AEC team supports Earth Day 2024

By Cathy Kropp (USAEC)May 9, 2024

AEC Rock Team is ready to roll
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army Environmental Command sent a team to Fort Cavazos Earth Day celebration to provide a hands-on activity about geology. (Photo Credit: Cathy Kropp (USAEC)) VIEW ORIGINAL
Xavier and children
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Xavier Hutchinson, environmental support manager with the Southeast Division, helps students become Rock Detectives and identify the type of rocks. (Photo Credit: Cathy Kropp (USAEC)) VIEW ORIGINAL
Lena and children
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lena Sierocinski, environmental support manager with the Midwest and Central America Division, helps students use their Rock Detective skills. (Photo Credit: Cathy Kropp (USAEC)) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kelly and children
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kelly Norwood, environmental support manager with the West and Pacific Division, shares her love of geology as she helps students use their Rock Detective skills. (Photo Credit: Cathy Kropp (USAEC)) VIEW ORIGINAL
John and children
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – John Beasley, environmental support manager with the Southeast Division helps children identify rocks using their new Rock Detective skills (Photo Credit: Cathy Kropp (USAEC)) VIEW ORIGINAL

Every day is Earth Day at the Army Environmental Command, but each year the command joins the national celebration and commemorates Earth Day by providing hands-on activities to hundreds of school children.

On April 25, AEC employees joined approximately 120 kindergarten students from Fort Sam Houston Elementary School at Salado Park for ‘Nature Day.’ Stations were set up around the park to engage and educate the children on environmental topics including archaeology, geology, insects, recycle relays, furs and feathers, and lifecycles of reptiles and amphibians.

The following day, an AEC team traveled to Fort Cavazos to join the installation’s Earth Day where 264 third and fourth grade students from Fort Cavazos and Copperas Cove schools were bussed to the Community Center on post to view a variety of environment-related stations by Army and community organizations.

While another 252 students were expected to attend an afternoon session, thunderstorms and tornados cut the day short, requiring the students to shelter in place until the ‘all clear’ signal was received, and they could return to their schools. Both students and Earth Day volunteers remained calm and carried out the instructions efficiently thanks to prior planning by the Fort Cavazos Earth Day coordinator and safety office.

The Fort Cavazos Earth Day hosted exhibits and activities related to a variety of environmental topics with more than a dozen presentations from private companies, as well as local, state and federal agencies.

The AEC team highlighted geology this year, inviting children to become Rock Detectives. Xavier Hutchinson and Kelly Norwood, geologists who work in environmental restoration at AEC, were joined by Lena Sierocinski, an environmental scientist, and John Beasley, an engineer, who also serve as AEC environmental support managers responsible for environmental restoration work at Army installations.

“Earth Day is important because it raises awareness of environmental conservation and sustainability and inspires people to take action to protect the planet,” said Beasley.

“It’s important to draw attention to things we can do to protect, conserve and take care of this amazing planet we live on,” said Sierocinski who participated in both AEC events. One day she was explaining furs and feathers and the next day changed gears to explain igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

The AEC rock team, led by Rock Detective Hutchinson, explained the different type of rocks and how they are formed, providing samples for viewing. Then the children became part of a Rock Detective team that conducted their own investigation and categorized sample rocks using the rock detective investigation process provided to them on a handout and supported by the AEC volunteers. Those who accurately identified the rock types selected a rock of their own to take home.

Local teachers let the AEC team know their students had recently completed studies on rocks in their science class and were proud of their students’ knowledge and quick response to questions.

“Earth Day fits in the scope and sequence of our science program,” said Teresa Gorres, third grade teacher at Martin Walker Elementary School in the Copperas Cove Independent School District. “It helps get the children out of the classroom and lets them see different aspects of the community. It also helps them with social skills.”

Stephanie Crockett a school counselor at Montague Village Elementary School said, “Events like these expose the children to different careers. This was an amazing opportunity to expose the children to geologists and other careers.”

Crockett hears many children say, “When I grow up, I want to be ….” She said she counsels them to “do what you love.” When the children return to their classes some teachers quiz them on what they learned at the Fort Cavazos Earth Day and if they discovered any career that interested them.

“Providing a geology presentation for Earth Day helps shape the young minds of students and helps steer them towards rewarding careers that support and foster environmental stewardship,” said Hutchinson. “I believe providing a positive influence for even a few students who show interest in geology or earth science can be the foundation for the next generation of environmental professionals.”

At Earth Day events, AEC employees get the opportunity to share their love of environmental sciences and introduce children to careers and perspectives they might not normally be exposed to.

“I love sharing geology with kids, showing them that from sparkly crystals to cool fossils there is something of interest for everyone in the science,” Norwood said.