The District is home to the nation?s highest percentage of urban green space. In fact, major parks like Rock Creek Park, the C & O Canal National Historical Park and the National Mall account for nearly 20 percent of the land in the city. Hundreds of Washingtonians will join together to beautify these spaces on global Earth Day on April 22nd. In the last Beltway of Giving, I highlighted a number of upcoming awareness months that give citizens a reason to unite for a cause ? but why limit these good efforts to just one day or one month? Throughout the year you can take the time to reduce our carbon footprint ? from installing a green roof to recycling wine bottles and corks. The Beltway of Giving is not just about donating your money to a worthy cause, but also your time and becoming a well-educated citizen that can be a steward for a cause.
Inside the classroom has proven to be the perfect setting to cultivate those stewards. The D.C.-based National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) is working to increase environmental education within our nation?s schools through programs like Classroom Earth (www.classroomearth.org), an online resource designed to help high school teachers include environmental content in their daily lesson plans, and Environmental Education Week taking place April 15 ? 21st. Through these efforts, NEEF has created a network of teachers working to not only increase learning for their students, but also encourage more youth to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). In fact, this year?s National Environmental Education Week?s 2012 theme is Greening STEM: The Environment as Inspiration for 21st Century Learning.
Part of NEEF?s environmental education outreach in the district includes a ***Be Water Wise*** partnership with 13 D.C. public schools that was launched in 2011. ***Be Water Wise*** engages partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to raise awareness of local water challenges and improve water conservation and stormwater management in school buildings and grounds. Diane Wood, President of NEEF, says the program has been a resounding success. ?We want children to be more aware of how they are connected to the environment in the classroom and take those practices home,? said Wood. ?Teachers are being rewarded for engaging their kids in the environment. If you offer something educational and fun to young people it hooks them and they want to learn more.?
Jami Dunham, Head of School at Paul Public Charter School in northwest D.C. agrees. ?Currently schools are emphasizing environmental education in the curriculum of life science classes, through after-school clubs and activities, and by developing community service projects that promote going green,? said Dunham. ?At Paul, we have had a GreenSchools! Club for several years, students have planted trees on campus, built garden beds during a community service day and we have hosted an all-school assembly to inform students about their carbon footprint.?
Dunham encourages parents to focus on increasing their children?s awareness by using their everyday routines to explore environmental education issues.? She recommends taking children to local farmers markets to discuss organic fruits and vegetables and create opportunities for their entire family to volunteer at community gardens.? Consider taking the family for an environmental outing at a D.C.-area park this Earth Day or volunteer your time at one of the many local recycling and clean-up events.
**How You Can Get Involved on Earth Day in D.C.**
On Saturday, April 21st from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. join the Anacostia Watershed Society and other local organizations as they work to cleanup the Anacostia River and its tributaries in honor of Earth Day. Last year, more than 2,000 volunteers helped remove more than 42 tons of trash from the river. More details at [potomacriverkeeper.org](http://www.potomacriverkeeper.org/event/2012-earth-day-cleanup-celebration)
On Saturday, April 21st from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. join the Student Conservation Association for an Earth Day clean-up at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Volunteers will plant 40 trees and remove invasive plant species at the Gardens, as well as assist with trash removal along the Anacostia watershed. Learn more at [members.thesca.org](http://members.thesca.org/site/Calendar?id=105601&view=Detail)
On Sunday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. celebrate Earth Day on the National Mall: Mobilize the Earth. Visitors will hear top musical talent and view renewable energy demonstrations and interactive exhibits . Learn more at [earthday.org](http://www.earthday.org/mall)
***Jade Floyd is a managing associate at a D.C.-based international public relations firm and has served on the board of directors for the D.C. Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative for nearly five years. She is a frequent volunteer and host of fundraising events across the District, supporting arts, animal welfare and education programs.***