Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Senior Volunteer Recognition Day

The Institute of Gerontology of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) honored its senior volunteers, thanking them for another year of service for the Senior Companion and the Respite Aide programs, where seniors help seniors through volunteerism. The 34th Annual Senior Volunteers Recognition Day Luncheon was held May 21, 2014, at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Northwest Washington.

The Senior Companion/Respite Aide programs help to preserve the independence of residents of the District of Columbia, supporting low income and disable older persons 55 years and older with high quality and compassionate volunteer service. These programs improve the lives of seniors who are in need of assistants in order to maintain independent living in their homes and communities.

“You all are the testament,” stated John Thompson, Executive Director, D.C. Office of Aging. “You are active and physically engaged.” The DC Office on Aging develops and carries out a comprehensive and coordinated system of health, education, employment, and social services for the District's elderly population.

At the luncheon, volunteers were honored for five years of service and upward. The volunteer with the most served years, Erma Long, has been with Respite Aide for 20 years. The oldest recognized volunteer was Lena Acty, 89 years young. Program volunteers work up to 20 hours per week, five days a week.

4-H Clubs

by Arielle Gerstein
In 4-H Clubs, young people, ages five through nineteen, develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, responsible, productive citizens, and contributing members of society. 4-H continues to develop new projects for its members to study beyond agriculture and animal husbandry, including photography, conservation, cooking, public speaking, various sports, history, art, and other pursuits. Diego Lahaye is the 4-H extension agent in charge of 4-H Clubs.

Diego primarily works with students, exposing them to the arts in fun and innovative ways. He runs many photography and film clubs for students throughout the District. He not only teaches students how to create photos, he aims to show them how to think differently about senses by creating photos at different angles. He also mixes National Geographic’s Brain Games interactive quizzes with creating photos so students understand how perception affects their daily world. The students frequently take photo trips around the city to explore our nation’s history through photography.

The film clubs are local and international. In the international film program, students create a film of their home country and then show the film to students in another country so each group of students gains a better understanding of what it’s like to live in another country. 
Currently participating countries include the United States, Liberia, and Argentina and more countries will be involved in the future.

The local film clubs focus on making the students feel comfortable behind and in front of the camera. They have the opportunity to not only film but conduct interviews. One unexpected change in behavior that Diego has observed in his programs is by the end of the year, students are eager to be in front of the camera.

DC Students Place in National EnvironMentors Fair

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) EnvironMentors has announced the winners of the State Science Fair for the District of Columbia and the national competition. Taking the top honor for state was Xiu Chen, and second place went to Beza Dagnachew, both from the School Without Walls. Tianna Solomon took third place. The three D.C. champions participated—and placed—in the national competition held May 19, which was moderated by Dr. Dwane Jones, director, Center for Sustainable Development. 

In the National Fair, Tianna Solomon placed third nationally with her project: “The Effect of Air Pollution on Blackworm Skin Cells” and received a scholarship valued at $800. Placing fifth was Xiu Chen with “The Effects of Heavy Metal Toxins in Drinking Water on Lumbriculus variegates: Heart Rate, Cell Regeneration and Mortality,” for which she received $500. Beza Dagnachew also received the Leach Environmental Stewardship $500 award for “Portable Charger: Thin-film and Nanotechnology.”  

“I watched with pride as the three DC winners placed in the national competition,” said Dr. Jones, who also served as the keynote speaker for the event. “This is an extraordinary achievement and I’m confident that all three will continue to make great achievements in the fields of STEM and environmental science.”

4-H: Health Rocks

Youth ages 8-14 across the District of Columbia are learning to make healthy lifestyle choices, while raising self-confidence and learning valuable life skills through the 4-H Health Rocks! program. The Health Rocks Program is a healthy living program that strives to reduce tobacco, alcohol and drug use among youth in the District of Columbia. Health Rocks seeks to engage youth and adults in a partnership to develop and implement community strategies that help youth understand influences and heath consequences of tobacco, alcohol and drug use. The interactive program is adaptable to multiple teaching situations, uses interactive hands on learning and meets National Health Education Standards.

"Before Health Rocks, the youth believe that flavored tobacco or vapor cigarettes--which are often sold by candy in convenience stores--are good. They believe that MJ is natural and from the Earth, and that K-2 is legal," explains Carlita. "they believe it's cool because current music and TV programming tell them it is."


by Arielle Gerstein

The 4-H STEM program consists of specialized programs designed to introduce and encourage participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math disciplines among the youth of the District of Columbia. The program is supported by the Alteria Foundation through the National 4-H Council and works collaboratively with UDC's STEM Center. Rachel Perry is the 4-H coordinator for the program.

