Archive for the ‘Trash Free Schools’ Category

Teacher Institute and Trainings of Summer 2016

September 13th, 2016

Teacher Institute and Trainings 2016
This summer 70 teachers from across the region received environmental education training from the Alice Ferguson Foundation education team in a variety of exciting locations, everywhere from the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial to a pontoon boat on Jug Bay to our very own working farm on the shore of the Potomac River. For many of our teachers turned students, these were opportunities to move from their comfort zone to their “challenge zone”, learning new ways to teach hands on science.

During our two week Teacher Institute with Prince George’s County teachers, staff from across AFF came to speak to our teachers on all of the exciting ways they could bring environmental concepts to life in the classroom. Julia Saintz from our Trash Initiative spoke to the teachers about creating Trash Free Schools and Trash Free Classrooms. Staff from the education team demonstrated multiple ways to teach watershed concepts, first using simple classroom tools and eventually moving outside to teach concepts that could easily be covered on a school’s parking lot or playground. Local experts gave tours of recycling, compost, and waste water treatment facilities that affect the daily lives of these teachers and the students they teach. Farm staff shared their expertise about gardening, soils and other topics that could be shared in the school setting. By the end of the Institute, the teachers became experts in field work, doing water quality testing and making assessments that they could do with their students.

Teachers who were nervous about being outdoors started with hands-on learning of simple lesson plans that could be used in the schoolyard, and over the course of two weeks were empowered to touch benthic macro invertebrates (creek critters), observe wild osprey, as well as kayak and canoe on the river. It was an exciting transformation for the teachers and for the staff who had the privilege of working with them.

With the Bridging the Watershed Teacher Trainings, local teachers met at National Parks to participate in student modules to learn to assess water quality through chemical testing, macro invertebrate sampling, invasive plant identification, and trash studies. They learned about the detrimental effects of human impacts, including marine debris and polluted runoff on drinking water and marine species. Teachers learned ways to bring these studies back to the classroom curriculum and prepare their students for outdoor learning experiences.

The most important part of all AFF education programs is to empower students with ways to have positive human impact on the environment. AFF hopes to model effective teaching on environmental issues by approaching people in their comfort zone and challenging them to learn more, teach more, and get more hands on.

One of our teachers wrote after the institute, “Our knowledge of how we are impacting our planet, and ways to apply science to solve and investigate real world issues was increased tremendously. . . My experience at Hard Bargain Farm was truly special and will inform my instruction and attitude for the years to come.”

AFF’s Newest Trash Free School: in their own words

January 27th, 2015

Guest blog post by Maurice Collier-Shabazz and the rest of the Green Team at Phyllis E. Williams Elementary School

Phyllis E. Williams Elementary SchoolGoing Green…
This school year Phyllis E. Williams Elementary School decided to participate in the Maryland Green School Project and Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (AFF) Trash Free School Project. These projects help us focus and take action on a few community-wide issues. These issues include recycling, solid waste reduction, water conservation/pollution prevention, energy conservation and habitat restoration. The school saw a community need and decided to create an action plan to help combat what was deemed to be an environmental problem.

The first step in our going green process has been to set up a successful recycling program as well as participating in the Trash Free School Project. Our students and parents have stepped up to the challenge to sign the Trash Free Lunch pledge, which takes place on Thursdays. Our focus in going green is to lower our waste as a school and focusing on the 3 R’s- Rethink, Reduce and Reuse.

The students of Phyllis E. Williams have taken the lead in the creation of the Going Green initiative. The after-school program led the initiative to start the recycling program by managing the disposal of all recyclables collected during the school day. The Student Government and Honor Society are supporting our green movement by creating posters to reinforce the schools message regarding the recycling and trash free programs.

Phyllis E. Williams is currently partnering with the Alice Ferguson Foundation and MAEOE (Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education) to assist our school to become a certified Green School within the next year or so. Looking ahead, Phyllis E. Williams will have a Green School Kick Off Celebration that will include representatives from Pepco, WSSC (Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission), and AFF to address the importance of energy conservation and maintaining a trash-free watershed.

