Earth and Safety day an opportunity to learn and grow for local students
May 1, 2013
By Bob McElroy
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- More than 800 middle school students visited Fort A.P. Hill on April 18 to celebrate the 43rd annual Earth Day. The event featured displays from public and private natural and environmental organizations as well as military vehicles and personnel and a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.
The exhibits stretched over most of the large field north of family housing. Fort A.P. Hill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sold hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks not far from the exhibits.
The Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries set up a table with turtles and fish for students to view. Johnathan Harris, an aquatic biologist with the department brought three turtles: a Painted, a small Stinkpot and a Slider.
Next to the turtles, several fish floated in the cloudy water of a small tank. Harris pulled out a small one to show the students.
"This is a pirate perch," he said as a student reached out a tentative finger to touch the small-brown fish in Harris's palm.
Nearby, Terry Misch, an extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, showed students how to make a biodegradable planter from newspaper.
Misch folded the newspaper in half, then rolled it around a soup can, tucked the edges to form a bottom and taped it all together. She filled it with potting soil, pushed a green bean seed into the soil and handed it to a student.
There you go, just make sure you water it, it needs full sun, she smiled.
Not far from the Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality displayed a simple yet effective way to determine if a body of water is polluted--lift up a rock and see what's under it.
John Thompson, an Environmental Specialist with the DEQ, said the type and abundance of certain macro invertebrates--bugs without spinal cords--will give an accurate picture of the water's health.
"You don't need special equipment, the animals can show you," Thompson said.
Thompson said the technique has been used for about 15 to 20 years and was pioneered by the Izaak Walton League, a nationwide conservation organization founded in 1922.
The DEQ display included rocks with painted macro invertebrates on the bottom. Students selected a rock and compared it to a photograph of the macro invertebrates and then determined the quality of water where the bug lived.
On the far side of the field a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Virginia Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation sat, large and formidable in the morning sun.
Thomas Skinner, a 13-year old student at Massaponax Christian Academy sat in the pilot's seat and gently held the cyclic control stick as he gazed through the windshield, as if lost in a dream of flight.
Not far from the Blackhawk a collection of military vehicles beckoned the students: a Navy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle and an all-terrain motorcycle. Next to these were a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier.
Soldiers from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal School brought a bomb suit and several small remotely-operated vehicles for students to operate.
One daring student from Caroline Middle School, Mark Stephens donned the 50-pound bomb suit and knocked out ten pushups in the grass to the cheers of his fellow students.
America has celebrated Earth Day since April 22, 1970, according to the Earth Day website, http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement. Earth Day has been celebrated across America since then and around the world since 1990.