AHS – Projects and Partnerships

Article by FMN Susan Farmer

Fairfax Master Naturalists  chapter is partnering with the American Horticultural Society (AHS) at their River Farm location in Fairfax County. River Farm is a beautiful 27-acre property located along the George Washington Parkway overlooking the Potomac River that has been AHS headquarters since 1973. The River Farm location is one of George Washington’s original five farms.

AHS headquarters – photo Jerry Nissley

Members of Virginia Master Naturalists, Fairfax Chapter (FMN) will provide volunteers in support of AHS activities as well as promote awareness of AHS educational opportunities inline with the FMN mission.

To help celebrate their 50th year at River Farm, AHS initiated several new projects in 2023. With the help of volunteers, River Farm is replacing the old azalea garden with 2400 native plants, converting a large lawn into a native meadow, renewing all the bluebird boxes, building a greenhouse, and creating an accessible path through the wooded area to the riverfront. FMN will be working with other AHS volunteers and staff to fulfill their vision.

AHS Border garden – photo Jerry Nissley

FMN created three project codes to cover AHS Stewardship projects, Educational programs, and Citizen Science opportunities.

S275: Stewardship Projects at American Horticultural Society River Farm
E275: Educational Projects at American Horticultural Society River Farm
C275: Citizen Science Projects at American Horticultural Society River Farm

AHS formal garden – photo Jerry Nissley

Two opportunities on the top of their list for FMN are the removal of invasive vines to prep for native plantings and to re-establish their bluebird trail. The Invasive Vine Removal Program will be on consecutive Saturday mornings beginning October 7th. Help restructuring the bluebird trail and then subsequently monitoring the boxes will start very soon. FMN Susan Farmer has volunteered to be the FMN liaison for all projects at River Farm.

If you would like to get involved at this national showcase for gardening and horticultural practices along gorgeous river front property, please contact Susan at [email protected]

AHS HQ view from River side – photo Jerry Nissley

Green Service Showcase Judges Needed, May 23rd & 25th

Photo courtesy Lewis HS

Monday May 23rd from 12:50 pm to 2:50 pm and/or
Wednesday May 25th from 7:45 am – 9:45 am
John R. Lewis High School, 6540 Franconia Rd, Springfield, VA

International Baccalaureate Environmental 11th and 12th grade students investigated environmental issues, developed goals/steps, and made some “good trouble” environmental action for the John R. Lewis HS Community. The journey the action took was different depending on the team, but the goal is for them to reflect and propose ideas for future students.

Students in groups or as individuals selected Green service projects focused on one or more of the following:

1. Waste and consumption
2. Sustainable food
3. Outdoor classroom improvements

Top projects will be awarded prizes in the following categories connected to FCPS Portrait of a Graduate:

Most critical thinkers
Most goal oriented and resilient
Most reflective global and ethical citizens
Strongest collaborators
Strongest communicators

If you can join one or both dates, please fill out this google form.

Questions? Contact Rachel Clausen, Environmental Lead Lewis HS, (301) 908-7623 or [email protected].


Fairfax Master Naturalists Talk Pollinators and Citizen Science at June Environmental Expo

Photo: Marilyn Schroeder

By Mike Walker

FMN members hosted a booth at the first “post pandemic” Outreach Event in 2021. This was the Mount Vernon-National Park Service Environmental Expo at Fort Hunt Park on June 26. Marilyn Schroeder and Mike Walker set up and staffed the booth, with Master Naturalist and Bat Expert Deborah Hammer offering training and use tips for the iNaturalist system. Many of our local partner organizations were present at the Expo, including Friends of Huntley Meadows and Mason Neck as well as various Fairfax County government organizations, such as the Green Breakfast folks from the Soil and Water Conservation department. Chapter sponsor Jim McGlone, representing the forestry department, was also there promoting proper tree planting.

Two important takeaways for me: first, next to our booth was an entomologist with the National Park Service. He explained that staff from the Department and local universities have discovered and documented five new, previously undiscovered species of insects found on parkland. Field investigations have been taking place in Dyke Marsh, Turkey Run Park and Great Falls-Riverbend parks. Second, on display and available for inspection were about a dozen all electric automobiles and a Fairfax County Public Schools electric school bus. What had been wishful thinking on a new age of automobiles now appears to be becoming mainstream and even affordable. One owner of a Chevrolet Volt told me he has owned his electric car for 10 years and has never returned to the dealer or had any repairs other than new tires and wiper blades. Lots of interesting information.

