Monday, April 30, 2007

Anacostia Haikus!

Recently the girls in After 4 have been learning how to write haikus. Here are a few inspired by their Anacostia boat tour.

Fish have cancer there.
When sun shines in the river
the water is blue.


River in D.C.
It is really polluted
And it has sewage.


Dashes to river
just like a big rocket ship
Flying high in sky.


Students write about the Anacostia trip

The After 4 gang wrote about their experience going to the Anacostia. Here are some excerpts from those writings combined.

"We went to the Anacostia River. We got there by vans, trucks, and cars, and we rode on a little boat. Mr. Josh's company name was Earth Conservation Center-- the ECC. Mr. Josh was a boat rider/captain. We learned about sewers and ducks and birds and flowers and fish. He told us that if you litter and it starts raining, it will come out at the Anacostia River. Then, we saw a bird flying with a fish; it was very odd."

"I've never been on an exciting boat ride. Josh said we shouldn't litter, because then the earth won't be healthy. I learned that a park is better for a river than buildings. The best thing for the edges of a river are wetlands and miles of trees, especially the Weeping Willow. Then, we have a healthy river.

The Indians discovered the river first. They called it the "Country Trading Center." The one thing I noticed was everywhere we went there was lots of sewage and Captain Josh said, if you litter on the ground, the trash will go to the river. "

"Captain Josh told us about littering, then Nia started chanting, "No more littering!" Captain Josh said maybe you should save your energy and say it to the buildings. We all said it loud to the people on the bridges and in cars."
--Aiyana, Princess, Quennie, Devinity

Thursday, April 26, 2007

No More Litter!

The After 4 gang has been learning about our precious water resources and some of the issues we need to think about to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Part of that watershed is the Anacostia River right here in Washington, D.C. This river is only 8.4 miles long, running from Bladensburg, MD, to the Potomac River.

The Anacostia is mistreated in many ways. For instance, long stretches of the river have been stripped of all the trees, which help filter water before it enters the river and also help stop erosion along the river banks.

Even worse, the Anacostia is badly polluted. Many species of fish live in the river. But an estimated 60 percent of all the catfish suffer from some form of cancer.

People simply dump their trash into the Anacostia. Storm drains from the District of Columbia empty into the river. And when it rains heavily, much of the city's sewage system overflows and spills into the river as well.

That's right: When we get a heavy rain, your toilets dump right into the Anacostia. Hard to believe, but true.
Yesterday the After 4 gang took a boat ride with our captain, Josh, of the Earth Conservation Corps. They have an office in an old building on the river in Southeast Washington near the new baseball stadium. The building used to contain pumps that sent water from the Anacostia to make steam heat in the U.S. Capitol building.

Josh takes people on tours of the Anacostia almost every day. There is still wildlife on the river. He showed us osprey nests. We also saw cormerants and seagulls and a great blue heron.

We also saw some Canada geese. But Josh says the geese are a problem: They eat important wetland plants. Wetland plants along the river's shoreline act as a filter, remover harmful pollutants from the river. We need more wetland areas, but they have to be fenced to keep the Canada geese out.
Imagine a time when the area around the Anacostia River was inhabited only by native Americans. There were no buildings or cars, only lots of trees everywhere along the river and wildlife. The natives, or Necostans, considered the river their own special market, because it supplied so much of their food.

Now, people give the river hardly a thought. They also dump their automobile tires into the Anacostia. Josh said the Conservation Corps at one point cleaned up a small portion of the river and collected more than 400 automobile tires. Also, everywhere you look trash is floating on the river, mostly soda bottles and plastic packaging.

This past weekend, the Conservation Corps filled 320 bags with trash from Kingman Island near RFK Stadium. But when we passed the island yesterday, the trash was back. Lots of trash.

The reason for so much trash is that people litter everywhere. And the litter gets washed down the storm drains and into the Anacostia. So the After 4 gang began to chant: No more litter! No more litter!

The chant grew louder and louder. It went on and on.

We hope you will take up the chant. Tell all your parents and all your friends. Help the Anacostia and our Chesapeake Bay watershed.

No more litter!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Recently in class we've been focused on learning about photosynthesis and vascular plant systems. These images show a papier mache tree the gang made. The leaves are made from their handprints, and if you look closely, you can see that built onto the side are papier mache layers that fold out, labeled: Outer Bark, Phloem, Cambium, and Xylum.

The class got so excited about their knowledge of how trees use light energy to make glucose, that they expressed a great interest in having a play on the subject. In this image, the kids are cutting out different lengths of light waves as costumes. There was much fuss over who would play the sun, so in addition to that role, we designated girls to play different lightwaves that penetrate our atmosphere, and thus a tree's leaves. Shown here are three little smiling rays!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Things Are Blooming

Our garden is in its second year now and clearly some of the plants that we started last year from seeds are very happy. What a great thing to see them coming back so vigorously and in such good health.

At left are rock cress in full bloom. They make perky little purplish flowers in a great profusion. We planted the rock cress to surround our new crape myrtle trees in large, concrete planters situated in the corners near the entrance to the garden. I remember last summer when the sun was so hot and the garden was driest it wasn't clear at all that the rock cress would survive. There were just small clumps of it here and there, hiding from the blistering sun it seemed. But this spring they've come back in full force and we are really glad.

Last year we had good success with our strawberry plants. Every morning, the kids would come to school excited and asking if they could pick the latest strawberry they'd found on the verge of ripeness. We harvested quite a few.
These plants bear moderately size berries in the spring only. Some other strawberries bear fruit all through the summer. Our farmer friend Mike Klein, who owns and operated a food subscription service from his truck farm in Prince George's County, allowed us to dig these plants from between his strawberry rows. Strawberries like to spread by sending out "ruuners" that then make new roots. Earlier this year we divided quite a few of the plants--enough to start another crop of strawberries in one of other big containers in our garden.
Yesterday the After 4 gang took a walk around the garden and the whole school property to try and identify the things that are growing. We found blossoms on our pussy will and lots of lush new leaves on the butterfly bush, or buddlea. The witch hazel that bloomed so beautifully in March also is sprouting leaves, so we know it is healthy. We have lots and lots of thyme and parsley and bronze fennel. Also a salad herb called salad burnett that tastes like cucumber.
Over in the flower boxes, the black-eyed Susan plants are big and bush. The pinks are starting to bloom and it looks like we have many purple coneflower plants that we thought had died during the winter. The crape myrtles also look a little dead, but now they have leaf buds all over.
On the other side of the school building is one of our favorite trees around. It's an old red bud that is just now covered with tiny purplish blossoms. Did you know that you can eat the blossoms of the red bud tree?