environmental education


BG interns at the Imagination Bethesda children's street festival.

Interns Natalia Salazer and Nicki Mukherjee at the Imagination Bethesda children’s street festival.

by Nicki Mukherjee

Before even turning onto Auburn Street I had developed the mindset that I’d be lounging around, watching parents stroll around with their children in tow, just curiously looking around for something to do during Imagination Bethesda on a beautiful Saturday in June.

I did not expect to be on my feet, rushing back and forth between making origami, helping children spin a roulette wheel for an environmental game, and being so engaged that a few hours passed without notice.

Just two minutes into the event, which started at 10 am, and for the whole time thereafter, there was a small group of children  surrounding the table, intrigued by the candy that was piled next to the black plastic wheel. I stood behind the table, a bit nervous at first that I would ask one of the kid-friendly environmental questions we devised for the event incorrectly and frantically referenced our guide sheet for the first twenty minutes.

However, I soon got hang of dealing with each group of kids, how to adjust the questions to work better for each child, how to avoid the cries and whines of the children whose mothers shook their head to the candy, and how to deal with the frenetic kids who were grappling their parents to snatch candy before they even played the game.

Three hours in, I was probably having more fun than the kids while moving from making paper boats to watching their eyes light up uncontrollably after I confirmed that their answer of “moo” and “piggy” was indeed correct for the question of “Which animals live on a farm?”

Children were prancing around with glitter tattoos on their wrists, animal paintings on their cheeks, clutching onto their newest addition of paper necklaces and drawings. Watching children have such fun planting flowers in miniature pots as their firetruck red balloons slipped away into the sky left me thinking that I would like to do this again next year.

As a newcomer to Bethesda and an even newer addition to Bethesda Green, there could not have been a better event than Imagination Bethesda to kick off my internship. I would definitely come back again next year with the addition of my two little cousins.

Nicki Mukherjee is an intern with Bethesda Green and a rising senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

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Bullis pic1by Jon Akpapunam

Sustainable.  Steward.  School. 

What do these three words have in common?  Well, for one, they all begin with the letter “s”—but they also accurately describe Bullis School, located in Potomac, MD.

Bullis School made a commitment to environmental stewardship and education several years ago—and as an independent, college preparatory school, the decision to embed environmental consciousness within the school community was solely a decision of their own.

All of this seemed to jumpstart in 2005 with the Green Cup Challenge, a recycling challenge in which middle school classes participated pioneered by teacher, Rita Gerharz.  Clearly inspiration was drawn from this, as many other efforts followed shortly after.  In 2009, the school implemented an 11kW solar photovoltaic system (consisting of 540 panels) on the roof of their Blair Family Center for the Arts, with all remaining electrical needs fulfilled through the purchase of 100% wind power.  The Bullis Community Garden grows 30 different types of crops, providing food for the school’s dining hall and space for classroom use.  It does so without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  Also, as a Buddy Bison School, environmental education is incorporated throughout the curriculum and the partnership with the National Park Trust.

bullis pic2Second grade teacher, Carolyn Cohen, won the first Buddy National Teacher Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship from the National Park Trust.  Bullis was also ranked fourth in the country for its renewable energy use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership, awarded membership to the 2011 Green Power Leadership Club, and received a Green Award from Bethesda Magazine in 2011.

Efforts have not ceased, however, with recognition in the last couple of years.  Students at Bullis continue to be environmentally aware and interested.  “Young people enjoy making a difference and leaving an impact,” explains Susie Zimmerman, the school’s Communications Director.  She attributes some of the school’s success in this regard to the early exposure provided to students.  Environmental education is incorporated into the curriculum starting in the second grade.

Susie stresses the importance and effectiveness of engaging students in hands-on experience that will connect students to the natural world and allow them to make a difference.  These experiences culminate in environmental stewardship becoming second nature—a part of everyday life.“

“Bullis seeks to prepare all students to become caring citizens who further demonstrate life-long proficiency in 21st century skills related to critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness,” the curriculum mission states.  Critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness are all vital skills necessary to lessen environmental impacts for a more sustainable future.

A school—teaching sustainability, acting as an environmental steward—that is Bullis.

A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.

Gala13_ArtDeco_logo v22013 BETHESDA GREEN GALA

Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Thursday, October 3. This event brings people from DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community.  See more info about the Gala.

Highlights of the evening include honoring the 2013 Bethesda Magazine Green Award winners — businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.

Buy Gala Tickets Now

Photo Credit:  Diane Lill

Photo Credit: Diane Lill

by Jon Akpapunam

Have you seen kids excited for a salad party? Kids who participated in GreenKids’ Salad Science program are.

Salad Science is just one of the fun programs offered by GreenKids program at Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS). Students grow their own salad greens and learn about plant parts and nutrition over a six-week period.  At the end of the program, students partake in a salad party—with toppings provided by Whole Foods Market—to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Such programming enables GreenKids to leave its mark on students and is a big reason the program received a 2012 Bethesda Magazine Green award.

