Fort Belvoir's Earth Day Celebration educated young minds, Friday at Tompkins Basin Park.
The event, co-hosted by the Directorate of Public Works and the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, featured environmental experts teaching more than 700 students tips on how to save energy, recycle and conserve water.
Students came from schools and child development centers on and off post, such as Mount Vernon High School and Fort Belvoir's Youth Center, to learn how they can protect their environment.
"They get to see environment first hand," said Marshal Barnes, Youth Center acting director. "It might spark an interest and some students may decide to pursue more education."
Fort Belvoir volunteers celebrated Earth Day by exposing community members to the natural resources throughout Tompkins Basin Park. Students traveled to 24 different stations and learned about different animals and plant species. Students also planted trees and learned about the negative impact of pollution. Brice Bartley, DPW natural resources specialist, spoke to participants about different characteristics of trees and plants. One big point was avoiding poison ivy.
"Some people think that by eating poison ivy you develop a resistance to it but don't do that," Bartley told a group of youth during the event. "People end up in the hospital doing that."
Bartley taught students rhymes to remember when approaching unfamiliar plants. One rhyme is leaves with three leave it be, which he hopes reminds students walking around post to stay away from plants with three leaves because they may be poison ivy.
"We have so much poison ivy on post," Bartley said. "People should know how to identify it."
Another Earth Day lesson students received involved water conservation. Representatives from American Water demonstrated how throwing inappropriate items such as toys and wrappers into sinks clog up pipes. The water experts showed students a jar from an unclogged pipe full of improperly disposed items. Clogged pipes slow down water flow and they can also lead to harmful effects on the environment. Students were also told to be mindful of the amount of water they use.
"The significance of today is using Fort Belvoir's beauty and vast natural resources to introduce as well as reinforce Earth Day and what it means," said Kim Mills, DFMWR director.
This is the 43rd Earth Day celebration, according to The observance raises awareness and education of environmental concerns, such as air and water pollution. Earth Day also promotes outdoor activities and the improvement of the world's sustainability for future generations.
The U.S. Army Environmental Command's Earth Day theme this year is "Acknowledge the Past, Engage the Present, Chart the Future." According to the environmental command's website, the theme's goal is to acknowledge the past by improving Army lands and protecting and preserving cultural and historical resources; engaging the present by meeting environmental standards, enabling Army operations, and protecting Soldiers, civilians and Families; and charting the future by institutionalizing best practices and using technology to ensure future environmental resiliency. The theme represents the Army's commitment to the environment and proof this commitment is found in recently completed LEED certified facilities such as the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and the new control tower at Davison Army Airfield, according to Wilamena Harback, DPW natural resource specialist program manager for environmental outreach, education and industrial storm water.
"The event today provided a good opportunity for kids to get outside and learn about natural resources," Harback said. "The more they know about the environment, the more likely they're going to help protect it."