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Michelle's Earth Foundation Newsletter
Late Summer 2009
Michelle's Earth Foundation,  P.O. Box 5140 Preston King Station, Arlington, Virginia 22205
Donations are possible through Facebook or by mail.
 Dear Friend of MEF,

Pictured above are several gardens that have contributed their produce to local food banks. As we give thanks for the abundance of local foods this summer, let us also be mindful of the soils in our gardens. The White House garden turned out to have a slightly elevated level of lead in its soil due to river sludge that had been used to enrich the lawn. That was remedied by adding more nutrients and texture.
Given this discovery, the work of the MESUNOLA project in New Orleans takes on a heightened significance. Dr. Ed Bush, who has overseen the soil testing of MEF lots, now feels there is enough evidence of the success of sunflowers to remove lead from the soil to support a research paper. MEF is grateful for the many volunteer hours spent planting, testing and harvesting the lots in New Orleans.

Over these past two years the MESUNOLA project has brought beauty and improved soil to the residents of the flooded areas.
Arlington Restaurants Will Feature
Locally Grown Foods in September

9/16 - Liberty Tavern
9/17 - Santa Fe Café
9/22 - Willow
9/23 - Tallulah
9/29 - Eventide
10/6 - Vero
10/13 - Restaurant 3
Taylor Elementary

In late May Taylor Elementary forth graders and kindergartners joined with MEF to have their second annual sunflower planting activity. The timing of the event coincided with the forth grade's study of plants. Lead teacher Gail Klein discussed the parts of a plant, while MEF President Gail Fendley talked about MEF's sunflower project in New Orleans.  This year over 54 lots have been planted with sunflowers and the soil has been tested for lead levels. Tests are showing that the sunflowers are removing lead from the soil.  At the conclusion of the program each student planted a sunflower seed in a cup to take home and watch grow.

Washington & Arlington Community Bike Ride Oct. 17th

Enjoy a car-free view of some of the region's best sights on Oct. 17th. To register go to Choose between a family friendly 13 mile ride or a longer 25 mile ride.  
The Mesoamerican Coral Reef
by Heather Spence

With the help of MEF, my work in Cancun is a prime example of "small actions = big changes." In a region renowned for both natural wonders and massive tourism - which also has a city of almost a million people - for the past two years I have been helping students to become environmental stewards. They learn to consider that what they do makes a difference. Every small action counts. This is especially important in an area with no marine biology programs, no research centers, and a National Park department of educational outreach consisting of two people and no funding.

I have been able to begin to address this gap by developing and initiating new programs to be hosted collaboratively by the National Park office. Through presentations and videos, school children on Isla Mujeres and in the city of Cancun now understand that coral is a living animal, and some high school students have taken the initiative to start green clubs. The results that MEF has helped achieve are long term, and I wish I could adequately describe on paper the excitement of students as they learn about their natural world, and the power they have to help others to see the wonders and learn to respect them.
Cancun is situated on the Mesoamerican Reef, second largest coral reef system in the world. Its wonders attract tourists from many countries, yet local people are largely unaware of the natural treasures that surround them. When I talk to school groups, their teachers, and sometimes their parents as well, I explain about the reef, and the way it protects the beach from the force of storms. I tell also how the mangroves around the lagoon are nurseries for fish and other animals. Kids are fascinated to hear about the diversity of life and how everything is interconnected with the reef. We discuss how to turn harmful actions into helpful ones. Students come away excited to talk about it with their friends and family. Sometimes, with the cooperation of local tour operators, it is even possible to take groups of students out to see the reef. They love getting to know more about the special features of the place where they live.
Together with outreach staff from the park service, I teach that appreciation of the natural world begins right where you are. Special things are everywhere. I had to do research to find out about native wildlife and local ecosystems because no one had studied them before. It is exciting giving interactive presentations about local flora and fauna that can be found right under our noses. To reinforce our lessons, I distribute copies of the bilingual activity book I've written - "Marine Life of the Mexican Caribbean." It suggests various activities to try. One of the things I like best is to ask kids to just stop and listen. We so often focus only on the visual, but when we tune in to sounds around us we become aware of a whole other dimension.
My work, fundamentally, is not just training environmental stewards, but motivating spokespeople for the environment. I help students want to learn about their environment, and encourage them to reach out to others. With help from MEF, I designed and made T-shirts with the National Park slogan "Admire, but don't touch!" which serve as great conversation starters. Although most of the people I work with do not have easy internet access, I do make videos when I can and try to post interesting items on my website. Mexican TV and radio stations have shown some of my videos and invited me to discuss my outreach efforts. I hope to establish a research and cultural center in Cancun to serve as a focus for bringing attention to the need to promote sustainable strategies so people can live in harmony with the natural environment, especially in high-pressure coastal tourist areas.
Arlington Soccer Association

