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Bees Help Native American Students Learn about Math, Science

Native American high school students get “up close and personal” with honey bees at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, as part of their participation in the Native American Summer Institute, a long-running collaboration between the University of Arizona and the bee lab.  The curriculum helps the students learn math and science as they use two of the lab’s computer models to learn about honey bee colony health and develop plans to start a beekeeping business.

Native American high school students get “up close and personal” with honey bees at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, as part of their participation in the Native American Summer Institute, a long-running collaboration between the University of Arizona and the bee lab. The curriculum helps the students learn math and science as they use two of the lab’s computer models to learn about honey bee colony health and develop plans to start a beekeeping business.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

There’s nothing like a little “hands-on” activity to help students learn. And what better way to encourage math and science education than to give students an opportunity for the ultimate “hands-on” experience: working with honey bees.

That’s what Native American high school students are doing at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona. At the lab, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), researchers study honey bee nutrition and health to ensure that these insects can effectively pollinate billions of dollars’ worth of fruits and vegetables each year. Read more »

Creative Solutions to Ending School Food Waste

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium. Approximately one-third of all food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels.  While research has shown that food wasted by children is similar to the rest of the U.S. population, there are many ways schools can reduce food waste and teach students about the impact it has on the environment and in their community.

At Chesterbrook Elementary School in McClean, VA, every student learns how to separate waste into categories like recyclables, food to be donated, upcycling bins, and general trash.  The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin. The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. Read more »

Get Back, Give Back: Federal Retiree Begins New ‘Career’ with US Forest Service

Bob Steelquist retired from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in May 2014 after a long public-service career that also included the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State, and recently began his second career as a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service. (Courtesy Bob Steelquist). Forest Service photo.

Bob Steelquist retired from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in May 2014 after a long public-service career that also included the National Park Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State, and recently began his second career as a volunteer with the U.S. Forest Service. (Courtesy Bob Steelquist). Forest Service photo.

After nearly 32 years of combined federal and state natural resource management public service, I retired.

I have been blessed with a rewarding career. But before that final day working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary arrived, I had already applied for and been accepted as a volunteer wilderness ranger in the Pasayten Wilderness of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. It was the best promotion of my career. Read more »

Back to School Gardening

The students will plant the raised beds over the next few weeks with easy to grow cool season crops like radishes and lettuce. To get the garden growing, Washington Capitals forwards Chris Brown (right with ball cap) and Stanislav Galiev planted one of the raised beds with kid-friendly herbs that are fun to touch, taste and smell like lavender, chocolate mint, German chamomile, rosemary, parsley, lemon thyme, wild watermelon salvia, and chives. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

The students will plant the raised beds over the next few weeks with easy to grow cool season crops like radishes and lettuce. To get the garden growing, Washington Capitals forwards Chris Brown (right with ball cap) and Stanislav Galiev planted one of the raised beds with kid-friendly herbs that are fun to touch, taste and smell like lavender, chocolate mint, German chamomile, rosemary, parsley, lemon thyme, wild watermelon salvia, and chives. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

46,000 young people were welcomed back to DC Public Schools this morning for the 2014-2015 school year. And 168 students at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School have a brand new school garden to get excited about! USDA’s People’s Garden team assisted Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, which supports the charitable efforts of the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards, with laying the groundwork for this project.

More than 100 volunteers painted, cleaned and gardened at Drew ES for DC Public Schools Beautification Day. The Red Rockers and Wizard Girls cheered on 30 USDA Executive Master Gardeners and a dozen Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards fans as they built a brand new school garden in the rain. The rainy weather did not dampen their commitment to help produce Washington’s healthiest next generation and in less than 3 hours the school garden was complete. Read more »

World’s Best Soil Judgers Visit Washington, Meet Secretary Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the world’s eight best soil judges last week after they earned the top spots at the 1st International Soil Judging Contest in Jeju, South Korea, in June.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Science Division was actively involved in organizing the event and mentoring the winners. The first and second place teams, both from the U.S., along with their coaches, participated in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller to talk about soil judging, the importance of soil health, and careers in soil science. In addition, NRCS’ Landscape Architect, Bob Snieckus, led the students and coaches on a tour of USDA’s green projects, including the rooftop garden and The People’s Garden.

It was the first international soil judging contest, but soil judging in the United States dates back to at least 1960. The events involve the description, classification and interpretation of soil, with the main purpose of helping students recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these characteristics when deciding how to use soils. A contest involves “judgers,” or students interested in soil science, entering a soil pit to examine the profile. The judgers then determine where the different horizons are and describe each one, looking at factors such as soil type, color, depth, consistency, shape, structure and other features. The soil is classified, and site and soil interpretations are performed. Read more »

Supporting WIC Breastfeeding Moms and Improving Infants’ Health

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

To highlight the importance of a healthy start in life, more than 170 countries celebrated World Breastfeeding Week earlier this month.  Themed “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life,” the recognition encourages the practice to improve the health of babies around the globe.  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) takes it a step further, recognizing the entire month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service shares this commitment.  In fact, its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (better known as WIC) promotes breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice.  We support breastfeeding among WIC moms by providing counseling and educational materials, offering healthy food packages, and giving out breastfeeding aids, like breast pumps. Read more »