Melissa Teresinski.

Fairfax County parks represent a lifetime of memories for Melissa Teresinski.  The Northrop Grumman environmental sustainability manager developed a love of the natural world playing in local parks as a child, and she still enjoys hiking and kayaking adventures with her family.

“I also volunteer at watershed cleanups with my daughters to enhance their learning experience,” she said.

Teresinski understands the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is directly linked to the quality of life in Fairfax County and beyond. That’s one reason she is committed to teaching others about conservation both as a mom and as a corporate environmental advocate.

“Northrop Grumman has a strong commitment to water stewardship and conservation,” Teresinski said. “Supporting local community efforts to protect and restore water resources is an important aspect of the Northrop Grumman water stewardship approach.”

Hidden Oaks Nature Center sign.

Since 2001, Northrop Grumman has provided funding to support environmental education in Fairfax County parks. Much of the funding supported Meaningful Watershed Environmental Education (MWEE) programs at Hidden Oaks Nature Center.

The Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) project engages fourth and seventh grade students in a hands-on educational program about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The objective of the program is to increase the students’ understanding about the causes and consequences of watershed pollution. Despite the Clean Water Act and state and federal expenditures, the Chesapeake Bay continues to suffer significant pollution.

MWEE in action.

The MWEE project’s hands-on approach connects young people to the outdoors by allowing them to physically explore the watershed. The students interact with the watershed by walking the topography, netting benthic macroinvertebrates, seeing erosion at the stream, and completing a nature report based on observable features along the route (erosion issues, mitigation steps taken, evidence of wildlife). The program encourages an understanding that people can make a positive impact on the watershed through their actions. Specifically, the students gain a better understanding of the root causes and consequences of local watershed pollution and develop skills to become better stewards of the watershed.

When COVID-19 shuttered schools and parks, the aerospace and defense company enabled Hidden Oaks to virtually provide stewardship education field trips to Fairfax County elementary and middle school students.

Instructor with snake and two children.
Teaching children about snakes.

“Thanks to Northrop Grumman’s generous grant, more than a dozen videos were produced on topics ranging from learning how sound vibrations travel to how tadpoles grow to evaluating stream health through macroinvertebrates,” said Suzanne Holland, Hidden Oaks visitor services manager. “Parents and teachers joined children in praising the range of topics and activities.”

As a result, Fairfax County students now know the meaningful steps they can take to protect local groundwater and help preserve Fairfax County’s natural resources for generations to come.