Keep your eyes open for our booth at the next public environmental event. Stop by, ask questions, or just visit!

Green Jobs Report: Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector, Recording and Report

The short- and long-term projections for the renewable energy sector are growth.

Renewable energy is expected to continue to increase in popularity and usage as utilities and regulators look to it as a viable option for replacing retiring capacity and customers choose it to save money and address the climate crisis. This interest is aligned with a recent poll that found 81% of Blacks, 73% of Latinos and 71% of white respondents think “clean” energy jobs can help people in their communities.

So how do we prepare the U.S. workforce for growth in the renewable energy sector? And ensure the process is just and equitable?

Members of the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum – Deep South Center for Environmental JusticeGreen Door InitiativesWE ACT for Environmental Justice – along with GRID Alternatives answer these questions via their contributions to the “Green Jobs Report: Creating a Green Workforce, Community-Based Solutions for a Diverse Green Jobs Sector.”

This report outlines imperatives for bringing underrepresented groups into climate change work and the clean energy economy, and offers policy and best practice prescriptions for closing diversity gaps in the renewable energy industry and was released via webinar on December 9. Here is the recording.

Science Fair Judges Needed, Mar. 25th

New School of Northern Virginia
9431 Silver King Ct. Fairfax, VA (off Pickett Road near Rt. 50)
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
4:30 – 7:30pm
Dinner provided

The New School of Northern Virginia is seeking volunteer judges for their annual Science Fest. They would appreciate your valuable feedback for their students’ projects! They have several biology and environmental science-based research projects and original experiments. A science background is helpful. In addition to the satisfaction of helping the science education community, judges will receive a certificate of appreciation and a casual catered dinner (Baja Fresh).

Sign up here.

Master naturalists: Service hour credit is available using code E152: Science Fair Judge at Fairfax County Science Fairs. Participants please make a note where your service occurred

Register for Behavior-Centered Design for the Environment, December 2-3, 2020

Marilyn Kupetz

During a two-day workshop at Rare’s Center for Behavior & Environment in October 2019, one of the participants, a professor of restorative ecology, described an initiative that he’s launching at Longwood University: getting students, faculty, and staff to reduce the number of single-use plastics that they deposit into the waste stream in Farmville, Virginia. 

He was credible and inspiring, and when I went home that day, I examined every bit of plastic that I inject, virtuously, into my recycling bin: sushi trays, shampoo containers, pill bottles, salad boxes, plastic utensils, yogurt packaging, dog treat wrappers, water bottles—I could go on for a while, but I’m sure you get it. I was surprised at the variety and appalled by the numbers.

I was also surprised to learn that manufacturers are not buying plastic right now because it costs more to wash and prepare recycled waste than to make new plastic. So the fact that we recycle doesn’t actually reduce the effects of the plastic we toss. It still ends up in landfills or the ocean. The path forward seems to require some combination of avoiding plastic all together—very hard; repurposing as much of what we do have to buy as possible; and thinking creatively about options that haven’t occurred to us yet, but could if we summon the collective will.

Because Rare teaches Behavior-Centered Design for the Environment twice a year and leads projects that practice it—all over the world, all the time—our facilitators asked us to workshop in real time how we ourselves might encourage just one organization to reduce the number of plastic products they consume and throw away during lunch each day. 

Collectively, our ideas touched all of the levers of behavior-centered design:

  • We suggested a material incentive: giving staff branded, reusable containers for lunch or takeout. Because they would cost the organization very little, and could be made of recycled plastic, the incentive might be valuable on several levels.
  • We’d engage in positive storytelling, by, for example, posting signs reminding staff that although waste adds up, change is in their hands, literally.
  • We’d leverage social influence, perhaps with a trash art installation inside the front door to remind ourselves of what waste really looks like, without any personal public shaming.
  • We’d push information via fun infographic reminders to forego plastic and adopt reusable utensils and containers.
  • We’d enable choice architecture by hosting a cache of reusable containers right near the cafeteria so that staff could borrow, wash, and return them if they forgot their own.

Doable, right? A question of will, not where-with-all. 

I’m working out how to use what I learned—from the gifted teachers and the fabulous participants—in my own life and activities. I encourage those of you who want your efforts to preserve the natural world to have meaningful outcomes to participate in the next workshop, to be held online, December 2-3, 2020.

