Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 Questions for: Jennifer Chambers, Hiking Along

Jennifer Chambers is an environmental educator who started Hiking Along in 2004 to engage children in exploration of the natural world. She leads hikes for kids on D.C. metro trails, doing hands-on science activities along the way.

Jennifer also developed Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Student Trail Steward program, a partnership with Northwood High School. They recently restored a 15 acre greenway between Sligo Creek and the Northwest Branch -- removing several tons of trash and creating the Northwood Chesapeake Bay Trail. We're very happy to have her as this month's guest on the Natural Capital!

Who else should we feature in this series -- could you be next? Leave a comment or drop us an email at thenaturalcapital@gmail.com.

You have a great love of and curiosity for the natural world, how did that come about?

My father has incredible respect and love for the outdoors as a responsible hunter and avid canoe camper. He instilled a base for my love of nature. However, I rarely ventured out with him as a kid, leaving that to my brother, choosing to hang with my mom as she disliked bugs.

Jennifer lives in Silver Spring with her husband and 2 children.
At a private school for children with learning disabilities in Silver Spring, I further developed passion for outdoor recreation and the natural world when I discovered awe and wonder through my student’s eyes, smiles, laughter, adventures, experiences, and changed self-confidence. The school had a great outdoor education program: camping, hiking, caving, rock climbing, ropes course, and white water rafting.

Through these shared experiences with my students, and now my children, I want to do everything in my power to share more of it with others and to protect it for today and tomorrow’s generations.

What would you change about your home, your neighborhood, your corner of the world? What one thing would you change to make it a better place?

1. Clean-up Northwest Branch and the Park – the trails along the Branch are my personal oasis and sanctuary. A place I find peace and tranquility and adventure with my children and dog. Sometimes that peace is broken when I witness irresponsible human impacts to the park, such as, dumping and dog poop left on the trail.
2. Reduce littering - Help people to install a sense of pride and respect for their communities and neighborhoods to create better communal living and create a healthier local environment.
3. Stop vehicle speeding on my neighborhood street to improve safety for the children who live there – 10 years of trying has made small dents – Education, Engineering, and Enforcement!

Describe your most profound encounter in the natural world.

Every encounter, from the big to the small, is profound, particularly when I am able to share it with my family. Here are some highlights:

Pseudacris crucifer crucifer
Spring peeper by squamatologist
• Hiking in a canyon near Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and being surprised by a juvenile brown bear in the crown of a tree. (Instant thought: where is its mother?)
• Experiencing the power of water on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
• Watching a school of sun fish try to eat a bee caught on the water’s surface.
• Being deafened by spring peepers in March.
• Crossing the path of a rattlesnake while hiking in Catoctin.
• Finding a freshly dead barred owl with my students in Northwest Branch Park.

A hike with Hiking Along
What's your favorite natural place in the DC area, and why?

My absolute favorite natural place in DC is on a large rock bar in Northwest Branch Park, just below the Loxford Terrace trailhead and extension. It's a beautiful, serene, tree-canopied spot in the middle of the Branch.

With the Branch’s riffles and sweet bird songs as background music, I have shared big, bright smiles with children of all ages who express carefree spirits, ah-ha moments with students when they discover a northern dusky salamander and learn about its important role in the Branch’s ecosystem, and most importantly participate in nature’s play with my own children. They have developed a wonderful relationship with nature because of this oasis in the heart of Silver Spring.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to better experience the natural world?

Just do it! Jump in with both hands and feet and a smile on your face. Yes, fear may appear on the forefront of your mind (it does for me with a new experience) but remember that once you have done it, you will experience an exhilarating feeling and a renewal in your self-confidence. I did it!

We hope you're enjoying these answers as much as we are! Who should we feature next?