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Sign up for Belvedere Elementary School’s Eco-Day

Stacey Evers, VMN and Environmental Educator, is looking for master naturalists to present environmental programs to students at Belvedere Elementary School on Thursday, June 6, 2019, as part of their annual Eco-Day. Belvedere is at Columbia Pike and Sleepy Hollow Road in the Bailey’s Crossroads/east Annandale part of Fairfax County and is very close to Arlington. Your preparation time and actual service would apply toward service hours.

Please contact Stacey soonest to engage:

703-346-8530 |greenBELVEDERE.wordpress.com

During Eco-Day, grade levels pre-K-5 will circulate through stations of hands-on activities from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. However, they can accommodate a smaller window of time if needed and would welcome one-time presentations and activities such as hikes and surveys that require specific start and end times. The programs could be as simple as sharing a skull or shell collection, identifying insects with students in the pollinator gardens, or sharing activities related to bird beak adaptations. They are also interested in activities that incorporate art or other disciplines beyond science.

You will receive beverages, lunch, and a table and canopy if you need them. That said, presentations/activities must involve hands-on learning or inquiry and not be static displays.

Look what you’ve done!

by Michael Reinemer

As I sign off as president, passing the baton to Joe Gorney, I want to thank each Virginia Master Naturalist in the chapter for what you do. The numbers of volunteer hours are astounding.

It’s hard to overstate how desperately your hours and your expertise are needed. Fairfax County and the whole region suffer from habitat loss, climate change, pollution, fragmentation, overuse – among many other assaults.

Meanwhile, we humans are increasingly disconnected from nature, suffering from the “landscape amnesia” Pete Mecca describes to FMN classes. Or shifting baseline syndrome: It’s impossible to notice the many gradual declines in the natural world – unless you understand the natural world, and you care about it and you actively monitor it. Which is one of the things you do as master naturalists. The statewide mason bee monitoring project is a great example.

You may have read “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” the cover story by Brooke Jarvis in the New York Times Magazine, Nov. 27, 2018.  The now global, scientific alarm about loss of insect diversity and abundance was triggered in part by small bug club in Germany. That club of 63 amateur naturalists, which included a few with science backgrounds, documented an astounding 80 percent drop in insect numbers in their research plot over a 30-year period. They had been consistently monitoring and recording changes in insect numbers or biomass in addition to species.

What’s the big deal? As E.O. Wilson put it, “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”  While the “10,000 years” part is probably optimistic, the role of decomposers, pollinators, and other insects is indisputable.

In her NYT piece, Jarvis talks about the long amateur naturalist tradition in Europe and how that has figured into faster, more aggressive response to the insect apocalypse there, compared to the U.S. 

So as part of the growing master naturalist movement in the U.S., you are a vital resource in this era of shrinking budgets for conservation and a time of overt hostility toward science in some quarters of the federal government. Your work as monitors, mentors, and stewards is invaluable.

While all the 2018 numbers aren’t in yet, look what you’ve done:

680 hours staffing information desks at nature centers

445 hours working on nature programs for the county

435 hours removing invasive plants

375 hours as Audubon at Home ambassadors, assessing wildlife habitat

360 hours for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology feederwatch program

350 hours managing habitat and land for Fairfax County Park Authority

343 hours for school programs for Fairfax County Park Authority

330 hours for citizen science programs for the park authority

267 hours monitoring trails for Virginia Bluebird Society

260 hours working with the Plant NoVA Natives campaign

That’s just a small snapshot of your amazing numbers and work. Congratulations, and thank you. 

And a hearty thanks to the many volunteer leaders who serve as officers, committee chairs, and committee members who manage the training and all the mechanics that make the Fairfax Master Naturalists the force for nature that it is.

Be a high school science fair judge starting Dec. 12th

Every year thousands of kids do Science Fair projects. Judges are needed to evaluate the projects done by our own Fairfax County high school students, and to give them an opportunity to practice their presentation skills. This is an opportunity to get to know a younger generation and to hear and challenge their thinking.

Judging typically occurs on a school day afternoon or evening, or on a Saturday morning. Judges work in groups according to their chosen fields within science, and judges are provided with the criteria to use in evaluating student work. Each judge is assigned to evaluate 8 to 12 specific projects, and each project is assigned to 2 or 3 judges. All the participating students with their projects are stationed in a large room until they have had the opportunity to present their project to their judges. Groups of judges meet afterwards to compare their evaluations of the projects and to identify those that should receive awards and be forwarded on to the countywide science fair. First time judges work with experienced judges to become familiar with the process, and some schools can even provide childcare for their judges!

About two dozen Fairfax County high schools will be having science fairs this winter, starting at Lee High School on Wednesday December 12, and continuing at other schools through February. The typical time commitment is four hours. This is a great opportunity to get to know teens who are working hard to gain skills and understand the world.  You will be impressed with how many of them care about good environmental stewardship.

Let’s encourage them!

Contact Cathy Greulich ocgreulich@aol.com to match your availability with the location and dates of the science fairs at the various high schools, or contact your local high school to find their date and time.

(Fairfax Master Naturalists, record your hours as service project E152.)