Michelle was an avid soccer player for 16 years. She played club, all-stars, select, and college soccer. This spring the Arlington Soccer Association awarded two summer camp scholarships to deserving players in Michelle's name.

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How does 'ground source' geothermal energy work?  Geothermal heat pumps circulate water through a sealed underground piping loop, where it is naturally warmed (winter) or cooled (summer) by the earth.

  1. What two countries produce the most wind energy?
  2. What is not a permeable paving material?
  • Gravel
  • Concrete
  • Rubber
  • Wood
Visit for the answers!
H-B's Jake Ward Receives MEF Award

Michelle's Earth Foundation was proud to present an award to H-B graduate Jake Ward for his outstanding environmental work. This past fall Jake spent over three months as an intern with the Nature Conservancy in Eugene, Oregon. Jake has also worked as an intern at Potomac Overlook Park. Earlier he had completed the National Outdoor Leadership School backpacking course in Alaska. Jake is headed to Humbolt State University in Ascata, California to study Environmental Engineering.

T. H. Culhane Honored at the National Geographic Society

MEF Board member T. H. Culhane was honored at the National Geographic Society June 11th as an emerging explorer. His work with the Zabaleen trash collectors of Cairo has received wide acclaim.  T.H. helped the Zabaleen install solar heated hot water heaters on the rooftops of their houses.  He is also involved with teaching them to produce cooking gas from the methane given off by the decaying trash. Residents of Garbage City are gladly embracing these two technologies because they understand that it is in their own interest.

Click here to watch a video for T.H.'s song, "Talkin' Trash."

ABC News recently wrote an article about Culhane called "Making Cairo's Garbage City Green", which you can read here.
Run for the Rainforest 5K

On June 20th Yasmine Rassam and Gail Fendley participated in the Amazon Conservation Team Run for the Rainforest 5K.

In 2008, the Amazon Conversation Team launched its first race to reach out to the Arlington community-to think globally while acting locally-to help stop climate change and global warming by preserving the Amazon rainforest.

This year 383 runners participated on a rainy June Saturday morning.

Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is an international, not-for-profit organization that partners with indigenous peoples across Amazonia to conserve bio-diversity, traditional culture, and health.

Thanks to Yasmine, MEF also donated pencils, notebooks, erasers, crayons, and pencil sharpeners.

We salute ACT for its 'small actions = big changes' thinking and its strong ties to Arlington and the residents merchants who support it. 

The Man Who Planted Trees Video

MEF Board Member Georganne Usova discovered a beautiful video, "The Man Who Planted Trees", by animator Frederic Back and based on Jean Giono's book. It's about a shepherd who sows seeds across a barren landscape for years, undeterred by two World Wars.  Slowly the barren landscape becomes a green vibrant place that is home to streams, birds and animals. The video is an academy award winner for best animated film. For more information see:

Jeans Day

Special thanks to Adrienne Miller and KPMG for dedicating a Jeans Day charitable fund raiser to Michelle's Earth Foundation. Adrienne's office has a Jeans Day once a month when everyone can dress comfortably after donating to a designated charity. So far this contribution has supported an award to J-B environmentalist Jake Ward, provided a donation to the Gulf Branch Nature Center which was recently saved from closure and further supported MEF's sunflower project in New Orleans.
Folk Shrine at Huntington Gorge, VT.

Folk Shrine

Many thanks to the Vermont law enforcement officers who helped work on the folk shrine at the Huntington Gorge. It marks the spot where Michelle was found. Tim Bombardier, who was at the time a State Trooper, designed and made the beautiful plaque which was placed on a nearby bolder. Mike Schirling, now Burlington Chief of Police, arranged with the owner of the property for the plaques' placement. Even before the plaque appeared, the bolder had already become a folk shrine. The plaque reads: Michelle, we love you.

Preston King Station
Arlington, Virginia 22205