Frost:  From Mono-culture to Diverse Marsh,

Frost: From Mono-culture to Diverse Marsh,

           Thank you Chesapeake Bay Trust and Robert Frost PTA for providing funding for Phase One. Fall 2013 Frost Middle School began a multi-phase project that would totally transform a traditional courtyard into… A marsh and … Continue reading

Luther Jackson: From rainy work days to full blooms

Students from Luther Jackson get wet and muddy as they plant a Magnolia virginiana.

Last school year, Lands and Waters began a very exciting partnership with Luther Jackson Middle School.  The program included watershed education, coupled with the design and planting of a native pollinator garden in the very front of the school.  Our first work day was a blast!  The rain just added to the fun.                                                                                              

 PLT logo

 Many thanks to Project Learning Tree for funding this great project!

Luther Jackson students worked hard mixing soil.

Luther Jackson students working hard mixing soil.

Rudbeckia blooms dominate the landscape. They’ve been in bloom all summer and are still going strong.

Luther Jackson students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the landscape.

Students have already begun to place plant identification signs in the garden.






Accenture Workday at Kutner Park and Lanier MS


Accenture joined us again this year for a volunteer workday on their annual Give-Back day! In partnership with the City of Fairfax Department of Parks and Recreation, we began the day working at Kutner Park in Fairfax, off of Jermantown Road near Route 50. Our crew of volunteers pulled vines where there was a dense invasion of English Ivy. They then planted some native vegetation to help enhance degraded areas of the park and prevent invasive species from regaining their footing.


The Accenture volunteers then pickaxed their way through some tough compacted clay soil to prepare the area for Lanier Middle School students to plant.

Accenture Planting with EcoClub Students

The Accenture team then planted the bioretention cell with members of the Lanier EcoClub. Many of these students helped to envision the initial design for the rain garden while on their Stormwater Campus Tour with Lands and Waters. Sweetbay Magnolia and Lowbush Blueberry were two of the native plants selected for this area because of their high wildlife value.

Many thanks to the Accenture team, and James for pulling it all together!

Creating a Vernal Pool at Daniels Run ES: Breaking Ground (Part 1)

For a project funded by a generous National Fish and Wildlife grant, we begin breaking ground on a series of stormwater projects at Daniels Run Elementary in Fairfax, Virginia.

Day 1: September 29th, 2012

Breaking ground on a vernal pool construction project!

Something tells me this isn’t the first time we’ve lost Kris down a hole…

Kris pulled out a few volunteers that eagerly inhabited the hole that was used to check the soil profile and test percolation. I guess they are impatiently awaiting their new home! We relocated a few pickerel frogs (Lithobates palustris) to a nearby constructed wetland that was part of an earlier schoolyard greening project.

Relocating natives — we work to find new homes for the goldenrod and chestnut oaks that were at the site of our vernal pool creation project.

All in a days work! Digging out a vernal pool by hand (aka people-power) requires a lot of physical labor.

Day 2: September 30th, 2012

[  Creating a Vernal Pool at Daniels Run ES (Part 2)  ]

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.