What do Community Problem Solvers do?
They take a look at issues in their surrounding community to see if there is something they can do about it, and that is exactly what this young team did recently at Westmoreland State Parkafter discovering an ironic problem.
Team Eco with Secretary Ward (right), Director Cristman and Park Manager Benson
The Team having some fun at Westmoreland State Park before getting to work
All in a day's work
The heavy rains and thunderstorm had subsided and the sun was out, but because of the relentless snow and slush this winter the ground was a little muddy, but that didn't stop Team Eco from having fun. And from my own experience growing up, a little mud wouldn't have deterred me, but in fact it makes playing outside that much more fun!
So when I pulled up to the playground atWestmoreland State Parkthat is exactly what I saw, kids on the playground getting just a little dirty and having the best time. The shouts and laughter rang out over the cliffs as bald eagles soared over head. Maybe it was my imagination but I think the eagles were having as much fun watching the kids play as I was.
These particular children were not there by chance, they happened to be the 5th grade class fromVirginia State Parks.
But they were also here to solve a problem
As a team, they decided that the trash at Westmoreland State Park was something they could help with. Team Eco came out to the park to not only assess the situation but to pick up trash. They found some pretty gross stuff too which included: a dirty diaper and a very old, almost fossilized, bag of chicken livers probably left behind by some fisherman.
But most of all, they were saddened to find a tattered and torn American flag laying on the beach of the iconic Potomac River, just a few miles from the birthplace ofAmerica’s founding father, George Washington.
How does an American flag end up as trash on the beach of the Potomac River?
The problem solvers had an idea
Team Eco thought that some of the trash problems could be solved by making the trash cans more visible.
Wanting the trash cans to be more esthetically pleasing we typically tend to disguise them in the parks, but perhaps this is part of the problem. The students plan to put this idea into action and make a trip back to the park to paint and stencil the cans then put them in a more visible location.
Team Eco working on their plan to solve this junky problem
We love these brilliant kids
The students were also up on their Westmoreland State Park trivia as I quizzed them about the park, they even had a shark’s tooth on their team shirts. Secretary Wardgetting into the spirit of the program, proudly donned a “Team Eco” t-shirt the kids gave her.
Director Cristman gave the students high praise for their efforts and hard work, and we do too!
The forest through the trees
Sometimes for those of us who work in the parks every day it is difficult to see things that are right before our eyes, we can call it the "trying to see the forest through the trees" syndrome if you will. We do our best to make everything as good as we can for our visitor experience. So it is greatly appreciated when our park guests bring something to our attention like these wise young students did by suggesting we make the trash cans easier to find.
A big smile from the kids as Secretary Ward put on her Team Eco t-shirt
Inspiration comes in small packages
The kids truly inspired me and I would love to see this type of program in all our parks. In fact, I heard the students say that they were going to pay a visit to our neighbor George Washington BirthplaceNational Monument. General George Washington was perhaps one of the original problem solvers along this very same Potomac River, and they plan to follow in his footsteps.
The students presented a wonderful PowerPoint presentation about their work to the Secretary and Director, a variety of local community officials, Northumberland School faculty, Friends of Westmoreland, NPS staff, staff from the Westmoreland News and state parks staff.
After the program, we were all treated to a scrumptious lunch catered theMurphy Hall.
Kudos and a huge thank you to our budding "park naturalists" for caring about the environment and Virginia State Parks, great job Northumberland Elementary School!
To learn more about the Community Problem Solving Program contact your local school. For information on volunteering at a Virginia State Park please click here.
If you would like to plan a visit to click here to begin your adventure.