2016 annual report Accokeek Foundation | October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016

Mission: To cultivate Passion for the natural and cultural heritage of piscataway park and commitment to stewardship and sustainability
Vision: People connected to the land and engaged in creating a sustainable world

piscataway park: celebrating 100 years of...



1044 observations
301 different species
piscataway park ranked top 10 in the u.s.

On Saturday, May 21, 2016 it was pouring rain in Piscataway Park. According to herpetologist Sarah Kuppert, this meant many of the park's reptilian inhabitants would be hard to find. But the rain was perfect for spotting amphibians. So out she trudged, along with a group of community volunteers, to see what sorts of frogs and salamanders they could identify.

This "herp walk" was part of the 2016 BioBlitz--a nationwide biodiversity inventory in celebration of the National Park centennial. Sponsored by National Geographic, the BioBlitz brought together scientists and students all over the country and challenged them to identify as many species as possible living in national park land.

"Algae of the genus rhoicosphenia observed growing on another species of algae growing on a small snail." -inaturalist post

The day before the rainy "herp walk," over 100 students (many of whom had never visited a national park before) hit the trails of Piscataway Park with local ornithologists, botanists, entomologists, and even a phycologist (an algae scientist). They scooped water from puddles, brushed algae off rocks on the Potomac shoreline, and dipped buckets into the river, finding over 20 different species of algae in just 2 days.

Those two days, and the work of all of the scientists, students, and volunteers, placed Piscataway Park in the top 10 parks in the country for number of observations collected. It's a truly humbling experience to learn that such a small parcel of land is home to so much biodiversity, and it reinforces the need to protect this park for all who call it home.


Hōkūleʻa lands at Piscataway Park

"it brought people together that often don't get together...and so it was a very unifying day." -Gabi Tayac

This historical event brought about 400 new visitors to Piscataway Park to welcome and celebrate the arrival of the Hokule'a and her crew. This day's event included dockside tribal greeting, ceremonial song, dance, and exchange of gifts between the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Piscataway tribal leaders. The ceremony was followed by a meal of fellowship. The Accokeek Foundation sponsored as hosts and provided a welcoming space for our guests. As Chief Billy Tayac stated, "this was the first time in 400 years that someone has asked for permission to come to Piscataway territory."

"Where you're standing at is the capital of the piscataway indian nation. it's called moyaone. we've been here over 12,000 years. our ancestors are buried in this land. that's what makes this land so sacred. on behalf of the piscataway indian nation, and speaking humbly on behalf of the earth mother, i wish to welcome you here." -Chief billy tayac
Discovery and exploration

Cache Across Maryland

"We loved this park and bought some eggs from the visitors center which were incredible!! what a beautiful park and so glad that [cache across maryland] brought us here. the dogs loved it as well."

In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, the Maryland Geocaching Society teamed up with the National Park Service to hide ten caches in ten different national park sites all across the state for their annual "Cache Across Maryland" event.

Piscataway Park was one of the ten featured NPS sites, and throughout the hunt over 200 geocachers logged a visit to the park. These geocahcers came from all over Maryland, and the cache's scavenger hunt through the site introduced participants to the National Colonial Farm, the barnyard, and several of the park's nature trails.

Geocachers pose with their prize after finding one of the six caches hidden in Piscataway Park

National Trails Day Paddle

The land protected and known today as Piscataway Park was home to indigenous people for tens of thousands of years before Captain John Smith sailed the Chesapeake, before George Washington made Mount Vernon his home, and is still considered the sacred homeland of the Piscataway people today.

This National Trails Day, the Accokeek Foundation partnered with the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Office and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail to provide the community with the opportunity to explore the natural and indigenous landscape of Piscataway Park through Piscataway eyes. Led by Atlantic Kayak's Judy Lathrop, the paddle departed from Fort Washington marina and ventured down the river to Piscataway Park. Piscataway-Conoy tribal members Francis Gray and Mario Harley joined the group to share their traditional knowledge of the river.

Kayakers enjoy the Potomac views during the National Trails Day paddle event

stewardship: protecting the park and its...


Bluebird Monitoring

10 volunteers
20 nest boxes
40.62 hours of monitoring
73 native birds fledged

The Accokeek Foundation's Bluebird Monitoring volunteer program provides the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with important data to help scientists track trends in the reproductive biology of birds. A dedicated group of volunteers collects information about when nesting occurs, how many eggs are laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.

In 2016, this citizen science project recorded a total of 73 birds fledging (or leaving the nest), 64 of which were Eastern Bluebirds. The other nine fledgings came from a nest of Tree Swallows and a nest Carolina Chickadees. By tracking this data year over year, scientists can study the condition of bird populations in Southern Maryland and how things like climate change, habitat loss, and the introduction of non-native species effect the Eastern Bluebird and its feathered friends.

