Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!Speaking as the Project Lead for the Spring ACE VUS Leader Team, the most beneficial part of this program has been watching Eva and Mike turn conservation ideas into reality. Speaking with them individually throughout the season, they repeat the same idea.Conservation service projects have given them the ammunition to spread the word and really immerse themselves in local conservation mevements. I use the word “ammunition” because the build-up of “I can” throughout the season was incredible and gave both members a new-found sense of personal power. Whereas before thier experience here in Nashville, they had ideals but lacked the follow through. In such a culturally rich part of the United States, Nashville has handed the team more opportunities than we have time for in this short season. Discovering the ability to make dig deep into one’s own conservation ethic, researching hands-on opportunities to speak to those ethics and the satisfaction I saw once the conservation service projects began was a highlight for me as a leader. I will whole heartedly encourage members on my summer team to seek out conservation service projects that serve both personal conservation ethics and professional development.Army Corps of Engineers and SCA, thank you! Eva Donnelly: “My success story within SCA has to be the Bird Workshop that myself and Mike teamed up to put on at Shelby Bottoms Park. We had the opportunity to teach two groups of a local homeschool group, Mike taking on the older kids and myself taking on the 4-8 year olds. What impressed me most was how smart each kiddo was, each one being able to identify more birds than I anticipated. We spent half the workshop learning about birds and doing fun little activities, learning how to eat like a bird and so on. We finished off the workshop by making bird feeders so that the kids could hang them in their yards. One little girl, who was around 4, proclaimed that she was going to be a "bird scientist," and then after her mom prompted her corrected herself: "I am going to be... an ornithologist!" I think this is my success because this project took a lot of time and dedication on my part. I wanted to impact the kids in a way that would make them appreciate birds and their local ecological world around them. And so when I began the project I started almost immediately after training ended. It took a while for us to get the ball rolling, but once the day arrived that we were to put on this workshop for the kids, it went really well, much better than I expected! Our partnership with Shelby Bottoms Park was also great, because the project organizer, Denise, was incredibly helpful and went out of her way to get us what we needed. For something that was planned over the span of two months and finally resulted in a fun, educational workshop for kids, I am proud of how it went and am happy to have done it!”Mike Vasquez: “One specific example of growing socially and professionally would be working with the Nashville Food Project. Here I connected with the organization to offer 3 of us to volunteer here. While being there and working with the members of the NFP, we bonded over the nature of our organization and how it relates to theirs. We then went back and offered a total of 6 volunteers one day that helped them accomplish some things they would have otherwise not been able to do. We are now trying to organize some conservation projects for the summer, and they featured us on their organization's blog. I think that the nature of this leadership program forces us into some kind of personal growth. It involves stepping into places that may be uncomfortable but that are necessary to complete competencies for the program. From doing this I have grown professionally and socially because I have had to reach out to members of local organizations and interact with them, learning that although someone might have a title they are still just as much of a regular person as I am. Emotionally I have become more resilient to change, and have learned not to get worked up when things don't go the way they were planned to go the first, second or even the third time around. I have also grown as a leader and development some important skills that I will need as a leader. These include budgeting, organizational, time management, and technical skills."
Today is the last day of our surveys- it seems like just yesterday we were braving the Tennessee “snow” two months ago, bundling up from head to toe, flurries kissing our faces to keep warm… and sitting here on this beautiful sun soaked day has almost come too soon.Like every day in the life of an “earth-saver,” the past two weeks for the Nashville Crew have been busy, checking off the end-of-season to-do list and trying to enjoy the time we have left. Mike and I completed our Bird Workshop at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, where we split a group of home-schooled students (I had the younger kiddos and Mike the older) and taught them about local birds through activities like a Bird walk, a speaker, bird-feeder building, and bird identification. The weather held up long enough for Mike to take his students on a bird walk on the Greenway, a walkway that circles Nashville, so that the kids could identify calls and different kinds of birds. My kiddos were an incredibly smart bunch, with one little girl proclaiming that she was going to grow up to be a “Bird Scientist!” This tiny thing knew almost every bird I threw out, and (with some help from her mom) corrected herself later by saying confidently that she would be “also an ornithologist!” She was only 4, and I’m pretty sure she is going to rule the world one day.Our partnership with the Shelby Bottoms Park has been wonderful, and we owe a ginormous thank you to Denise Weyer, the project manager at Shelby Bottoms. She helped us set up an SCA Booth so that we could relay SCA’s mission and history to those drawn to nature in the first place. Denise’s limitless support and help has given us the opportunity to become more active in Nashville’s community as well as engage and connect with the locals. Thank you Denise, for everything!Our Worm Bins have been improving, if by improving you mean that they haven’t drowned!Although my worm babies are just in the beginning stages of worm bins, I have high hopes for these little