By Kate Walker
, Environmental Programs Coordinator
Operation EarthWatch, the City’s homegrown environmental action program for elementary school children, was celebrated during last week’s City Council meeting. The Mayor and Council members thanked the organizers, sponsors and program participants for their contributions to environmental sustainability in the City of Falls Church.
The program is led by Sarah Beaman Bayldon of the City’s Environmental Sustainability Council, who is also the coordinator for Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Susan Matchett and Laurel Ruland coordinate everything at Mt. Daniel Elementary School and St. James Catholic School. All three volunteers agree that time they spend on the program is very rewarding and worthwhile.
“The great thing about Operation EarthWatch is that it is about young people taking action to protect and improve the environment in the City,” said Kate Walker, the City’s Environmental Programs Coordinator. “With about 200 participants a year--spanning more than 24 years--that’s more than 4,000 children and their families who have been actively engaged in keeping Falls Church clean and green.”
The program’s effects are not only wide-reaching, they are enduring too. Sponsors Sara and Charles O’Hara say they still remember things their children taught them when they did EarthWatch back in the 1990s.
Twelve City businesses and organizations sponsored Operation EarthWatch this year: Annandale-Falls Church Lions Club, Art and Frame of Falls Church, Don Beyer Auto, Bikenetic, Clare & Don’s Beach Shack and Mike’s Deli, Dr. Paul Cannon of Falls Church Foot and Ankle Center, Falls Church Garden Club, Family Medicine in Falls Church, O’Hara Law Firm, Point of View Eyewear, Falls Church Rotary Club and the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS). Many of our sponsors have contributed to the program every year since it began.
Participants who completed all six months of the program will march in this year’s Memorial Day Parade wearing t-shirts designed by the winner of this year’s art competition, Remi Osztreicher. Special recognition was also given to Julia Simpson, a six-year EarthWatch participant whose art was used in the posters for the City’s Solarize campaign. Other students who completed the full six-year program this year are Brandon Werbel, Jonathon Buchholz, Matthew Bloss-Baum and Hannah Clay Hall. The names of six-year participants are recorded on an engraved plaque at each school, sponsored by the Lions Club.
Operation EarthWatch begins again in October 2016. To learn more, visit www.OperationEarthWatch.org