For more information on Trash Free Schools click here.
For more information on Maryland Green Schools click here.

And the Winner Is… Walker Mill Middle School

December 13th, 2013

By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison

Walker Mill Middle School officially adopted the Trash Free Schools project in the fall of the 2012-2013 school year, which gave momentum for the school to create a green team to tackle various environmental issues around the school including recycling and reducing waste.  Sidney Bailey, the founder of Walker Mill’s Green Team and claims that it was the motivation of the students and their will to recycle more that led him to join the Trash Free Schools project and create the green team.  Since its inception, the Green Team has been a rapidly growing entity at Walker Mill, where the students and teachers drive environmental stewardship and education through the hallways of the school.

Even though Mr. Bailey is no longer at Walker Mill Middle School, the project by no means is suffering. This year’s Green Team Leader, Mrs. Keisha Bennaugh is heading up the project and taking it in the right direction. The Green Team has doubled in size this past year and now has more than 100 students and multiple teachers. The students will continue recruit new members and teachers until they reach the goal of having school-wide participation in their efforts.

To help with their recruitment efforts, Mrs. Bennaugh brings her eclectic and artsy vibe to enhance the “green-movement” at the school. Students on the Green Team have worked with Mrs. Bennaugh to put fashionable flair on their Green Team attire,  which they are allowed to wear outside on their uniforms on Fridays. She also worked with the students to  create a large “green” mural in the schools media center. Along with encouraging creativity, the Green Team faculty also  challenge the students to take responsibility and work on professionalism and hospitality skills as they work to haul the schools recyclables from the school’s classrooms and offices.


The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director, Lori Arguelles, addresses the Green Team during the ceremony.

In addition to the great work that is taking place in the school, on November 15, 2013, the Green Team was awarded with their $1000 Grand Prize for winning the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Litter Prevention Video Contest. The school hosted a small ceremony in the media center that included guest speaker such as;Lori Arguelles, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation; Mayor Kito James, Town of Capitol Heights; Sidney Bailey, former Green Team Leader and Vice Principal at Center City PCS; and Angela Angle, Policy Aide, Office of Prince Georges County Council Member Derrick L. Davis. Walker Mill Middle School was also presented with Certificates of Appreciation from the Town of Capitol Heights and County Council Member Derrick L. Davis.

The Green Team will utilize their prize money to research and retrofit the school with plants that will improve the indoor air quality. The students also have a desire to procure more recycling bins for classrooms and the hallways and begin greening and planting exercises on the schools exterior. Other future projects for the Green Team include creating a central meeting location for the Green Team, joining in on the Anacostia River Restoration Project efforts, and looking to host a trash free carnival. In the meantime, the Green Team will begin planning activities for the annual Potomac River Watershed School-Yard Cleanup and continually seek more funding sources to complete their projects.

Overcoming Obstacles at Burrville Elementary

August 12th, 2013

By Everette Bradford

On Thursday, June 6, 2013, roughly 350 students at Burrville Elementary School in Washington, DC worked to complete a schoolyard cleanup. Although April was cleanup month, this cleanup was especially important to me because this has been a very challenging year for the Trash Free Schools Project at Burrville Elementary.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Burrville Elementary School signed the Trash Free Schools Pledge to become a Trash Free School. The 4th and 5th grade students were very motivated to engulf upon actions to improve the quality of the school and the surrounding Deanwood neighborhoods in Washington, DC. In many regards, the students were successful and earned an above average grade on their Trash Free Schools Report Card for the work they completed in their first year of the Trash Free Schools project. Here at AFF, we thought that the momentum would carry over into the 2012-2013 school year; however, it did not. The school was restructured and the Green Team leaders from the previous year left the school.

