When environmentalists Annette Mills and David Eckert moved to Falls Church 18 years ago, members of the George Mason High School Class of 2007 were barely in diapers. However, practically all senior class members could tell you who Mills and Eckert are and what they learned from the couple. So could children in all of the division's four public schools.
"My 4th grade son, Jeremiah, has participated in Operation EarthWatch since kindergarten, and joined the ecology club as soon as he was eligible," parent Carol Ann Siciliano wrote in a message to the school board. "His educational experience was immeasurably enriched by Dave's and Annette's work."
"Our children have both benefited greatly from Operation EarthWatch, the outdoor classrooms and the Earth Day programs," wrote parents Carol Sly and Steve Marshall. "Our family has enjoyed the city walks they've led, the concerts in the parks and have participated in the citywide clean-ups in honor of Earth Day."
More than 30 parents, students and community members sent the school board messages of support for naming the butterfly garden at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in honor of Mills and Eckert. They wanted a lasting tribute to Mills and Eckert's tireless efforts to educate children and enrich their lives.
"They were the driving force behind creation of the butterfly garden over 10 years ago, and have been the key caretakers of it since that time," parent Mia Musolino wrote. "As co-chair of the PTA Outdoor Classroom Committee, I see first hand the value that the TJ butterfly garden brings to the school. Just this past summer, GMHS student Rebecca Jackson completed a girl scout project incorporating the TJ butterfly garden into educational activities for summer day care students."
At its regular meeting last night, the school board made it official, and voted to name the resource "The Annette Mills and David Eckert Sculpture and Butterfly Garden." The official designation is among many school and community expressions of appreciation for the couple's civic work while living in Falls Church. The couple is moving to Oregon in mid-October.
In addition to creating the butterfly garden, Mills and Eckert led other educational opportunities such as the TJ Ecology Club, Operation EarthWatch, school Arbor Day ceremonies and programs, tree plantings, environmental field trips and school beautification projects. Recently, the couple helped students create a rain garden outside George Mason High School.