Free Resources

Behavior Change for Nature: A Behavioral Science Toolkit for Practitioners is a useful, short booklet for getting started, and perfect for those of you who learn best from the printed word.

Behavior Beat is Rare’s monthly newsletter full of stories and links to resources. Great resource for news and easily digestible stories of what works.

Lots of webinars and inspiring stories on the site itself.

And, of course, come talk with me, too, any time.

If you are a Fairfax Master Naturalist, the workshop easily fulfills your education requirement for the year.

Using Service Learning and Citizen Science as a Meaningful Context to Teach Plant Science, a talk Nov. 17th

Green Springs Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA
Sunday, 17 November 2019
1 – 4pm

Join the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society at their annual meeting with speaker Dr. Peter Mecca.

Dr. Mecca will describe some of the science-learning opportunities available to students at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia. For example, every fall and spring, Mason students assist National Park Service Staff at Shenandoah National Park to remove invasive plants along the Appalachian Trail. In addition, Mason students are leaders in urban agriculture through traditional gardening (raised beds) and alternative gardening (hydroponics, FarmBot) methods. The presenter will share information about a potential new learning opportunity for students – a citizen science experience in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Peter Mecca has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Ecology from Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. degree in Environmental Biology from Hood College, and a B.S. degree in Secondary Education – Biology from Penn State. He has served as a public school teacher, science education consultant, administrator, and a university faculty member. Prior to his current position, Dr. Mecca was the Instructional Systems Specialist for Science with the U.S. Department of Defense Schools. He is a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Virginia Association of Science Teachers, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and the Council of State Science Supervisors and was awarded the Conservation Education Teacher of the Year by the VA Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

2019 4th Annual Farm to Table Dinner for Environmental Education, Aug. 24th

Windy Knoll Farm
11602 Kettle Run Rd, Nokesville, VA 20181
Saturday, 24 August 2019
3-7 pm

The Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation will be hosting their 4th annual Farm to Table fundraiser dinner to support environmental education. Windy Knoll Farm is a working farm in addition to being an event center that hosts a variety of the education programs that the Foundation funds for county residents. The event will run from 3 – 7 p.m. The meal will be served from 4:00-5:30 with the ability to eat anytime within that time frame. Tickets for the meal are; $35 for adults, $15 for children ages 13 – 18, and free for children 12 and under. Following meal time, a live auction and speaker on rural development, Chris Price PWC Planning Director, will commence. In addition to the meal and live auction, there will also be a silent auction, photo sessions, opportunities to meet local artisan & farm sponsors, view vendor displays, farm hayride tours, and antique equipment displays.

All proceeds from the event go towards the implementation of beyond the walls of the classroom environmental and agricultural education for the Prince William County Community. This mission is achieved through educational programs: Farm Field Days, Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE’s), Arbor Day activities, Water Quality Monitoring, and Adopt-A-Stream, to name a few. Your support of the Foundation and the community enable them to provide these outreach programs.

Purchase your tickets early and bring a friend or neighbor to a dinner that highlights the wonderful agricultural products produced in Prince William County. All ticket sales for this event are final. If you are unable to attend this wonderful event we ask that you consider making a tax exempt donation through this site to help us expand the learning environment of Prince William County youth. Register for the event here.

For the event menu or more information about the event, visit their website.

How to promote native plants, training June 29th

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax
2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton VA 22124
Saturday, 29 June 2019
9:30am -12:30 pm

Please join Plant NOVA Natives as they discuss various ways in which community volunteers can spread the word about the value of adding native plants to their landscaping. Learn how you can work with your
• homeowners or condo association
• neighbors
• faith community
• local garden center
After hearing presentations on these and other topics, we will break up into small groups to brainstorm about our individual action plans. We will have snacks, but bring a bag lunch if you like.

See details and sign up here.

2019 Fairfax County ESLI Environmental Education Conference, June 22nd

Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Saturday, 22 June 2019
9 am – 3 pm

Connect with high school and college students from around Virginia, DC and Maryland to learn about ways you can get involved with environmental education initiatives in your school and community. Learn effective environmental education games and teaching skills that you can use to teach kids in your community, and enjoy a free sustainable meal. This one-day conference will be held on June 22, 2019 and is located at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, VA. The event is free for students. Contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at to learn more, and click here to register.