Tag Archives: AmeriCorps

Learning, Planting, and Preserving Homelands with the Mashpee Wampanoag

The Mashpee Wampanoag (Wopanaak) Tribe, the People of The First Light, have lived in the Eastern Massachusetts area for thousands of years. The Mashpee, are one of the sixty-nine Tribes that existed of the Wampanoag Nation, which extended from present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Today, the Mashpee reside in their traditional village of Mashpee off the southwestern coast of Cape Cod. Nearby, the Waquoit bay area, home of salt marshes, cranberry bogs, Atlantic white cedar swamps, freshwater marshes, rivers, and vernal pools, are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge.

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Not only are the Mashpee NWR and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in close proximity to each other, but they also collaborated for a conservation sharing experience: traditional ecological knowledge from the Mashpee Wampanoag and conservation methods from the Service. In fact, on August 1st, 2017, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Mashpee, Massachusetts hosted their sixth annual Preserving Our Homelands (POH) Summer Science Camp. This year, the Service participated extensively on a sunny, Tuesday, “FWS Day”.

Tom Eagle, the Deputy Wildlife Manager, and Jared Green, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist from Eastern Mass. NWR Complex visited the Tribe and demonstrated radio telemetry tracking. Students engaged during the process by using equipment to track a tagged, symbolic New England cottontail and Northern long-eared bat, while learning about native and ecologically important species in the region. In fact, both animals are species of concern due to habitat loss for cottontails and white nose syndrome in bats. Tom Eagle expressed the experience by saying, “The Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge has had a great partnership with the tribe since the refuge was established in 1995. Together, the Service and partners have protected many acres for wildlife and have cooperatively managed hundreds of acres of habitat for rare species.” Eagle continued with, “However, this is the first time that the refuge has interacted with and connected with tribal youth. It was a great experience to learn along with them about their culture. I hope we continue to work together as a team on conservation issues and that some students continue in their learning and seek careers with the Service.”

The Northeast Regional Office participated at the FWS Day as well. Leah Hawthorn, the Public Affairs Assistant led a pollinator lesson about native species roles and pertinence to daily life. Students were able to make chapstick using pollinated ingredients and create bee bundle habitats with Japanese knotweed, a recycled invasive plant. Chloe Doe, a SCA/Americorp Intern for the Regional Office also designed a jeopardy board and engaged students in answering fun factoids about pollinators. The prize for correct answers were chocolates pollinated by the peculiar, chocolate midge!

As Americorp Jr. Native American Liaison for Northeast and Regional Tribes with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I presented how my Oglala Lakota culture has influenced my pathway to the Liaison position. I explained how my internships with several environmental federal agencies all maintained a similar mission of preserving the environment for future generations. Lakota traditions similarly believe in thinking seven generations ahead in order to ensure the spiritual, physical, and emotional health and stability for the future of our Tribe. These expressed similarities presented the commonalities between the mission of the Service and my cultural traditions. I then segued into career options for the Mashpee Wampanoag youth and received several questions about the Youth Conservation Corp and how they might become involved.

That day at Mashpee, Wampanoag youth were already involved in conservation of their ancestral homelands. In fact, students were encouraged to design their own aesthetically-pleasing and meaningful garden to benefit pollinating insects. Ted Kendziora, wildlife biologist from the New England Field Office led this native species garden planting activity with Mary Kay Fox, the President of Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. In all, 185 native plants were put into Mashpee Wampanoag ground for pollinators, including 21 different plant species, 6 of which were host plants for 8 different species of butterflies. Serviceberry, yellow false indigo, New Jersey tea, perennial lupine, New England aster, and butterfly weed were planted specifically for pollinators. Culturally relevant plants to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are chokecherry and American hazelnut.

A Mashpee Wampanoag community member reminded students that decades from now when the students are elders, they can look back upon this garden and be reminded of their contributions to their community. Casey C. Thornbrugh PhD, Director Of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Natural Resources Department and Chuckie Green, Assistant Natural Resources Director also contributed to sharing the traditional ecological knowledge of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and how Mashpee youth can continue to be involved in preserving their ancestral homelands.

The Preserving our Homelands experience was not only a partnership and collaboration between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Service, but a positive learning experience for all who were involved.. It was rewarding to share our knowledge of radio telemetry, pollination, and career pathways, but it was a much greater gift to be welcomed by the Mashpee Wampanoag community. A sincere thank you to the Tribal students who made our day inspiring, exciting, and memorable. The students shared with us their enthusiasm for their home and we are so honored to have been invited by Casey Thornbrugh and Chuckie Green.