GreenKids is a grant-funded educational outreach program that establishes two-year partnerships with participating schools.  It offers free resources and field experiences—with the ultimate goal of receiving Maryland Green School Certification from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education.

ANS Deputy Director Lisa Alexander started the program as a pilot in 2005, eager to assist her child’s school, Rock Creek Forest, become a Green School.  The pilot program led to new knowledge and exciting possibilities for environmental education.

Since 2005, GreenKids has raised more than $1 million to directly support the environmental science literacy of Montgomery County and Loudon County Public School students and teachers. The program has engaged more than 28,000 students with hands-on lessons.

Photo Credit: James Kegley

Photo Credit: James Kegley

GreenKids brings nature to students and teachers

The goal of GreenKids is to connect students with the natural world and instill in them the understanding “that there is more to life than just you,” said Diane Lill, Director of the GreenKids program. Through lessons focused on composting, gardening, recycling, watershed education, energy conservation, and habitat restoration, this program allows students  to learn more about the role they play in our world.  Enthusiastic students learn about natural resources and the process of growing their own food.

The program also supports some wonderful (and sometimes under-appreciated) teachers with professional development and works with teachers to make these programs an enduring part of the curriculum.

Through fun activities and outdoor trips, GreenKids provides students and teachers with great knowledge that will last them a lifetime.  “What do you remember from elementary school?” Diane asks, “Awesome field trip, outdoor activities, or perhaps an amazing teacher?”—all of which GreenKids encapsulates.

Photo Credit: Balance Photography

Photo Credit: Balance Photography

Diane’s work for GreenKids came full circle at the 2012 Bethesda Green Gala.  During her speech, Diane thanked the teachers that took her outside as a young student.  Following her speech, two Gala attendees inquired about her outdoor experiences as a child. To her amazement, she realized that they were teachers from both her Outdoor Environmental Education and C&O Canal experiences and was encouraged that they are still involved in the green movement.  “One field trip can have an amazing experience on someone’s life,” she explained.  It is obvious her experiences as a child had a lasting impact; perhaps her current students will contribute to the green movement in years to come as well.

A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.

2013 BETHESDA GREEN GALA

Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. This event brings people from DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community.

Highlights of the evening include honoring 2013 Green Award winners and recognizing businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.

 BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

BGnews_logoBy Alison Wentzell

Climate Panel Warns Human Activity is the Cause for Warming

Recently, a draft of the International Panel of Climate Change’s “Fifth Assessment Report” has been leaked and the report looks bleak, according to an article in the New York Times.  The International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is a team of several hundred scientists that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with Al Gore. Although the team does not conduct any of their own research, it is their duty to analyze work done by other scientists and publish the most important findings regarding climate change.  Many governments rely on these findings to create policies and prepare for the future impacts climate change will have.

This year’s assessment report, which will be finalized in September, strengthened many scientists’ beliefs regarding the future of climate change.  The assessment’s first major finding is that human activity is the cause of the increase in global temperature.  In the past climate skeptics have dismissed the idea that global warming was the adverse effects of human activity, but something that happened naturally.  But now, scientists are about 95% certain that the rapid increase in global temperature since the industrial revolution is the cause of carbon emissions produced from human activities.  Scientists have also dismissed the recent notion of a slowdown in the pace of warming.

The draft also elaborates on how strongly correlated carbon emissions and global temperatures are.  The report states that the lowest possible increase would be 2.7 degrees Celsius, down from 3.6 degrees published in the “Fourth Assessment Report”.  However, the IPCC was quick to point out that just because 2.7 degrees is possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely.  If we continue with a business as usual mindset, then carbon emission will double in the next few decades, increasing the global temperature by approximately 5 degrees.  This will cause extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food, mass extinctions and changes in plant and animal life, and land ice to melt.  The melting of ice is one of the biggest concerns for scientists, since it will displace many communities and many of the world’s major cities.

The report will be finalized in September, but until then check out this article in the New York Times.

Students Succeed in Building Electric Vehicle

A group of 7 students in Sandy Spring Friends School’s Advance Placement environmental science class won fourth place in the 2013 DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix this summer, which was open to high school students in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.  In addition to placing fourth in the competition, the students’ car won Best Technical Innovation and Best Graphic, and the team won Best Team Photo.   The team started working in December, when they were inspired to create a battery powered vehicle as a class project.  In March they started to build the vehicle to make their idea a reality.  The students hit many roadblocks while working on the project, but they believe that they learned more from the overall experience because of these roadblocks than if the project had ran smoothly.

These students are the future innovators and designers of our country, and have proven that they have the potential to change the world.  Competitions like the DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix help to foster and motivate students to take action and prove that they can do something remarkable, not only for them but for the world.  I can only hope that these students will continue on the path of brilliance and someday change our society’s infrastructure, to create a greener, healthier world.

For the full article, check out the Gazette here.

Events

  • 4th Annual Bake Bethesda A Pie Contest, September 1st, 9am-12pm, Bethesda Central Farm Market, located at the Bethesda Elementary School parking lot

Come out to the annual “Bake Bethesda a Pie” contest and help raise money for Mana Food Center!  Last year over 200 people attended for the judging of more than 45 different pies.