An Eastern Bluebird guards its nest on the Ken Otis bluebird trail in Piscataway Park
natural resources

28th Annual Potomac River Clean-Up

2016 marked the 28th Annual Potomac River Clean-Up event. This watershed wide event includes hundreds of sites and thousands of volunteers joining together to pitch in and pick up the Potomac River. With over two miles of shoreline to steward, the Accokeek Foundation welcomed 50 volunteers to help collect trash this year.

50 volunteers
1,350 pounds of trash removed
193 tennis balls
50 lighters
5 tires
2 digital cameras
1 propane tank

Education: Preparing the next generation to...

Think critically

Eco-Explorers: Colonial Time Warp

2015-2016 school year: 2,500 students from Maryland, DC, & Virginia

The flagship program of the Accokeek Foundation's "Green History" initiative is the "Eco-Explorers: Colonial Time Warp" school tour. Since the pilot in 2014, Eco-Explorers has gained increasing traction with local schools and this year our unique programming was recognized by regional and national organizations, bringing in nearly $30,000 in grant funding for school programs alone.

In May of 2016, Eco-Explorers was awarded the inaugural "Innovation in Museum Education" award from the American Alliance of Museums, a national organization dedicated to museum advocacy. The judges chose to recognize Eco-Explorers over programs from organizations all over the country as they feel the program "foster[s] cross-disciplinary approaches that favor critical thinking and user-centered decision-making."

President Lisa Hayes and Director of Programs Andrea Jones accept the "Innovation in Museum Education" award from the American Alliance of Museums

Every Kid in a Park

The National Park Foundation supported transportation for local fourth graders through the Every Kid in a Park grant, reimbursing schools for the cost of buses to our site in the spring of 2016. With this support, were partnered with the National Park Trust's Buddy Bison program to provide fully funded field trips to over 500 children from local Title I schools. With the success of this program in 2016, we have received another Every Kid in a Park grant which will allow us to engage new audiences from high-needs schools in our region during the upcoming school year.

Homeschool Days

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of students who are being educated at home has increased by 62% in the last decade. Many of these students and parents choose non-traditional education because they value experience-based learning (learning by doing). In order to stay ahead of the curve in serving the increasing numbers of homeschool students, and because Piscataway Park is an ideal site for experiential learning, the Foundation created a series of four homeschool days in 2016. These festival-like events explored themes such as, "For the Brrds: Winter Birding," "Breed All About it: Heritage Breeds and Biodiversity," "Farmer for a Day," and "Those Crafty Colonials: Colonial Homesteading."

pursure careers in science and technology

Agriculture Conservation Corps

"When i first got here, i was not interested in farming or gardening. but i think more people would be farmers if they knew what it was really like."
"You can get strong digging a garden."
" I had no idea there was so much food growing in the forest."

These quotes represent some of the many thoughts the Agriculture Conservation Corps (ACC) students shared at the end of their seven week internship at the Accokeek Foundation.

The ACC program offers community youth an introduction to varying aspects of sustainable agriculture, from animal husbandry to production farming, all while providing a local historical context. And this year's high school interns came to the Foundation through a partnership with the Prince George's County Youth@Work Summer Youth Enrichment Program (SYEP).

After spending a week each on subjects like permaculture, urban farming, homesteading, and careers in sustainable agriculture, a special panel discussion with field experts gave students the opportunity to learn how their internship could continue to serve them well after graduating from the program. They discussed not only what a career in agriculture could look like, but how someone without a green thumb could advocate for the sustainable farming community and food justice through daily choices.

While it's unlikely that all 15 interns will pursue a career in sustainable agriculture, it was clear during the panel that much of what they learned over the summer has taken root in their lives in some way. As they discussed chemical and pesticide use, animal cruelty in factory farms, activism through the arts, and reclaiming the agriculture narrative, the theme of "finding what fascinates you" emerged, and the students were invited to think about all of the different ways they could play a part in the food system.

Make connections

Green History Weekends

"Instead of considering 1770 as a time just before the American Revolution, what if we used this snapshot in time to look at family habits in an era when people were more directly connected to each environmental choice they made?" -Andrea Jones, Director of Programs

We have this innate sense that learning about our history is important, but what are the real ways in which this knowledge can help us? How do we apply the lessons of colonial Southern Maryland to the pressing environmental issues that plague modern society? These are the questions that led the Foundation to develop "Green History Weekends," which pair first-person living history with correlating modern day environmental concerns.

In 2016, the Foundation presented four exhibits that focused on soil health, water conservation, food waste, and energy conservation. Designed to connect visitors with the value of the planet's resources in a meaningful way and teach practical skills that can be applied in everyday life, each exhibit explored the following essential question:

"What is more important? Convenience or Conservation? Can we have both?"

