Archive for July 2012 | Monthly archive page
By Jamillah Muhammad
I recently attended the second EcoWomen urban farming event at the Walker Jones Educational Center. Located in the heart of Washington, DC’s ward 6, it’s the last place you’d expect to see an open plot of land with rows of crops, bee hives, compost piles and pumpkin patches. With busy New Jersey Ave on one side, K Street on another, and a basketball court that sits between the farm and the public housing complexes on 1st St., the farm is like an oasis…albeit surrounded by chain link fencing, but an oasis nonetheless. I’ve done a fair amount of volunteering, but this was my first time on a farm. What I enjoyed the most was learning the science behind all of the decisions that are made, which techniques are used and why, and the challenges that accompany introducing an alternative learning project to a school system not typically open to change.
Once a lot with a dilapidated building on it, it is now home to bees, butterflies, marigolds, corn, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli and numerous other staples for the children to cultivate and eat. Creating a new educational tool, David Himly (a teacher at Walker Jones and a tropical biologist) runs the farm and has fought to add it to the school’s curriculum. The children get a hands-on outdoor escape from the conventional elementary/middle school learning environment, as the farm sits adjacent to the school.
The children learn to cultivate plants and crops, but also learn the science behind farming. Why lavender plants are set next to the beehives, or why the black fly larvae is used for the compost instead of just worms. They learn what a cistern is, how a rain garden works, all while learning to work together and to communicate effectively outside of the classroom.
We worked to clean up, weed, sow seeds and add compost freshly sifted from a large pile at the far end of the lot. It was surprisingly easy to tune out the police cars, fire trucks and other city sounds wailing the background and focus on the experience. Luckily for us the sky stayed overcast for most of the day, keeping the sun out of our eyes as we weeded the rows.
When I think of farming, I used to imagine of acres and acres of land with rows and rows of crops, but now I have a much better understanding of how urban farming works and how a small plot of land can not only feed children physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I look forward to doing it again soon!
Post courtesy of Stephanie Madden, Book Club Maven Extraordinaire
“Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun!” While the rubber duck is often at the center of childhood nostalgia, Donovan Hohn’s “Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them” made the tale of a 1992 container ship accident that sent thousands of Floatee bath toys, including yellow ducks, red beavers, green frogs, and blue turtles (which were actually plastic, not rubber!), an engaging and educational tale of bath toys and Hohn’s quest to follow their epic voyage through the biggest bathtub of all: the ocean.
The July meeting of the DC EcoWomen book club played off the water theme of the book and met at the recently established Yards Park on the Anacostia River. The Nats were playing a home game that day, so we could hear the cheer of the crowd from the nearby stadium as we dipped our feet in the park’s water wall feature and made introductions. It was a scorcher that day, so we quickly moved inside to Justin’s Cafe to continue our discussion, and enjoy cool drinks and delicious snacks. We received a few curious glances as we pulled out Eric Carle’s book “10 Little Rubber Ducks,” which was based on the same container ship accident and passed it around to look at the pictures as we ordered our food.
We discussed many different topics and themes raised by the book, from debating the value of beach cleanups as potential greenwashing events, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Hohn’s decision to follow the path of the Floatees with a pregnant wife at home (and what she thought about all of this ducky nonsense), toy factories in China, and other unique ways that oceanographers learn about the ocean currents, such as The Drift Bottle Project. We also discussed larger themes, such as our thoughts and experiences on dropping everything to chase a dream, and ended the discussion by recounting stories of our own childhood nostalgia. Before we went our separate ways, each of the EcoWomen attending received a small, rubber ducky keychain as a reminder of book club and the epic journey of Hohn and the Floatee bath toys.
In partnership with the UN’s World Environment Day, Green Living Project recently held a Washington, DC, premiere to share their latest films. Green Living Project is a filmmaking and marketing company that creates short films to showcase examples of sustainability in action. DC EcoWomen was a promotional sponsor for the event and several EcoWomen attended, including myself.
Our evening began with a short local spotlight story from Sam Ullery, the Schoolyard Garden Specialist for DC’s education office. I had no idea the DC school system had such a position, and it was great to see Sam’s passion to provide students in the area access to local, nutritious food.
Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox from the UN Environment Program Regional Office for North America also joined the screening. She applauded the audience for attending because as our 7 billion-person world ever increases demand on resources, “we need to empower ourselves to bring about change”.
The six films screened at the event included stories from the US and Central America, each focusing on a local sustainability project’s success. Issues ranged from agroforestry in Belize to refurbishing bicycles “rescued” from landfills in Chicago. It was a great reminder to us that all it takes is regular people with a passion for change coming together to reach a sustainability goal.
Green Living Project founder and chief storyteller Rob Holmes was our guide through the films of the evening, and shared how each film was made during our viewing. We ended with a preview of the latest films from Africa, and the footage looked stunning! I can’t wait to see them! Rob also shared that he is currently seeking projects to highlight for their upcoming trip to Asia, so contact Jenny at Green Living Project if you know of great stories to share. All in all it was an informative ininspirational event – and I even won a door prize!