The Environmentalists: Earth Day Extravaganza and Student Environmental Showcase Set for April

Over the past two years, Loudouners have come to appreciate the importance of getting outside more than ever. The county’s young environmentalists are tapping into that newfound passion with environmental events in April. Loudoun’s Earth Day celebration returns better than ever Saturday, April 23, and the county’s annual Student Environmental Action Showcase is back in-person Tuesday, April 26.

Lexi Howard’s Earth Day Mission

Think of Lexi Howard as Loudoun’s very own Johnny Appleseed.

Last year, the young environmentalist made a splash with her ambitious Project Pollinate during her senior year at Heritage High School. Now, an environmental studies major at Virginia Commonwealth University, Howard is still passionate about increasing environmental awareness in her home county. She’s a driving force behind this year’s Earth Day Extravaganza organized in conjunction with the county’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services department. The family-oriented event is slated for Saturday, April 23 at Franklin Park near Purcellville. 

“I really wanted an opportunity for kids to start getting involved in fun environmental stuff and realizing how amazing it is and what they can contribute to their own communities and also getting adults to be more aware of their own environmental impact in a very lighthearted sense,” Howard said.

VCU student and Heritage High School graduate Lexi Howard (left) received the Town of Leesburg’s John W. Tolbert Environmental Achievement Award, presented by Mayor Kelly Burk and Paul Sheaffer, chairman of the town’s Environmental Advisory Commission. [Town of Leesburg photo]

Over the past several months, Howard has worked with Elizabeth Mowe, a recreation programmer with Loudoun PRCS, to bring Earth Day to fruition. The event features a range of environmentally focused nonprofits and activities including t-shirt tote bags, wildflower seed bombs, a scavenger hunt, local bird identification, DIY bird feeders, fishing tutorials and other fun activities. 

Howard is an alumna of the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute run by the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District. She made headlines last year with Project Pollinate, an eight-month effort focused on educating the community on the importance of pollinators and native plants and planting pollinator gardens with a team of volunteers.

“It was absolutely amazing and it was really successful,” Howard said. “I felt like I could see my own impact in the community.”

This month, the Leesburg Town Council honored Howard with the 2021 John W. Tolbert Environmental Achievement Award for her efforts with Project Pollinate. 

Howard said she’s always been a “science kid” and ramped up her interest in the environment as she moved through high school. 

“I knew that I wanted to make a huge impact. I knew that I have the power inside myself … I grew up wanting to do big things” Howard said.

Howard continues to spread the word among local youth, giving talks at school clubs. Jennifer Venable, education specialist with LSWCD says Howard’s influence is in part responsible for her largest Youth Conservation Leadership Institute class ever during the current school year–with four high school-aged students.

Howard also is a leader in the DC region’s participation in the international City Nature Challenge organized by the iNaturalist initiative. The global challenge, which encourages amateur naturalists to spot and identify wildlife using the iNaturalist app, takes place April 29 through May 2. 

Loudoun’s Earth Day Extravaganza takes place Saturday. April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Franklin Park’s event field.

For more information on the City Nature Challenge, go to citynaturechallengedc.org.

Saving Streams at SEAS 2022

For Emma Lloyd, protecting Loudoun’s waterways runs in the family. At 14, Emma is already a certified stream monitor. She’s also a member of the 2021-22 Loudoun Youth Conservation Leadership Institute. Her project to create signs for waterways along the W&OD trail is a highlight of this year’s Student Environmental Action Showcase planned April 26.

“The main focus of this project is to create a sense of connection to people and the streams which will hopefully create a sense of stewardship to protect and conserve the streams,” Emma said. 

Emma’s mom Amy Ulland is the stream monitoring program coordinator for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. Ulland is working with Venable of LSWCD to support young environmentalists with a passion for protecting Loudoun’s waterways.

“This is really exciting to see the enthusiasm and dedication of these students and to see how motivated they are to want to make a change in the world,” Ulland said. “It really warms my heart to see them working so hard on these things.”

Emma’s fellow YCLI participants, Anthony Santos, Sharanya Maddukuri and Cooper Niess, are now all certified stream monitors and will showcase their water quality projects at this year’s SEAS.

Emma Lloyd and Cooper Niess use a microscope to get a closer look at the larvae found in Tuscarora Creek in southwest Leesburg.

Emma’s project involves working with NOVA Parks to install two signs identifying Tuscarora Creek where it passes under the W&OD Trail in Leesburg. She is also drafting a guide to help nonprofits and others interested in creating signs to navigate the process. 

Emma said her idea hatched while working with her mom on stream monitoring projects. She noticed that Loudoun’s waterways are largely unidentified on roads and bridges. Emma initially envisioned signage on roadways but after running into administrative roadblocks, she pivoted to focus her efforts on the W&OD trail. She’s hoping to have her sign in place at Tuscarora Creek by June with the goal of creating awareness and mindfulness as families and individuals enjoy Loudoun’s waterways.

“People come to these streams–they play in them, they have fun, but they might have no idea what stream this is,” Emma said. 

And while work from Emma and her fellow YCLI students will be highlighted at this year’s Student Environmental Action Showcase, Venable underscores that the event is not just for high school students with sophisticated projects. In past years, some of her favorite submissions have been from elementary school students simply capturing the joy of being in the natural world. Loudoun students in kindergarten through grade 12 can register for the showcase through April 5.

The third annual Loudoun Student Environmental Action Showcase takes place Tuesday, April 26 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn. Students in grades K through 12 can register to showcase their projects by April 5. The public is invited to attend the event. For more information and to register, go to loudounnature.org.

Amy Ulland and several YCLI students will also be participating in the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy/Town of Purcellville-sponsored event “Creek Critters of the Catoctin” Sunday, March 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Chapman-DeMary Trail in Purcellville. Registration is required for this free event. For details and registration, go to loudounwildlife.org.

2 thoughts on “The Environmentalists: Earth Day Extravaganza and Student Environmental Showcase Set for April

  • 2022-03-25 at 8:07 am
    Permalink

    Earth Day is so important. If we don’t respect our environment, that’s a terrible legacy for future generations. Earth Day began 52 years ago, in April 1970. Richard Nixon was president & the Apollo 13 mishap had just occurred. How much has taken place since then! It’s imperative for Loudoun to lead the way in protecting our environment. Welcome to Spring Loudoun!

  • 2022-03-25 at 9:19 am
    Permalink

    Have you studied the streams fed from the areas Loudoun buries it’s garbage? Have you looked at whether Loudoun is meeting or exceeding its public expectation of garbage being buried? Have you surveyed local cattle grazing farms to see if the use of human waste based fertilizer has had any significant effect on the birth rate or mortality of their cattle? I applaud this activity and as a major agricultural county we should support extensive education in these areas. Congratulations!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: