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February 23, 2018
Elementary students learn about water quality by creating caddisflies.Every kids knows what a butterfly is, but what on earth is a caddisfly? Belle View Elementary School students found out at the school’s annual STEAM night on Tuesday, Feb. 20. (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.) Danielle Wynne, an ecologist in the Stormwater Planning Division of Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, hosted a table where students learned all about this important benthic macroinvertebrate (a tiny bug that lives in creeks). Wynne’s exhibit explained how scientists use indicator species, such as the caddisfly, to determine the health of our streams and watersheds. Many caddisflies create houses for themselves out of sticks, leaves, or rocks and carry them around, similar to a hermit crab. With her young audience in mind, Wynne provided craft materials for the students to create their own caddisflies and houses to take home. Her goal is for every kid to understand how their actions affect water quality and impact the overall environment. Wynne was invited to participate in the STEAM event by fifth-grade teacher Michael Marasti. She and Marasti have worked together previously on the Citizen Scientists Floatable Monitoring Program, a hands-on program in which students learn about data collection in the field by tracking litter and debris in their local streams. Wynne’s outreach team interacted with more than 3,500 students at 40 events last year, and she’s on pace to match or exceed that number this year. Participating in the STEAM event exemplifies how subject matter experts from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services partner with Fairfax County Public Schools to offer experiential learning opportunities. Both entities are committed to promoting a variety of exciting career paths to students. Teachers interested in scheduling similar programs may email the Stormwater Planning Division or call 703-324-5500, TTY 711.
February 20, 2018
Michael Schindler, engineering tech II, Wastewater Design and Construction, Capital Facilities, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, was recently awarded the U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award for his 318.5 volunteer hours in 2017. The President's Award encourages citizens to "live a life of service through presidential gratitude and national recognition." Awards are issued for service hours performed within a 12-month period. "I'm honored to receive this prestigious award from the President of the United States for my volunteer service," Schindler said. "I enjoy giving back to my community because I've been very fortunate in my life." Schindler has organized and participated in numerous community service events in the past year, including: gathering George Mason University classmates to attend tree planting and invasive plant removal events; rebuilding a pedestrian bridge on the Appalachian Trail; installing a water distribution and storage system for an orphanage in rural Nicaragua; working with a local Nicaragua community to develop a mass-scale, low-income housing project; and organizing a 5K run, raising thousands of dollars for the housing project. There are three levels of awards: gold, silver and bronze. Schindler won a silver award that included a personalized certificate, an official coin, and a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States. Schinderl is president of Engineers for International Development (EfID) at George Mason University, the organization that nominated him for the award. Schindler's focus as president of EfID is to train people to be leaders, organize professional networking workshops and provide hands-on support for students who are working to earn their engineering degrees at George Mason University. "This gives them an advantage when transitioning into the professional environment," he said. His volunteer plans for the immediate future are to build a bridge on the Appalachian Trail and to return to Nicaragua in the summer of 2018 to continue work on a project that will create a master plan for a low income housing project close to Managua, Nicaragua. Michael Schindler helps move a large log during a building project on the Appalachian Trail.Schindler has been employed by the county for eight months. He was born in Uffenheim, a small town in Bavaria, Germany. He served in the German military for six years as a paratrooper. It was Schindler's military service that brought him to American for the first time on an assignment in 2008. While he was stationed in the U.S. he met an American woman, born in Ethiopia, and decided to stay. They married just a few years later. Schindler's community service produces a ripple effect with positive impacts on many people. "Introducing kids to volunteer work to give back to their communities, to help others who are less fortunate than oneself, is one of my goals," Schindler said. Like the Boy Scouts motto, "Do a good deed every day." Schindler was a boy scout in Germany from about age ten through his teen years. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service’s website, “The President's Volunteer Service Award works with certifying organizations to recognize America's most committed volunteers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the value of volunteer time to be $23.56 per hour. Through their service, Americans invest billions of dollars in their local communities and have immeasurable impact on others and the character of their communities."
February 12, 2018
Linda Barfield and Hugh Whitehead from Urban Forest Management (left) pose with Dogwood ES teacher Mark Moseley and his class. Students learned about the environmental and socioeconomic benefits trees provide and how to properly plant and care for them during a planting event in Reston, Va., on Nov. 28, 2017.Urban forester Hugh Whitehead says it is important to provide adequate space for trees in urban development projects, a concept known as urban greening. "Potential benefits of urban greening include improved mental and physical health; improved air quality, stormwater management, water quality, and public safety; strengthened economics, and improved social well-being," Hugh said. "Urban greening contributes to the achievement of many of the goals of successful urbanization, including: diverse, accessible transportation options such as walking, biking and using public transit; a network of parks, open spaces and trails; and balancing the need for infrastructure with opportunities for strengthening our economy and development," he said. People have long recognized that nature in cities and towns provides beauty and respite. Pieter Anthony Sheehan, director of the Fairfax County Health Department’s division of environmental health, says, "Urban forests play an extremely important, multifaceted role in maintaining and improving not only the economic and environmental quality conditions of communities but the health of their inhabitants." Increased urbanization does not and should not preclude nature. Urban greening creates more sustainable urban environments for everyone to enjoy.
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