Rachel works on many different projects, all focused on teaching kids to love and respect the environment. Focusing on STEM education, Rachel hopes to continue building relationships with robotics groups throughout the city and make UDC 4-H a central hub for these groups. Next year, with the help of these organizations, she would like to hold a robotics expo.

This summer, Rachel, along with colleague Mary Farrah, will be running an invasive plant species day camp.  This camp will teach youth to identify invasive plants and look at transects of these plants in different areas in the District. The youth will then present their findings before a group of professionals.

4-H: Life Smarts

by Arielle Gerstein

The LifeSmarts Consumer Education for Teenagers Program creates savvy consumers and develops marketplace skills among teens in a fun and engaging format. Complementing high school curricula, Lifesmarts is run as a game-show style competition for 9th through 12th grade students. Jaime Brown is the 4-H extension agent who coordinates the program.

McKinley Tech
Jaime has always wanted to work with youth and currently runs the LifeSmarts program, which teaches life skills to high-school youth. Teams of five compete at the local level for a chance to compete at the national competition. LifeSmarts education focuses on:  
  1. personal finance
  2. health and safety
  3. technology
  4. consumer rights and responsibilities
  5. environment.
For the last three years in a row, McKinley Technology Education Campus has won the DC state competition.

4-H: Operation Military Kids

The 4-H Operation Military Kids program (OMK) is the U.S. Army's collaborative effort with America's communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK's goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.

Through OMK, military youth come together to participate in a range of recreational, social and educational programs. OMK youth gain leadership, organizational, and technical skills, receive assistance with school issues by connecting with military liaisons, and have the opportunity to attend daily, weekend and even longer residential camps.

Each state has its own OMK program. DC does not have an Army Reserve, but the program works closely with the National Guard, Bolling Air Force Base, the American Legion, the Navy and the Marines. Because of its size, the DC OMK program does cross the border into Maryland and Virginia, explains Feifei Sun, DC's OMK coordinator. 

According to Feifei, Operation Military Kids has three major elements: Ready, Set, Go! training, "Hero Packs," and the Speak Out for Military Kids Program.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Center for 4-H and Youth Development

 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization and can be found in every state. More than 6 million 4-H youth in suburban schoolyards, urban neighborhoods and rural farming communities implement community-wide change at an early age. The 4-H program educates students from elementary to high school in arts and sciences, health and fitness, STEM, sewing and fashion design, cooking and healthy eating and a host of other subject areas while encouraging fellowship and service opportunities. These programs emphasize hands on learning.

Located at the University of the District of Columbia, the Center for 4-H and Youth Development develops innovative programs that emphasize experiential learning opportunities for young people and their families. Through "hands-on" interactive programming, participants develop life skills, leadership abilities, and an ethic of civic stewardship.Traditionally, 4-H programs have always been popular in rural areas for their agriculture and animal husbandry focus, but the District's program has a distinctly urban focus and includes photography, conservation, cooking, public speaking, various sports, history, art, and other pursuits. Led by Director Rebecca Bankhead the Center for 4-H and Youth Development offers a variety of programs promoting positive youth development. 

Continue reading to learn about DC's 4-H offerings!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

UDC Farmers Market Underway

The UDC Farmers Market successfully launched the 2014 season on May 17, 2014. The farmers market, which offers fresh and local food to the Van Ness neighborhood in Northwest Washington, is located at 4340 Connecticut Ave. in front of the David A. Clarke School of Law, and will be open Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., until mid-November.

 Our market offers a variety of fresh produce, as well as hot food vendors, bakers, fresh dairy and an assortment of other vendors and artisans from D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

According to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the United States had 8,144 known markets as of 2013, a 3.6 percent increase over 2012. The numbers continue to rise as farmers markets become fresh food mainstays for people across all socioeconomic, political and ethnic classifications. Farmers markets serve as community anchors, promoting the regional economy and local farm businesses, increased access to fresh, nutritious food, and stronger social networks that help keep communities healthy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CAUSES is featured in National Geographic

Urban Farming is a trend that is here to stay. It has to be, with the nation's immense population growth juxtaposed with the decline of farms and farmers. According to the USDA's most recent agricultural census, most of the nation's food is grown in rural areas by relatively few growers and producers.Of the 2 million farms in the U.S., half of them are part time (people do not make a living our of farming), and 75% are considered very small farms between 1-5 acres. In other words, approximately 140,000 farms produce 80% of the nation's food.

