Buddy Bison’s Buzz June Update

Kids to Parks Day 2018 

St. Francis Xavier Academy students set off on their Anacostia River adventure with the Anacostia Riverkeepers.

I am so excited that Kids to Parks Day was such a success this year! Over 1 million of you joined me by getting outside to your local parks. Did you know that there were 1,200 events in all 50 states and Washington, DC?! The Kids to Parks Day School Contest was also a big hit this year with over 5,000 students that were awarded park grants to celebrate the day! These students got outside with their schools to hike, learn and help clean up their local parks. Check out this video and see if you can spot me in some of the pictures.

The Anacostia River plays a huge role in day-to-day life in Washington, D.C. That’s why my signature Kids to Parks Day event this year was spent exploring it! Students from St. Francis Xavier Academy and Blue Star Families discovered life in and around the river with the DC Department of Energy and Environment’s Aquatic Resources Education Center, National Park Conservation Association, and Anacostia Riverkeeper. We also met the Buffalo Soldiers, the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army, and the first park rangers before there was even a Park Service! Local news station WJLA was there too and helped us document the day!

After learning about the river, I went with some of our Blue Star Families to the Department of the Interior to meet Secretary Ryan Zinke! We thanked him for his support of military families and delivered 1,000 postcards that were written by 4th graders that shared why we all love our parks and the Every Kid in a Park pass. Do you know that this pass allows all 4th graders and their families to get into all National Park Service sites and other federal public lands for free? I was very happy to hear that just last week the Secretary and Department of the Interior  announced that they plan to continue this program! If you know a 4th grader make sure they get their pass so their family can enjoy a park this summer.


HEROs and Students Meet Amazing Animals 

Nothing beats getting to explore outdoors with your friends! Thanks to the generosity of Caesar’s and their HERO volunteers, I was able to explore with two different schools, in two very unique parks. I visited the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (Golden Pond, KY) with STEM club students from Metropolis Elementary and I also visited Estell Manor Park (Mays Landing, NJ) with 3rd graders from the Pennsylvania Ave School. Both of these parks had many different habitats, and I loved getting to see all the different critters that lived there.

A Metropolis ES student and a HERO volunteer look into a dip net for animals.

Pennsylvania Avenue School students and a HERO volunteer look for birds at Estell Manor Park.

Land Between the Lakes NRA spans Tennessee and Kentucky, and, as the name implies, is in between Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake. This Recreation Area is a great place to hike, bike, boat, and see wild bison! While I was there with Metropolis ES students, we got to see a planetarium presentation and explored the nature center. The nature center is home to rehabilitated animals, like birds of prey, a bobcat, and deer. They also have two red wolves! After seeing the nature center, we went down to the river to search for critters with dip nets. We found baby turtles, fish, and lots of bugs!

I also went to New Jersey last month, and met HERO volunteers at Estell Manor Park. The volunteers and I met up with the 3rd graders from the Pennsylvania Avenue School in Atlantic City. During our visit, we explored the nature center, went on a birding hike with binoculars, and made bird feeders. It was so much fun to see what feathered friends were hiding in the woods and along the river edge. We also had a picnic lunch and played on the playground. 

A big, Buddy Bison thank you to Caesar’s and all the HERO volunteers for making these two trips possible! 

Special thanks to American Bird Association for donating 30 brand new binoculars which the students used to identify Northern cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, American kestrels, and much more! 


Washington Youth Garden: All Things Green and Growing

D.C. Buddy Bison students harvested vegetables at the Washington Youth Garden.

I spent a lot of time this spring at the Washington Youth Garden inside the U.S. National Arboretum! I joined students from four D.C. schools: 5th graders from the Jefferson Houston School, 2nd graders from Seaton Elementary, 3rd graders from Neval Thomas Elementary, and 6th graders from Washington School for Girls. It was so much fun getting to see how fast the the garden grows in spring, and I loved getting to help plant, harvest, and taste all the different fruits and veggies.

When I was there, I got to participate in three different lessons. The first topic I learned about was pollinators. Along with the students from the Jefferson Houston School , I learned that a pollinator is an animal that helps move pollen from one plant to another. Without them we wouldn’t get our fruits and veggies. Pollinators can be animals like bees, beetles, hummingbirds, and even bats! One of my favorite parts was getting to see the bee hives and taste fresh honey.

I also explored garden basics with students from Seaton Elementary and Neval Thomas Elementary. We got to help plant seeds, harvest and taste herbs, fruits, and veggies, and water the garden bed. We also learned about composting (turning plant scraps back into soil) and got to hold the special composting worms!  

The last topic I explored this Spring was our local and global food systems, with 6th graders from the Washington School for Girls. We talked about how far some foods travel, and how many people have food or farm related jobs! Think about all the important farmers, truck drivers, chefs, and grocery store employees there are; without them we wouldn’t get dinner! We also talked about local farmers and where we can find farmers markets here in DC. We ended our day harvesting veggies for a great, big salad, and made a homemade dressing to share.