Week 6-8: Reflection on What I’ve Learned so far

Hi Everyone,

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“Men and Nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.”– FDR
Chillin' wit FDR
Chillin’ wit FDR

It has been some time since my last post and I have plenty to tell. My work and time-off are providing a wealth of information for my research and personal knowledge. From taking a trip to George Washington’s estate, finding new places around the city of D.C., and reviewing more articles for my thesis, the last 3 weeks have been full of new understanding and enlightenment.

During week 6, I was able to take a trip to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to visit the estate of George Washington. Planning how to travel to this location was very challenging and my initial apprehension to use public transportation had prevented me from taking the trip earlier this summer. I was required to take the metro all the way to the end of the line and then take a bus to the estate. It was my first time using the bus system and I had no experience in how they operated. After finding the bus I would need to take and what time it would arrive, I felt much more confidant to make the journey out there.

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G. Washington's
G. Washington’s “Dung Repository”
G. Washington's 16-sided barn
G. Washington’s 16-sided barn

Once at the estate, I was able to spend all day walking around George Washington’s property. There I was able to learn a great deal about the accomplishments of the country’s first president. Aside from the obvious political actions of Mr. Washington that are mentioned in almost every American history book, I was surprised to learn how inventive and influential the founding father was in agriculture. At his estate, I learned that his farm was one of the first of its kind to compost manure and vegetation waste to produce fertilizer. He had designed a 16-sided barn that could dry and separate wheat from the stalk more effectively. Mr. Washington estate had methods of powerless refrigeration by storing ice underground during the summer. The founding father was also very adamant in breeding mules because they were more efficient work animals than horses or donkeys. It was a great learning experience and I was able to better appreciate the full extent of his influence on the culture, business, and politics for United States of America.

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Composting in Columbia Heights
Washington D.C.- Designed by Pierre L'Enfant
Washington D.C.- Designed by Pierre L’Enfant

During week 7, I took a trip to other areas in D.C. and had heard great things about the Columbia Heights Area. While walking around the neighborhood, I managed to find a very organized community garden that was equipped with composting piles and an apiary (where bees are kept). I was amazed to see how well the garden was managed and the variety of it was growing. The plots were either marked as private or shared to show where people could pick fresh produce. The garden was also located near a playground and park, where residents could be active and appreciate nature.

While researching the importance of urban planning and human health, I found that areas such as these are essential for keeping a community connected and healthy. It acts as a “third place” where people can meet, share ideas, reduce stress, stay active, and produce healthy foods locally. My research in urban planning also highlighted other ways in which D.C. is able to promote healthy living through active transportation. The research showed that grid-style street organization, diversity in residential and commercial land use, and the access to safe pathways are just some the factors that encourage the use of active transportation. Unlike recreational activity, active transport is a form of physical activity that the majority of working individuals can perform to reduce the health risks associated with inactivity. It is also important that a city invest in these forms of transportation because they reduce traffic congestions and pollution. All of these factors are found in D.C. and from my experience I can better appreciate the need for urban planning to create built environments that promote happy and healthy habits.

Week 8 was mostly spent celebrating the 4th of July. Through out the whole week, the city had multiple events to entertain those staying and visiting D.C. For the actual celebration, I was able to get access to the stairs of the Capital building from my roommates that intern for the House of Representatives and see the fireworks. It was a surreal experience because with the added security the stairs are only accessible to the public on the fourth and during inaugurations. Having access was a once in a lifetime opportunity and couldn’t ask for a better place to celebrate the birth of my country.

With only a few more weeks left of my internship, I am avidly working on finishing my research and visiting more areas around D.C. Time has passed by quickly and I have yet to have a dull moment while being here, so there has been little time to be home sick or lethargic. With that being said, I am looking forward to coming back to Tampa to share what I have learned but still have much more work to accomplish while I am here. Now that I am in the final stretch of my internship, I am excited to better define the connection between sustainability and public health from the surplus of information and experiences I have gained here.

Jared Huffman

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