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Shutdown Freezes Program For Kids At National Arboretum

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Staff and volunteers from the Washington Youth Garden work at Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy in Washington, D.C.
Bethany Hanna
Staff and volunteers from the Washington Youth Garden work at Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Youth Garden provides educational, hands-on activities for kids in the District. It's located in the National Arboretum, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is, of course, closed to the public during the shutdown. Metro Connection's Steven Yenzer caught up with Anna Benfield, the Garden's education programs manager, to ask about how the shutdown is affecting her work and the plants cared for by the Arboretum staff.

On taking kids on nature walks through the woods:

"We'll ask, 'What do you think is out here?' And they're like, 'Maybe crocodiles... Maybe bears!' Sometimes they'll insist that they've seen outrageous creatures. But it's really meaningful to get kids out learning not only about where their food comes from, but just being more comfortable around insects, being out in a natural space, so we feel really lucky to be at the Arboretum."

On caring for plants during the shutdown:

"We're only able to go on the grounds once every couple days to water and to tend to other essential functions. We're not able to do a lot of the typical things we'd be doing at fall time. Fortunately, plants have that force of nature inside them, that's going to push through -- but we're glad that we get to be there to water, which is the most critical thing."

On what she'd say to congressional leaders:

"Think of the children! Also, the small moments... I think that's such a loss. All the small moments: The kids that's going to hold the worm and see the butterfly. There's a lot of meaning and a lot of impact from those small magical moments where they say, at the end of a field trip: 'I didn't know that food grew.'"


Steven's story was informed by WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories.
 For more information, click this link.

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