IMG_0521[1]Suddenly the world had come to an end! After some discussion with Mrs. Roper, Burrville’s Principal, we learned that she really liked the project and was pleased with the educational opportunities afforded to the students through their participation.  Mrs. Roper gathered another group of teachers to take control of the project and I soon learned that the new Green Team Leaders were Pre-K and 1st grade teachers.

In many of our Trash Free elementary schools, we work with 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade teachers to get school-wide buy-in from a ‘top down’ approach. With Burrville Elementary the situation does not met the normal measure, which makes this school unique. This school will work to ensure the entire school is brought into the Trash Free Schools Project from a ‘bottom up’ approach with the Pre-K and 1st grade teachers leading the project.  At Burrville Elementary, we will reach students from the time they are three years of age until they are ten years of age. This opportunity will serve as a pilot to cultivate future environmental stewards and expose them to the dynamics of leading environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles at such young ages. The 1st grade students are well on their way, as they have already managed to cultivate plots of land that they have used for growing fresh vegetable and herbs!

I am very optimistic that this year’s Green Team will carry over into next school year and that they will have the tools necessary to tackle the trash problems in the Deanwood neighborhood. Students and teachers alike are already looking forward to various projects next year which include:

  • Expanding the Green Team to include more teachers and parent participants;
  • Creating a school wide composting plan;
  • And expanding the school’s vegetable and herb garden.

Celebrating Watershed Heroes

July 10th, 2013

[Note: This week we are joining author Jennifer Chambers, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Blue Water Baltimore, in a blog tour to celebrate watershed heroes and the launch of Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle]

During Scout the Water Bottle’s journey in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, written by the educator, Jennifer Chambers, he learns about all the ways in which litter negatively impacts our environment as well as how each individual can make a positive difference. With the mission to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy, we at the Alice Ferguson Foundation hope to take the students, teachers, and community members we serve on a similar journey where awareness will lead to action to protect our environment.

TFS 3 We are able to serve the community through three core programs: Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, which provides outdoor-based experiences for appreciation,awareness, and lifelong stewardship of our natural environment for PreK – 8th grade students; the Bridging the Watershed program, which provides personally meaningful, educational experiences that connect high school students to their place in the natural world; and the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, which seeks to create a lasting reduction of litter in the Potomac Watershed.

photo 2Our Trash Free Schools Project bridges our three core programs as it works to educate and empower students, teachers, and staff to reduce their school’s waste footprint by providing education and resources. As part of the project, students and staff at K-12 schools are provided with the resources needed to investigate and take action on an environmental issue by implementing a strong waste reduction and litter prevention strategy. Get your school involved at

We have recently revitalized the website, guidebook, and resource center for the Trash Free Schools Project to make sure that we can share the most up to date resources and opportunities with our schools. The Resource Center is designed to serve as the hub for perspective and enrolled schools to find activities, lesson plans, how-to guides, and other tools to help them organize, educate, and take action on trash. It allows us share curriculum plans to teachers while also providing them with service learning opportunities to complement them.

high resolution book coverAs we continue to look for useful resources and tools for our schools, we are always excited when we find a creative way to teach about the harmful nature of litter in our watershed. Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle fits the bill by painting the story of the journey of a water bottle from a Maryland storm drain to the Atlantic Ocean, through clever storytelling and compelling pictures. The book also provides tips to reduce plastic usage as well as other resources for students and teachers who are driven to action. We are happy to spread the word about this great resource and hope like Scout the Water Bottle, readers of this book will go on a journey of discovery and take action to preserve our watershed.

Growing Watershed Heroes in our Youth

July 9th, 2013

[Note: This week we are joining author Jennifer Chambers, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Blue Water Baltimore, in a blog tour to celebrate watershed heroes and the launch of Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle]

Guest post by Jennifer Chambers, Hiking Along, LLC.

