Children raced from one booth to another, excitedly scooping up oysters and planting carrot seeds during Fort Meade’s annual Earth Day celebration on April 20.
The four-hour event was hosted by Fort Meade’s Environmental Division at the Pavilion. More than 50 exhibitors participated in the event, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bridget Williams of the EPA gave a brief presentation about the Safer Choice program during the Commander’s Call, which began at 9 a.m.
For Williams, who had a baby girl last fall, the importance of her job is paramount for the fate of the future.
“I know [my daughter] approves of this because what I’m doing, and what we’re all doing, is trying to leave this world a little bit better for the next generation,” she said.
The mission of the chemists behind the Safer Choice program is to find chemicals that are safer for use in everyday products.
During the Commander’s Call, Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard presented Length of Service awards to Department of Defense employees, civilian contractors and those who serve the Fort Meade community.
Exhibitors for the celebration included Fort Meade’s Public Health Command-Atlantic Region, Fort Meade Energy Division from the Directorate of Public Works, Montgomery County Beekeeper Association, The Oyster Recovery Partnership, Square Foot Gardening 4 U, Fort Meade’s Installation Restoration Program, Echoes of Nature, and Anne Arundel County Trails.
After the Commander’s Call, school children and teachers arrived at the Pavillion for the celebration.
Suzanne Kopich, the outreach program manager at the Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division, has been organizing the Earth Day event since 2013.
“A lot of us don’t think about [recycling] every day,” she said. “We are responsible for the condition the Earth is in. We have to do our part and get engaged.”
Kopich said she hopes that people walk away from the event feeling a sense of responsibility for how their actions can impact the environment.
“I hope they know they can do something and maybe find something here that they have passion for,” she said.
Karen Bartholet, a Public Health nurse at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, teamed up with Lauren Williams, director of the Army Wellness Center, to teach children the benefits of eating healthy and staying active.
At their table, youngsters planted carrot seeds in recycled toilet paper rolls and put them in plastic bags that they could take home and tape to a window to create a greenhouse effect.
“This is great,” Bartholet said. “We want to show kids that you can eat what you make. It really is cool to grow your own food and eat it.”
Getting people excited about eating right and staying active is important to Bartholet.
“This is a lifestyle,” she said. “Keeping healthy and active — if you start younger, it’s easier to make a [healthier] choice.”
At another table, Sgt. Jessica Pacheco of the Public Health Command-Atlantic Region helped children conduct a color experiment with dye and a plastic pipe.
“We wanted to do something hands-on,” she said. “The earlier you get them thinking about disease prevention, the healthier the community will be.”
Air Force Reservist Marla Martucci was one of the hundreds who attended the annual event.
“I have a great and varied interested in the environment, and many booths apply to my [passion],” said Martucci, who works at Kimbrough in the Preventive Medicine Services Division.
“It’s nice to see little girls interested in [science and technology] and encouraged to be part of [those types] of programs.
For Martucci, being informed about how the community takes care of the surrounding environment is critical.
“There’s a tremendous impact, not just on Fort Meade, but the [surrounding] community,” she said. “The water we process here drains off post. The community should know about these things.
“To be informed means the difference between a healthy versus an unhealthy lifestyle.”
For The Future
Jasmine Diaz, an eighth-grader at MacArthur Middle School, is ready to do her part to help protect the environment.
Jasmine was one of the MacArthur students who attended the event to display their Earth Day projects. Her project focused on protecting sea turtles, deforestation of the Mayan reserve in Guatemala and marine pollution.
“These topics are pretty close to my heart,” said Jasmine, who just returned from a trip to Guatemala where her family is from. “I really care for marine life. [Sea turtles] are one of the most affected animals [from marine pollution].”
The 14-year-old said that educating others about how their choices can negatively impact the environment is crucial to protecting it.
“There are small things we do that we don’t recognize at the moment [on] how they will affect the planet,” Jasmine said.
To do her part, Jasmine volunteers to throw her peers’ trash away and recently bought a reusable Starbucks cup.
“This planet is where our children are going to live,” she said. “I want my kids to think I was passionate about the Earth.
“It’s a nice legacy to leave, so people in the future see that we cared.”
For those unconcerned with protecting the environment, Jasmine has a question.
“How do you want to be remembered?” she asks. “Do you want to be remembered as that generation that didn’t care, or remembered for [making sure] others live a better life?”