Week 2: Kingman and Heritage Islands Park


Living Classrooms mission: Living Classrooms Foundation strengthens communities and inspires young people to achieve their potential through hands-on education and job training, using urban, natural, and maritime resources as “living classrooms.”

Living Classrooms is the foundation that manages Kingman and Heritage Islands Park and that is transforming the park into a site for environmental education that will include a LEED platinum certified nature center and a 9/11 memorial grove. These features do not exist now, as the park is a work in progress.

Outdoor classroom on Kingman Island

Outdoor classroom on Kingman Island

What is here? There are outdoor classrooms that consist of circles of rocks or benches where people can sit, a small pavilion, a vegetable garden planted by kids, and nature trails on both Kingman Island and its smaller counterpart Heritage Island. One end of Kingman Island is studded with birdhouses that were mostly toppled, presumably due to Hurricane Sandy.

On the park’s Flickr and Facebook pages, viewers can see pictures of the outdoor education that takes place: children holding up large leaves, digging in the garden, painting a sign for the garden’s gate, and climbing a mobile climbing wall. For individual visitors like me, there was not much in the way of exhibits or interpretation, but the park’s website emphasizes all the things one can do on the islands in their current state. These activities include hiking (and hiking with dogs), picnicking at one of the picnic tables, and watching and photographing wildlife. Plans for the park include interpretive markers that will enhance the experience for informal visitors.

The garden is behind the pavilion on Kingman Island

The garden is behind the pavilion on Kingman Island

The island park is a “work-in-progress” because its planned layout and facilities are not yet complete. It is also part of efforts of work in progress toward a clean and healthy Anacostia River.

These two man-made islands, located in the Anacostia River just east of RFK Stadium, have been the suggested site of several ideas over the years: recreation center, airport, prison, amusement park, stadium parking. What actually transpired was that the islands became dumping grounds. In this century, efforts to clean up and transform the islands have gotten off the ground, with Living Classrooms gaining management of the park in 2007. Litter cleanup and invasive species removal events happen often here, giving folks an opportunity to help restore the islands and the health of the river.

It will be exciting to return to the islands when the nature center and memorial grove are complete.

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November’s blog theme is Museums Versus the Problems of the World.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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