Eight years ago the idea for Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle was born from a lesson that I developed for a Montgomery Housing Partnership afterschool program in the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring. The afternoon’s lesson was dedicated to teaching about the life of litter. Students first engaged in a group trash timeline activity to guess the longevity of different types of litter. Then with an oversized map and individual ones of the Anacostia watershed, we mapped and developed a story of a juice box from the point of littering to the Potomac River. What animals would it meet along its float? How would the juice box impact the life and homes of those animals?

A few days later when reflecting upon the lesson, I realized it would make a great children’s story. The idea for the book was born. Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle tells the story of a water bottle’s journey in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Atlantic Ocean. Upon reaching a storm drain, the personified water bottle travels the streams and rivers of Washington, D.C., meeting animals along its ride. Each animal—from the water strider to the loggerhead turtle—teaches the water bottle about itself, its origins, its journey, and those of other pollutants in the watershed. Alima is the five-year old water bottle’s heroine; making us all believe we can be one too.

Books are an excellent tool to bring issues alive and help children understand the relevancy it has to their own lives and the world around them, whether local or global. Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle allows kids to learn how litter and other pollutants impact the health of animals that make their home in streams, rivers and oceans. I hope kids will use the knowledge gained from this book to develop a relationship with their own stream in their backyard and to act upon their own stewardship to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, creating a generation of watershed heroes.

In a recent blog post by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, he stated, “ …to care deeply about pollution or species, you have to love nature; you must experience it early and often. From this perspective, all conservation is local.” Many local organizations are doing this, connecting kids with their local streams and rivers to foster a new generation of watershed heroes in our region’s youth. This week’s blog tour highlights three organizations that are doing this successfully.

Blue Water Baltimore’s mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities.”

“The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s mission is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy.”

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust is the only nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to sparking on-the-ground change for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in Maryland. Our goal is to increase stewardship through grant programs, special initiatives, and partnerships that support environmental education, demonstration-based restoration, and community engagement activities.”

During this week’s blog tour, each organization uses the theme in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle and profiles their own program that is successfully facilitating youth ownership and stewardship of the region’s streams and rivers and engaging them to reduce the amount of litter in the Bay watershed. These three organizations are doing amazing work to connect children to nature and grow watershed heroes amongst our youth that will ultimately help the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to be thriving ecosystems.

Potomac Communities Work to Become Trash Free

June 20th, 2013

By Laura Chamberlin, Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

TFSPosterMakingTrash Free Community. Seems like an idyllic phrase, that might never be achieved, but in fact each day communities right here in the Potomac Watershed are working to achieve this goal. The efforts communities are taking to end litter are wide-ranging, but the common thread among the efforts is the use of small, creative steps to reach their goal.

Schools are the centers of many communities. With 17 Trash Free Schools there are quite a few success stories to share, such as the story of Walker Mill Elementary School, near Capital Heights, MD, where the school and community have really embraced the spirit of being trash free. Mayor Kito James has encouraged his town’s schools to partner with AFF, as well as look for ways to bring other community members into the effort. This school’s amazing Student Green Team (with over 50 members!) produced their own litter prevention posters, created field day activities using the trash from their lockers, and conducted schoolyard cleanup and beautification activities.  With this inspirational school in the lead, the other schools and the rest of the community will not be far behind.

Campaign Poaster At busstopNearby, in the Branch Avenue corridor of Prince George’s County, businesses are taking the lead for community improvement. Under an initiative led Branch Avenue in Bloom, there is a movement to create a business corridor that attracts people and supports the local economy. Part of this project includes partnership with AFF to cleanup up of vacant lots and trash hotspots. Sam’s Car Wash, one of the businesses in this corridor, has taken the extra step to display litter prevention banners on their property and provide a bus stop with a trash can, and have seen an immediate reduction in the litter in this area. Stretching their creativity, AFF worked with Sam’s Car Wash distribute reusable bags with litter facts to their customers, helping to reach people in their vehicles, a common place for littering to occur.