guys to break down the compost in 30 days’ worth of time! Fingers crossed!As the weather has been beautiful with a few bouts of rain, the Nashville Crew have taken advantage and took out our bikes to join in on the Music City Bike group, where a group of people get together to put the rubber to the ground, eventually ending up at a restaurant and all hanging out. Mike and Sophie ended up staying with the group and making new friends! And with the theme of trying to make new friends, the other night Mike, Sophie and I went out and biked to “East Nashville Underground” a music festival put on by a couple who love music, art and people! It was super fun, and we cut a rug! Mike and Sophie even contributed to the performing arts aspect of the Festival, wearing robot costumes and speaking in binary code for a portion of the night.And as the thermometer creeps upward the realizations of time past sets in. Some of us will move on other things. Sophie will go on and work for SCA in Mississippi, to continue being a fearless leader in the beautiful land of the South. Mike is taking on the Nashville crew for the summer, morphing into the fearless leader he has trained over the past two months to become so that he can teach young minds the minutiae and overall beauty of surveys. I too will stay in Nashville, living here and hoping to continue on with the amazing people and organizations that we have connected with other the spring program. Our involvement with The Nashville Food Project has left an impact on me, and I hope to volunteer and learn more from them in the future. Shelby Bottoms will continue to be one of my favorite places in Nashville, and I hope that my relationship will grow beyond this program with this wonderful center. My experience with merely being exposed to the beauty of the lakes of Tennessee via the surveys I will forever be thankful for. I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty interesting characters, to talk to the wonderful Park Rangers who work so hard for the Parks, to witness beautiful unassuming wildlife, to swim in deep blue waters, to drive stretches of land that many people will never get to see, because they are back roads, local roads, or just beautiful scenery. My experience this spring has given me the chance to sharpen my leadership skills, and I emerge on the other end more confident than ever. I know that once this program ends, I will forever appreciate my experience and the lessons that I have learned from Alex, Josiah and Liz; from Sophie and Mike; from my fellow SCAer’s; from Kyla, Matt, Dean, Deena and Meredith and others from the Army Corps of Engineers; from the wonderful locals of Nashville, TN and its surrounding area; and from the overall small talk and connections made with anyone and everyone during the course of this spring. Thank you.I’d also like to take a moment to say goodbye to the hissing Goose-couple at Sycamore Creek! You will always (and forever) terrify me. But you entertained me to no end. For that, I thank you Doris and Tina.Written by Eva Donnelly
After doing a vast amount of research on stars for my Environmental Education, I realized that every ending is just the start to a new beginning. Massive blue giants, 20 times more massive than our Sun die and give birth to new stars, to planets and in the rare case of Earth, life. When we humans die, the atoms that compose our corpses become a part of the Earth’s environment. According the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. Nothing can truly be lost, just reformed. This is now a prominent philosophy, among many others, that fuels my mentality. Even though I won’t see many of the friends that I made in the DRC for some time, maybe never again, my experiences and knowledge gained will stay with me for the rest of my life.I will no longer breath the dry desert air, speak to creosotes like a mad man during mulch runs or have the pleasure of pooping while watching the sunrise over a land liberated almost completely of other humans. However, now I have the luxury of breathing the humid air of Tennessee, laying out my life plans to my pets and being able to have access to shower on a daily basis. Perspective seems to hold a lot of weight in this conversation. I could have been angry and dissatisfied with living in a tent, pooping in an ammo container or having no internet access. But instead I saw opportunity. I began to not only play guitar more and exercise regularly, but I also found time to just think. To think about my past, present and future self. To really scrutinize my actions over my entire life. The desert, as dry and dead as it may be, has been an exceptional environment for self-realization.As my crew will often say – “welp it’s about that time”; time to end this phase of our lives and to begin something new. Many members will be distraught following the end of this season. People we have leaned on emotionally for several months will now be ripped from beneath us. But how else will we learn to stand properly if we are not picked up and pushed down every once and a while? Life seems to constantly do that to humans. We are taught to go one way and we trust this way until our eyes are directed to a new path by someone else or out of our own volition. And that is what we want. Humans desire variety and excitement. Sure, there may be a healthy dose of fear that comes along with the unknown but that is part of the excitement. We keep attaching the word “last” onto everything towards the end of the season. I am putting an end to that with the last blog post for our crew. And the final quote of the season from Carl Bard – “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”-David Sellari
The final week of the program found the crew at Agua Fria - Riverbend site. It was timber work skills week for the crew. SCA Alum and work skills instructor, Tanya Henderson, taught the team the finer points of working with timber. Hopes were high as we set out to built a timber retaining wall to stop soil erosion. The juniper provided a tough obstacle as far as getting the wall built. In the end we joined together several logs and made large check steps as an alternative to the retaining wall. We also built a rock retianing wall and resotred the erosional area. It was ice to be back in a familiar place for our final work week. The crew is looking forward to graduation next week.