Category Archives: Member Blog

H2Know: Water you doing about it?

Written by Breanne Penkala, AmeriCorps member placed at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

“Can I flush you?”

This is one question I frequently get asked by students at the start of each WetFest event.

As the WetFest Coordinator, I get to wear this lovely costume.
As the WetFest Coordinator, I get to wear this lovely costume.

WetFest is a daylong education festival to teach 4-6th graders about water and how to protect the Cape’s aquifer. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members facilitate activities about the physical properties of water, show how humans interact with water and suggest ways we can reduce our use of water. These activities range in difficulty and thrill, but the favorites always remain the same:

  • Sea Turtle Rescue – A race to the finish to see which team can rescue sea creatures from oil spills the fastest and learn how to rehabilitate animals after an environmental disaster occurs
  • Flush the Kids – A glance at the inside a “septic system” to understand the nitrogen levels in groundwater
  • Edible Aquifer – A tasty treat comprised of ice, ice cream, soda, and sprinkles to demonstrate the different levels in our aquifer and what happens when it is polluted
  • Bubble Booth – A look from inside a life-size bubble to learn about adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension of water

WeFest Collage

The day starts and ends with a skit that involves a large toilet, a rude dude that tries to dump oil on the ground, and a wizard who comes to the rescue to make sure we all learn how to protect our precious water supply. As the WetFest coordinator, I make sure the day goes smoothly by guiding students to open activities, making sure members have the materials they need to teach each activity, and answering any questions the teachers may have. I wear a toilet costume for good measure, hence, all of the weird questions I get from students about “flushing” me. I am by no means required to wear a huge toilet, but it definitely entertains the kids and the members get a kick out of it as well.

Members dress up to welcome the students to WetFest and perform the opening skit.
Members dress up to welcome the students to WetFest and perform the opening skit.

As the coordinator of this event, I do not get to facilitate an activity, but I thoroughly enjoy watching the other 25 members interact with the children and experience the enthusiasm and laughter from the students at each activity. At the end of each event, we know that our hard work pays off when the students commit to being “Groundwater Guardians” by promising to protect our water in any way they can. It is also encouraging to hear students say “my brother always leaves the faucet on when he brushes his teeth, but now I will make sure he shuts it off so he wastes less water”. Since September of 2015, we have already reached over 700 students through these interactive activities at WetFest, and we are excited to teach even more in the second half of our service year!

Scouting It Out: Success at the Red Cross Scout Fair

Witten by Amber Carter, AmeriCorps Member placed at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Members of AmeriCorps Cape Cod were excited and full of energy on the morning of January 9th, 2016, as we prepared for the 9th annual American Red Cross Scout Fair, which took place at The Parish of Christ the King Church in Mashpee. Scout Fair is an event at which troops of boy and girl scouts ages 6 to 12 learn skills such as basic first aid, how to call 911, and how to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster. Pairs of ACC members were assigned different topics to present to the scouts at stations around the room; the kids spent about 10 minutes at each station before rotating to the next activity.

Once the scouts arrived and the fair began, ACC members dove right into presenting their topics. Member Jake Garringer (Safety Jake) and I presented on the three C’s method to dealing with an emergency. These include Checking to make sure the scene is safe, Calling 911, and Caring for any victims by using first aid. Additionally, Jake and I instructed the scouts on how to put together a disaster preparedness kit, which can be taken with you if you must leave your home in the event of an emergency. The kits typically include items such as a flashlight, a handheld radio, water, a whistle, and a blanket. We also brought additional items that aren’t needed in a preparedness kit, including a spatula and a stapler, and tested the scouts by asking them which items don’t belong. The scouts were excited and eager to learn and Jake and I had fun working with them!

Overall, Scout Fair was a huge success! Jeff Rossi, the ACC member placed at the Red Cross, organized the event and kept it running smoothly throughout the morning. Although we were acting as teachers for the day, ACC members learned a lot about disasters, emergencies, how to be prepared, and how to react in those situations; it was a great learning experience for everyone involved. We had fun in our role as educators and we were proud to be a part of such an important event. AmeriCorps Cape Cod Year 17 has six months left to serve on Cape Cod and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

Top 10 Most Memorable Service Projects

Written by Ben Howard, AmeriCorps Member placed at the Cape Cod Commission

Here are Ben’s top 10 most memorable service projects so far this year. As you’ll see, he’s enjoyed a wide array of projects that touch upon our four focus areas. There are a variety of ways to plan, facilitate, and participate in these types of projects and more as an AmeriCorps Cape Cod member.

  1. Mashpee Shellfish Propagation — collecting, measuring and broadcasting.
  2. Wellfleet Herring Run Invasive species removal. That Asian knotweed was tough, but no match!
  3. Santuit Pond Bench Installation. The nicest benches I have ever seen!Bench Building AmeriCorps Service
  4. Camp Edwards Invasive Removal — Honey Suckle and Autumn Olive removal in the cold – 4 acres – but cold!
  5. Red Lily Pond Phragmites Removal. Oh, the phragmites!Red Lily Pond AmeriCorps Service.JPG
  6. WETFest. Will the wizard ever be free of the Rude Dude’s pollution?
  7. Barnstable Clam Crawl. Running in the sand a la Chariots of Fire.
  8. Sandwich Dolphin Release. Saving Dolphins, no big deal.Dolphin Release Team AmeriCorps Service
  9. Barnstable Sea Level Rise App Testing. Crowd-sourced science research on sea level rise!
  10. Barnstable Holiday Stroll. The Green Ribbon Puppet Show is good for any season!

The Perfect Burn Pile

Written by Leah Mould, AmeriCorps Member placed at Orleans Conservation Trust

If you’re petite like me, you know the short person struggle: standing on tippy-toes to reach the top shelf at the grocery store, getting picked up more often than your average-sized counterparts, always needing to hem your pants. But in AmeriCorps, you have an essential piece of the puzzle to make the Perfect Burn Pile.

But what’s a burn pile, you may ask? Well, at the Cape Cod National Seashore, our AmeriCorps Cape Cod FireCorps members do prescribed burns to decrease the severity of possible wildfires. If you didn’t know, Cape Cod is one of the highest fire-prone areas in the country. Burn piles are stacks of limbs, trunks and brush from vegetation cut down [in natural areas] around Cape Cod. The piles will then be burned during controlled conditions, allowing the nutrients to be returned to the soil and decreasing the severity of forest fires if one were to start.


So what do I have — as a short person — that’s so special, you may ask? Well, it turns out that limbs and such that make their way to burn piles ought to be about four to five feet in length. So, your petite frame is an advantage. Limb longer than your height? Just get your sawyer to buck it! The burn pile also shouldn’t end up being taller than you, so there you go! You have the perfect measure for the correct size of a burn pile.

So even though your height might be below average, you’ll be top notch at burn piles.