It is difficult to reach out to all the communities, schools, and businesses in the watershed, so when a community group from the other side of the river, Woodbridge Potomac Communities Civic Association (WPCCA) in Woodbridge, Virginia, responded to a Call to Action for more Trash Free Communities we were excited to collaborate. Working with WPCCA, who has also brought in Keep Prince William Beautiful and the Prince William County Police, AFF has provided the organizations with the online toolkit and a starter set of posters, as well as conducted presentations and reached out to support from the local governmental agencies. Currently WPCCA is working to get a Litter Prevention PSA aired on the 7pm News Show on Radio Valida (920 AM), a Spanish radio station in Woodbridge.  Leveraging their local connections with AFF’s toolkit, WPCCA is well poised to create a Trash Free Community which will display materials, conduct litter prevention activities, and spark change.

Feeling inspired? Ready to move beyond cleanups? Please contact us at [email protected] to find out more about how your neighborhood or town can become a Trash Free Community.


Everyone Appreciates Re-thinkers, Think Humanity

June 5th, 2013

By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison

TFS 3On Earth Day, April 22, 2013 more than 300 students at Forest Heights Elementary School took part in the 2nd Annual Potomac Cleanup and Earth day extravaganza. Students from Pre-k – 6th grade worked alongside each other to remove unsightly litter and debris from the school grounds and the local Oxon Run Creek. The day kicked off with students pledging to rethink. The school was covered in litter-prevention posters that highlighted the school’s motto and acronym for EARTH: Everyone Appreciates Re-thinkers, Think Humanity.

Mrs. Stephanie Jackson-Hinton serves as the school’s Green Team leader. She worked weeks prior to the event with the school’s Principal and faculty to schedule times for each class to come outside and participate. Each class had a one hour time slot to collect as many recyclables and litter as possible. The day was both educational and fun; students noted and discussed the harmful impacts of litter on Oxon Run Creek and their communities, and worked in teams competing in a school wide competition.

TFS1Before each class received their cleanup supplies, they were given safety instruction and quizzed and given safety instruction. Each class had to identify the types of materials that could be recycled or trashed. After the quizzing period, students were then tasked with breaking down into smaller teams. The teams consisted of those who would carry bags and those that would serve as the pickers. Students in Pre k- 2nd grade worked frantically to clean the schools play areas, including the front lawn, basketball courts, football field, playground, and jungle gym. They were even spotted taking a few minutes for early recess. Students in 3rd- 5th grade were tasked with cleaning the Oxon Run Creek and trail that runs behind the schools. The 6th graders ventured to the Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm to work alongside Park Rangers to complete water quality tests and litter pick-ups.

TFS2The older students were asked to sign additional permission slips and bring in extra clothing which allowed them to get into the water. The students worked to pull corroded materials from the creek bed. Students were eager to get into the creek because they were under the impression that the stream was dead and that conditions were so bad that no wildlife could inhabit the area. Students were amazed to see scores of tadpoles and even what appeared to be a large bass as the cleared the debris.

Students collected roughly 600lbs of trash including a tire, a motorcycle, three shopping carts, two vacuum cleaners, and a slew of other scrap metals and pvc piping. After students completed cleanup activities they enjoyed the clean school yard and held Trash Free picnic lunches. Future projects include gardening and planting and a Professional Development movie viewing of “Bag It” for faculty.

Fungus Among Us: Discover the new Trash Free Schools Resource Center

May 24th, 2013

HBF_rottingLog_noReleaseNecessaryOne of my favorite memories from 5th grade science class is “Fungus Among Us.” “Fungus Among Us” was an experiment where each student got two zip-lock bags, put several different types of trash in each one, and placed them in two different environments. I placed mine in a dark cupboard and the other on the counter, though other students put theirs in the window, in the fridge, and other out-of-the-way places. Over the next several months we periodically checked on the bags and took observations as they began to grow all sorts of fascinating things. At the end of the quarter we took stock of what decomposed and what did not. I remember staring at the glass marbles in my bags and yelling, probably a bit too loud, “Wow – they look brand new!” It really got me thinking about what I threw away, because where is away? Some things simply take forever to decompose like glass and the plastic zip-lock bags we used.

