After Sandy one did not have to look far to find horrifying images of storm damage up and down the East Coast. The DC metro region was, thankfully, spared by the worst of the weather but, as Lori pointed out in this blog post, there was definite evidence of Sandy’s impact on the Anacostia watershed.
It was all the more evident during the education team’s first canoe trip out since the storm. We were not surprised to find an enormous amount of debris floating in the river. While much of it was sticks, logs, leaves, and other natural materials, just as much, if not more, was plastic and glass bottles, styrofoam cups and containers, and other bits of non-biodegradable materials. One type of plastic that was few and far between, however, was the plastic bag. We can, again, give credit to the DC bag fee for keeping an enormous number of these bags out of the river.
Our canoe trips were with Hardy Middle School, a RiverSmart School located in Georgetown. The Riversmart School program, a program of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) that AWS helps administer, provides the resources and assistance for schools to install schoolyard green spaces. Last fall, AWS led the installation of a wetland and garden with over 150 Hardy students contributing to the effort. The process and result were impressive, as can be seen below, and now all of the students who pass through Hardy will have this excellent space in which to learn about wetlands and watersheds.
The classes we took out last week were enthusiastic to be out on the water and were quite knowledgeable about the functions of the constructed wetlands past which we canoed. We stopped to check out the Pickerelweed, Arrow Arum, Wild Rice, and Cattails and many students recognized the plants from their schoolyard wetland. They also made the connection that, if the wetlands were not present along the river, much more debris would be in the water.
As the RiverSmart Schools program continues to grow and as more and more classes get out on the river, we are confident that such knowledge of wetlands and their ecology, what once was the predominant landscape in DC, will become part of the public knowledge and consciousness.
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