  •  Happy Hour, September 5, 5pm-8pm, The Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, 5220 Wisconsin Avenue

 Join Bethesda Green for their First Thursday Happy Hour at The Courtyard and have a chance to win a raffle, get discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and delicious appetizers.  Also, meet the people protecting the local watershed—Cabin John, Little Falls and Rock Creek.  There is a $10 entrance fee and the proceeds are shared with local watershed groups.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Builders, County Disagree on Tree Canopy Legislation

BGnews_logoLegislation passed by Montgomery County Council last week requires builders to provide 50 percent tree canopy coverage on lots they develop.  The new law essentially triples the amount of trees builders had proposed providing and applies to all lots in Montgomery County, not just developing lots.

County data suggests that only one in three trees planted would be able to survive into adulthood.  However, builders argue that approximately 85% of trees planted survive into adulthood and even more trees survive when they are being cared for on private property.

Read the full article from the Gazette here.

Individual Action Encouraged at Climate Change Town Hall

A town hall meeting held in Silver Spring by Organization For Action encouraged residents to start taking a more active role in addressing climate change.  About 500 residents attended the four-hour meeting.

Leaders from organizations such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and the Maryland Clean Energy Center encouraged action on the individual, communal, and national levels to push the United States into becoming a leader in environmental action.

Presenters discussed way to push for policy change in Congress by showing the linkage between health issues and environmental stewardship.  CCAN Director Mike Tidwell said, “We don’t need to invent anything; all we need is more policy.  The fossil-fuel industry is allowed to treat our atmosphere as a sewer.”

Check out the full story from the Gazette here.

Upcoming Events

  • Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24th, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Montgomery County Interest in School Gardens GrowsBGnews_logo

Montgomery County fosters 202 different schools, 35 of which have gardens where students can observe, ask questions, and take control of their health as part of a local food and advocacy project, according to an article in the Washington Post.  But, interest in gardens is growing throughout the entire school district.

The Montgomery County school district mandates that students pass three different sciences in order to graduate.  Historically, horticulture has been an easy class to pass and draws in students that don’t have much interest in other science fields.  Elizabeth Levien, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, is excited to see that the students taking horticulture are now excited by the gardens and their class.

Students’ interest in horticulture classes is also growing in Clarksburg, Damascus, and Springbrook high schools.  Teachers from these schools are working together to make gardens a part of the horticulture curriculum throughout the district.  They have already structured a three-year program allowing students to become certified horticulturists.  But students enrolled in the program aren’t the only ones showing interest in the gardens.  Teacher Jill Couts from Sherwood High School has approximately 30 students who go to the green house each week that aren’t even in the program.

Montgomery Victory Gardens’ project director Gordon Clark is ecstatic about the impact gardens are having on schools.  He’s now working with other PTAs and schools in the district to give them the knowledge and resources to help them get started on their own gardens.

For more information, read the Washington Post article here.

North Dakota Flare Ups, Crude Oil Transportation, and the Rise of Solar Energy

Between an 18,000 square mile flare up, the increase in shipping crude oil by rail, and a third growing phase for solar energy; saying there’s a lot going on in the energy sector is a bit of an understatement.  One third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is being burned off in the air.  The effects of the burning are so big they can be seen from space and produces the carbon equivalent of an extra 1 million cars.  Even though oil drillers are burning $1 billion worth every year, low prices, the remote location, and cost of developing pipelines prevent the gas from being utilized.

In fact, leaders in the oil industry are becoming wary of pipeline projects all together, and more shipments are being made by railroad.  However, the Obama administration’s efforts to boost safety standards are making it a bit more difficult to ship crude oil.  To fight this, the oil industry and U.S. railroads are fighting these efforts by pointing out the technical challenges and economic costs.

While the United States is still focusing on natural gas and crude oil, other countries are investing more in solar energy.  In a recent study the Deutsche Bank found that solar energy is entering a third growing phase.  Even oil producing countries are increasing their investment in solar energy, finally allowing it to become a competitive source of energy rather than just an alternative.  The solar energy industry can now start the process of weaning itself off of subsidies and become a self-sustaining industry.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Terri Lukas

It’s a hot day.  A walk to the Bethesda library should take 20 minutes, but in the heat, it will be at least 30.  It will feel good to reach my air-conditioned destination.  But as it turns out,  I don’t have to wait to feel the cool blast of air conditioning.  I feel it right out in the open, on the street, as I pass one establishment after another: a small tea shop, a sports clothing store, an Asian restaurant … the list goes on. 

So I ask myself: what is going on?  This is Bethesda: highly educated, connected, progressive.  If nowhere else, surely here people understand the basics about what it takes to find fossil fuels needed to meet our increasing demand for energy: deep sea drilling, fracking, troops to secure foreign sources.  Then there is the issue of a warming planet. . .

How can people spend thousands on high efficiency air conditioners, windows and doors, yet appear not to notice the weather-blind, open-door practices of stores and restaurants?

I have no answers; do you?

Terri Lukas works in public health and is an active conservationist. She lives with her husband in Chevy Chase West.

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