Agriculture: growing...

livestock biodiversity

Lattes with Lambs

"i liked seeing all the wool processing. and making cheese. i never knew you could make your own cheese and butter."

How do you go about saving an animal that people don't realize needs to be saved? You organize a meet and greet for the entire community and call it "Lattes with Lambs."

During the second annual Lattes with Lambs, community members descended on the farm to meet the newest additions to the Accokeek Foundation barnyard. Visitors were treated to behind-the-scene barn tours, sheep shearing demonstrations, butter and cheese making lessons, and a sheep-to-shawl activity. But the new barnyard babies are more than just fuzzy faces--they're part of a critical effort to maintain livestock biodiversity and bring back endangered breeds of cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry.

With fewer than 200 American Milking Devon cattle, Hog Island Sheep, and Ossabaw hogs born in the U.S. each year, every birth at the Foundation is another step towards recovery, but that recovery can't happen without the help of our community. As faces are painted and animal selfies are taken, we also ask that visitors learn more about the animals that sustain us and make educated decisions and consumers and citizens.

Stitch 'n Time Club

36 volunteers
783.5 service hours

While the old adage that a "stitch in time saves nine" may be true, the Stitch 'n Time club is trying to save more than just stitches. This group of dedicated volunteers spent hundreds of hours in 2016 preserving traditional textiles skills and the Foundation's endangered Hog Island sheep flock.

After the flock was sheared in May, the Stitch 'n Time club collected 15 fleeces and began the long process of washing, picking, and carding the wool in preparation for spinning. While some of the wool ended its journey here, other fleeces were bound for natural dye baths, drop spindles, traditional spinning wheels, crochet hooks, and knitting needles. The sale of hand-spun Hog Island yarn and hand-knit Hog Island hats, scarves, and gloves in turn helped raise just over $500 to support the Foundation's heritage breed conservation efforts.

Stitch 'n Time volunteers James and Alison teach visitors how yarn is spun during Lattes with Lambs
skills and minds

Ecosystem Farm Workshare

If you head over to the Ecosystem Farm on a Saturday morning you will meet a dedicated group of volunteers, most likely covered in dirt and sweat. These volunteers find their way to the farm for a variety of reasons--striving to live a healthier lifestyle, dedication to sustainable agriculture, learning skills for their home gardens, or meeting service hour requirements for school--but they all leave with much more than a share of the farm's produce.

149 volunteers
1,445 hours of service

Throughout the year, these volunteers start seeds in the green house, prepare the fields for planting, learn permaculture design techniques, manage weeds and pests, run irrigation lines, harvest fruits and vegetables, create compost, regenerate soil health, and save heirloom seeds. They participate in all aspects of the growing process, from seed to seed, and they do so in a way that gives back to land more than is taken. Experiences like this are at the heart of the Accokeek Foundation's mission, and engage the community in creating a sustainable world.

Cultivating the "I had no idea" moment

In 2016, the Ecosystem Farm opened its gate at the Pumpkin Ash Trail to welcome everyday visitors. Some came from the surrounding neighborhood, and several of these locals return a couple times a week to observe the growing season. Other visitors hail from all over the world, including a couple from Mexico City, Mexico. Guided tastings of wild edibles, such as sorrel, persimmon, and pawpaw provided a universal response of, "that's the first time I have ever tried that and it's incredible!"

Through the lens of tobacco

The backdrop of the National Colonial Farm allows the Accokeek Foundation to explore and honor the agricultural influences of Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans that inform 18th century Maryland agriculture. And tobacco production, perhaps more than any other crop, illustrates the cross pollination of these knowledges.

In 2016, we worked to integrate tobacco related labors with our goal of agricultural sustainability, theatrical interpretation, and monthly Green History themes. Simultaneously, we sought to engage numerous visitors, volunteers, partners, and friends throughout the growing season.

Tobacco planting commenced with a Piscataway led Earth Awakening ceremony. Close to 200 people were in attendance and no less than 30 helped to plant Orinoco and Rustica tobacco varieties in a prepared seed bed. These seeds grew into small plants that were transplanted with the support of Rico Newman and his grandson, among other volunteers, visitors, and AgLab students.

Rico Newman and his grandson transplant tobacco plants into the fields of the National Colonial Farm

At harvest time, the Foundation coordinated with the Smithsonian's American Indian Museum and Museum of Natural History to house their tobacco alongside the farm's in the historic tobacco barn. In addition to cultivating tobacco without the use of inorganic fertilizers and insecticides, the Smithsonian shares a commitment to gifting cured tobacco to first nations for ceremonial use.


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