Fort Meade: Earth Day celebration features 50 exhibits
By Rona Hirsch
Apr 30, 2018 at 11:50 AM
Therapeutic gardening, space exploration, homemade cleansers, sunscreen and wildlife were all on display at Fort George G. Meade's annual Earth Day celebration.
The three-hour celebration, held April 19 at the Pavilion, included 50 exhibitors, demonstrations, giveaways, grilled hot dogs and a DJ.
"The event featured a combination of environmental, health and wellness exhibits," said Suzanne Kopich, a program manager for the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division. "The goal is to educate and bring an awareness to all who attend on the many aspects of the environment — both good and bad."
Earth Day is a global event celebrated April 22. First established in 1970, events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection, calling for clean air, water and land.
At the Fort Meade celebration, Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, Echoes of Nature, Montgomery County Beekeepers and Fort Meade's Natural Resources Program "focused on the natural treasures and wildlife we're surrounded by," Kopich said.
Organizations such as Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation, Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, and Outdoor Recreation at Fort Meade "were there to educate all of the many great outdoor activities at our fingertips," Kopich said.
Throughout the event, hundreds of visitors streamed into the Pavilion to study exhibits, ask questions and take part in the activities.
"I came by to check it out," said Maj. Keilyn Di Stefano of the Georgia Army National Guard who is on a network support mission at Fort Meade. "There are scientific and educational exhibits — pretty interesting."
100 years of recycling
A huge board tracing Fort Meade recycling since 1917 was on display, along with the slogan "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle."
"It's a great event for kids," said Terry Reese, Arts and Humanities teacher at Pershing Hill Elementary School. "They are learning all the ways that help the environment and all the resources here. The kids are loving it."
Among the popular exhibits were live animals displayed by Patuxent Research Refuge, Echoes of Nature and Eco Adventures.
"The kids love the animals," said Jeffries Bolden, a ranger at North Tract Patuxent Research Refuge.
Perched on Bolden's fingers, Gray the screech owl stared down the large crowd, while Jennifer McNicoll of Visitor Services held an American kestrel falcon.
"We're your neighbors and we're here to provide you with alternatives to get out in nature," Bolden said. "We have 20 miles of hiking trails and 20 miles of driving trails."
In addition to the live birds and brochures, road kill was also on display. The furry coat of a red fox was spread across a table, bringing attention to the dangers that animals face from civilization.
Echoes of Nature displayed a Honduran milksnake and a 4-foot rescue American alligator, on loan from the Maryland Reptile Conservation Society; a Russian tortoise found walking on a Maryland street; and a caged gecko and Vietnamese Walking Stick.
"We're talking about animals from all over the world," said Michael Uzzo, founder of Echoes of Nature. "We brought them to share with kids and adults."
Visitors clustered around the table to pet the reddish-orange and black snake held by Laura Downey, wife of Navy Chief Kevin Downey, and the alligator, whose mouth was taped.
Emma Garza of Midway Commons helped her 2-year-old daughter Carolina pet the snake.
"She loves it; she loves animals," Garza said. "They're out [of cages] and we are able to touch and engage with the animals. It's not just a closed exhibit."
"I touched all of them," said Samuel, a fourth-grader at Pershing Hill Elementary School. "They're kind of scaly."
Samantha Koufman and Lilly Jiang of Johnson & Johnson Consumer presented a hands-on exhibit demonstrating the effects of UV rays on skin before and after sunscreen application. Participants were given Neutrogena SPF 30 sunscreen lotion and spray.
"We want to show kids the importance of starting early, that there are harmful things that can hurt the skin from the sun," Koufman said.
After rubbing SPF 30 sunscreen lotion onto a portion of their face, visitors peered into a black box. Dark purple blotches appeared where the sunscreen was applied, protecting skin from UV-induced cell damage. Unprotected skin — even makeup with SPF 15 — appeared light.
"They were super surprised," Koufman said. "They can visually see that they need to take more time and apply sunscreen."
Long lines also formed at the NASA photo kiosk, on loan from the Goddard Space Center. The device superimposes a participant's face on different space shots of various NASA programs dating back to the 1960s.
"We want to get kids excited about space exploration and about studying the Earth," said Sal LiCausi, a DPW cartographer.
In 15 seconds, a giggling Lidary Miranda had a photo of herself in an orange spacesuit — "a memory of the educational activities with the kids," she said.
Miranda attended the event with her husband, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Angelo Martinez, and their 10-year-old son Daniel. A volunteer at Pershing Hill, Miranda accompanied the fourth-grade class to the celebration.
"The kids are having a great time," she said.
The EPA on Fort Meade provided ingredients for a green cleaning product and small glass jars with the recipe on the label.
"It's all natural, safe for the environment," said Eric Graybill, an EPA chemist. "The kids make it and take it home. It's popular every year. They think it's slime."
Andy Bagnalls, a master planner for DPW, explained the benefits of the LED lights and solar panels at his display.
"We want to get people to save energy by using LED lights," Bagnalls said. "It uses one-half the power of fluorescent lights. Solar panels collect power from the sun."
The Gardens for Heroes display reflected how the organization develops therapeutic, community and vocational gardens.
A group of students from MacArthur Middle School walked around the Pavilion modeling clothing they recycled into new fashions while carrying "Got Fashion" signs.
Nanadwoa Owusu-Ababio, 13, wore a denim skirt she recycled from a pair of men's jeans. Keira Parks showed a photo of the trench coat she is recycling.
"It's important to keep the environment clean," the 13-year-old said. "Instead of buying something new for so much money, you can make something."
The Pershing Hill Recycle Club, which crafted three murals out of donated bottle caps, displayed its mural of the Fort Meade Recycling Center painted green.
"Eighteen students signed up for six weeks, but it went longer," teacher Terry Reese said. "This [mural] we are giving to the Recycling Center for giving us the bottle caps."
Music was the theme of the West Meade Early Education Center preschool kindergarten exhibit. The class recycled musical instruments from trash.
"Our landfill needs to get smaller," said Nicole Watson, pre-K teacher at West Meade. "They learned how to reuse, reduce and recycle."