In my language, I thank the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for the Preserving Our Homeland experience. Pilamaya. Wopila.

Kids Dig in the Dirt to Save Pollinators

Pollinators are in peril, but with the help of Union Elementary they will have a safe home in Upshur County, West Virginia. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Program in West Virginia teamed up with Union Elementary to install the program’s first schoolyard habitat pollinator garden in the state.

West Virginia Field Office AmeriCorps members, Aeriel Wauhob and Tom Fletcher, designed, organized, and installed a new Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat project using funding from the USFWS Monarch Initiative. Nearly 300 kindergarten through 5th grade students, at Union Elementary School in Upshur County helped to transform the front lawn of their school into pollinator garden using native seeds and perennials.

Union Elementary students and staff in newly finished pollinator garden.

Students started each day with a short presentation on who pollinators are, how they help grow our food, and the threats they face every day. The installation was a two day process. Kindergartners through 2nd graders leading the way by lending a hand and foot to prep the area for planting of flowers and stomping native seeds into the ground. The second day of the install consisted of 3rd through 5th graders learning how to transplant flowers and work as a team to spread mulch.

Every child at Union Elementary had the chance to get their hands dirty learning about native plants and gardening techniques to encourage pollinators to visit. All grades helped, from planting wildflower seeds, weeding and digging, to mulching and watering!

To add more of a personal touch, each class designed a stepping stone that would be placed around a sitting area with a bench. The 4th graders enjoyed breaking dishes to make mosaic tiles for the class designs. The stones featured pollinators such as birds and butterflies, along with the plants they seek like flowers and trees.

This inspiring project will be a gateway for similar accomplishments connecting children with nature throughout the state. The pollinator garden was an effort made possible by Nick Millett – Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife, Aeriel Wauhob & Tom Fletcher – AFHA AmeriCorps, Russ McClain – Center for Sustainability Studies of Davis & Elkins College, and Dr. Stankus – Union Elementary Garden Committee.

Left to Right: Nick Millett, Russ McClain, Tom Fletcher, & Aeriel Wauhob

Shining the Light on Endangered Species

Wildlife all over the world are rapidly declining and facing extinction. Many scientists believe that we are in middle of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. In this continually altering world that we share with these unique species, every day is a chance to make a positive change to help the threatened and endangered species.  If you follow our social media, then one day that you surely did not miss was Endangered Species Day, which falls on the third Friday of May.

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Endangered Species Day is a national celebration to recognize endangered species and their habitats, and to educate students and the public about their importance. There are over 1,400 species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act alone. The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) started this national day 12 years ago. Along with the celebration, the ESC holds the annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. This year over 1,400 young artists from across the nation submitted artwork.

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In Elkins, West Virginia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) AmeriCorps program, U.S. Forest Service, and WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted an Endangered Species Day event on May 20th. The event featured a day of fun, interactive games and activities that demonstrate the importance of threatened and endangered species and why they need our help. Participants could become endangered species biologist, take a walk through a giant inflatable bat cave, enjoy the artwork of young local students in an endangered species art show, or get their face painted like their favorite species. The celebration was kick-started by the Save Endangered Species Youth Art Contest- Elkins gallery opening and awards ceremony on May 19th.

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As part of the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, young artists got involved to raise awareness of the decline of these important species by participating in the 2017 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. This year Elkins and the surrounding area had over 100 local young artists participate in the contest! Artworks from the participants of the local competition were also submitted to the national competition. Winners of the Elkins Art Contest were announced at an awards ceremony and gallery opening on May 19th. All submitted artwork was displayed at the Endangered Species Day event in Elkins on May 20th.

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In conjunction to the Endangered Species Day event and art contest, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Field Office in Elkins held Endangered Species Day lessons for classrooms. Teachers could arrange to have an endangered species educator come to their classroom to present to the students about threatened and endangered species of West Virginia. During these lessons, students became actively engaged in the protection of threatened and endangered species by learning about conservation techniques that could be used at home. West Virginia species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and Fanshell mussel, were highlighted in fun interactive games like Fungus Among Us. During the lessons students learned about the importance of these plants and animals in the ecosystem and understand why it is important to protect these species and their habitats.

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To learn more about Endangered Species Day or about the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest visit www.endangered.org/campaigns/endangered-species-day/