TFSWebsite (2)It is these kinds of experiences that the Trash Free Schools Project works to provide students with in our new online Resource Center. The Resource Center is designed to serve as the hub for perspective and enrolled schools to find activities, lesson plans, how-to guides, and other tools to help them organize, educate, and take action on trash. It allows us share curriculum plans such as newer versions of “Fungus Among Us” to teachers while also providing them with service learning opportunities to complement them. As a middle schooler, I would have been so excited to put my new-found knowledge to use with a compost bin or a school-wide recycling program.

So take a peek at our new and improved Trash Free School website and explore our Resource Center. While some of the resources are restricted to participating schools, there is still a lot of great information available to download like our new Guidebook. Please let us know if you would like to become a Trash Free School. Once you have signed up you will gain access to the full set of resources. If you are interested in volunteering, we are also looking for mentors to support our current schools in their efforts to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

FeedingThePigs_HBFAs these cool spring weekends come to a close, I invite you to try “Fungus Among Us” for yourself. Don’t forget to do it in a well-ventilated place and take a closer look with a magnifying glass if you can. You can even document your progress in the comment section below with notes and photos of your experiment. You never know what you might discover or what kind of inspiration it will ignite.

Enter Video Contest for a Chance to Win $1,000

May 2nd, 2013

By Lina Scott, Communications Intern

Are You Ready to Be the Next Watershed Celebrity?

We can’t wait to see the submissions for our contest, but we also know it can be hard to plan a video. If you’re still looking for ideas, you may find it helpful to check out some PSAs from the past that have dealt with litter prevention.

PSAs, or public service announcements, have been used widely throughout the past century in both print and video format. They were heavily used during World War I and II to promote support for the war effort. Since then, they have been used to promote all kinds of messages that are considered beneficial for the public. They have played a key role in the modern environmental movement, especially in the many anti-litter campaigns.

Please enjoy this selection of PSAs from the past 50 years. They demonstrate the huge variety of styles and techniques that you can use in your own video, and they also give us a fun glimpse into different eras. How will your video represent 2013, and how do you think the messaging will change in the future?

Donald Duck’s “The Litterbug” – 1961
This short film isn’t a PSA, but I like it and think it’s worth seeing. It has lovely old animation and a very catchy tune, and ends with the singing animals typical of Disney. I like the framing of the Litterbug as a pest, though the producers’ opinion of DDT and other chemical pesticides is rather dated!

Susan Spotless – 1960s
This is a cute video that looks at litter from a very specific social perspective – that of the idealized mid-century American family. Preventing litter is about national pride and about maintaining the countryside for families’ recreational use, ideas that still resonate today, though within a different social context.

Crying Indian – 1971
This is one of the most famous litter prevention PSAs, and it was launched in 1971 on the second Earth Day. The dramatic music and the visual of the canoe moving through a pollution-coated city had a large impact in the 70s.

Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute – 1980s
This one seems a little strange to me, but that might be due to the use of a big owl costume, when today we would normally see special effects or animation. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder that there are ways to make a fun video while on a limited budget.

Don’t Mess with Texas – 2000s
The Don’t Mess with Texas campaign has been running since 1985, and has produced a number of PSAs. This one from 2000 features Texan star Matthew McConaughey. It received limited air time due to “violence” but I think it’s fun to see an environmental campaign incorporating some modern Hollywood flair.

More recently produced, this PSA’s use of a Texas Confederate Air Force bomber takes an even more aggressive stance against litter. It definitely succeeds in getting your attention!

Storm Water Sam – 2012
Lastly, here is our very own video about littering. An animated PSA, it shows that you can make a meaningful video without finding any actors.

Are you ready to get started? Hopefully these videos have given you some ideas, and shown how much variety there can be even when sharing the same kind of message.

Good luck!