garden Planting

This semester, Kimball’s second grade students are focusing on plants. Joined by volunteers from the Washington Center, the Lands and Waters team helped engage students and reinforce their classroom lessons by leading a fall planting in their schoolyard vegetable garden.

The soil has been weeded and rich leaf compost has been turned in, now the students line-up and prepare to plant! Close observation of lettuce seeds reveal creative descriptors from the students — “raindrops” and “bugs” fill tiny palms.

Finally, each student gets a turn to gently scratch their seeds into the soil.

Kimball ES Community Forest: Schoolyard Biodiversity Explorations

While exploring the Kimball Community Forest, students roll over logs to reveal the abundance of life beneath them. Surveying their schoolyard biodiversity as discovery-based learning helps to teach students to explore and analyze the world around them.

Through the trees — there are many taboos associated with the woods. Learning to love the “wild” is sometimes a re-learning process, especially for children more familiar with an urban jungle.

Volunteers from the Washington Center

Garden Surprises and Teachable Moments

While preparing the garden beds for planting, we find a monarch caterpillar voraciously munching on honeyvine leaves (Ampelamus albidus). Closer inspection revealed numerous caterpillars stealthy camouflaged among the vines.

We gathered them up, planning to rear them back at the office. Only 1% of the monarch eggs laid make it to become butterflies, so they need all the help they can get! A cozy home in captivity, lazily munching on milkweed leaves, greatly reduces the threats of parasitism and predators.

Our caterpillars will transform into one of these magnificent butterflies! Then they will make their long, obstacle-filled migration to Mexico, on those fierce yet fragile wings.

[Update — All eight of our caterpillars successfully emerged from their chrysalis! They were then released to begin their long journey south. Sadly, one monarch’s wings did not develop properly and she was not releasable. As luck would have it, she’ll live out her days in Christine’s apartment, slurping down boxes of apple juice.]

Monarch caterpillars are collected and kept in a box for temporary safe-keeping. They provide a delightful “teachable moment” in which students learn about life cycles and migrations. One of those wonderfully impromptu lessons we embrace as environmental educators.

Kimball ES Workday with Cornell Alumni

Sunday, September 16th 2012

The Kimball Community Forest was in need of some weeding and mulching. We may like our landscapes wild, but others do not always agree. With our natives under threat of weed whacking, along came the Cornell Alumni to the rescue!

In partnership with Greater DC Cares, members of the Cornell alumni volunteer annually with Lands and Waters for one of their numerous community workdays.

Tackling the mulch pile

Cornell alumni and trip leader, Odette — working so hard she breaks our tools!

Veteran volunteers stand among the trees they planted last year.