Friday, May 16, 2014

USDA Announces Specialty Crop Block Grant Program


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of approximately $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research, programs to increase demand, and more.

$221,328.44 has been allocated to D.C. Review the RFP.

The historic support provided by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), will strengthen rural American communities by supporting local and regional markets and improving access to fresh, healthy, and nutritious high quality products for millions of Americans. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed to enhance the markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

"Specialty crop block grants help sustain the livelihoods of American farmers while strengthening the rural economy" said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These grants contribute to food safety improvements, increased access to healthy food, and new research to help growers increase profitability and sustainability."

As directed by the Farm Bill, the block grants are now allocated to U.S. States and territories based on a formula that takes into consideration both specialty crop acreage and production value. Nearly all states are seeing an increase in funds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Watch: UDC Featured in AP Story on Young Urban Farmers

The urban gardening movement is on the rise. According to the Associated Press (AP), 42 million American households are growing their own food. This is the highest level in 10 years, with the largest segment of that demographic being the millennial generation. In the last five years, the number of millennial gardeners has increased 63 percent to 13 million. The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia was contacted by AP for more information on the young farming and gardening movement.

Watch the Associated Press TV piece on millennials and urban agriculture below. And read more from Coy McKinney, UDC Garden Club coordinator and his experience leading a community gardening project with the nearby Edmund Burke School.

Healthy Recipes: Waldorf Salad and Raw Vegetable Salad

Spinach Waldorf Salad with Cinnamon Apple Dressing 


  • 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise
  • 2  tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 large read apples, cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery (1 medium stalk)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  1. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, juice concentrate and cinnamon until well blended.
  2. Stir in apples, grapes, celery and walnuts to coat.  Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Before serving, place spinach in a large salad bowl. Spoon the apple mixture over spinach and toss to mix and coat.

    (Makes 8 servings; 136 calories per serving)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Urban Gardening Project with Edmund Burke School

by Coy McKinney 

Lasagna Composting, July 2013
With the help of 9th grade students from the nearby Edmund Burke School, there will soon be a hyper-local place for UDC students, faculty, staff, and neighbors to grab locally grown, organic food -- on campus!

An aerial map of the project is available here.

The project started when Kate Lee, of DC Greens, reached out to me about the possibility of Edmund Burke students volunteering in a garden at UDC. Christiane Connors, the Director of Service for the school, explained that their 9th graders were learning about climate change science in their earth science class, and as a service-learning project, their teacher would like them to work in a community garden. Once the schedules were aligned, the plan was that 5 different groups of kids would visit the garden 8 times, starting in late March and ending in late May.

The project presented the perfect opportunity to revisit a space that was designated a great place for an on-campus garden over a year ago. To prepare the space back then, an experiment in lasagna composting was implemented. Lasagna composting requires no tilling, and can be done using materials that are readily available around the university (compost, cardboard, leaves, coffee grounds).

The process consisted of applying a base layer of compost, followed by cardboard, and then alternating sheets of materials containing carbon and nitrogen (newspaper, coffee grounds, and leaves). Over time, microorganisms break the matter down, turning it into nutrient-rich soil.

Watch a short video of the lasagna composting process:

Eight months on since the lasagna composting, the Edmund Burke students were able to see the results of the process. Although not perfect (most likely due to an improper ratio of carbon to nitrogen), there was a clear difference in the quality of the soil where the composting had taken place--a worthwhile experiment and something of note for anybody interested in trying it out themselves.

Continue reading to learn more about the project!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

DC Environmentors Awards and State Science Fair

The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia, together with the National Council for Science and the Environment will host the 22nd Annual DC EnvironMentors Annual Award Ceremony on Friday, May 9.The ceremony will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will include scientific project presentations. Three winners will be selected to participate in the national fair.

A light dinner will be served. For more information contact Ms. Rebecca Bankhead, Director, Center for 4-H and Youth Development, at (202) 274-7081.
6:30 p.m.     Competition Begins (judges meet with student presenters)
7:15 p.m.     Projects will be scored by the panel representatives (30 minutes)
7:30 p.m.     Refreshments
8:00 p.m.     Welcome Address by William Hare, Associate Dean for Programs, UDC CAUSES
8:15 p.m.     Keynote Address
8:30 p.m.     Awards Presentation – Jessica Soule, National Council for Science & The Environment
8:45 p.m.     Winners continuing to National Fair announced
9:00 p.m.     Closing remarks – Dr. Dwane Jones, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, UDC CAUSES