Creating The Ultimate Environmental Education Classroom

As students return to their classrooms this fall, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is readying its own new state-of-the-art environmental education campus, unlike any other in the world! When we made the commitment to the Living Building Challenge© nearly a decade ago, we had no idea what the journey would hold. Today, we stand ready to share the first phase of that journey with students from throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

This week, students will begin learning not only how to use a net-zero energy and water building, but also what it takes to construct it in a carbon neutral way with non-toxic materials. As they explore the first of our two-building environmental education campus, they will learn of the building’s role in the campus ecosystem.

Code named ‘Grass,’ for its location in a sunny field, this first building’s ‘job’ in the educational campus ecosystem is to gather solar energy to power the building. Combined with geothermal wells along with walls and a roof designed to be a three-fold energy efficiency improvement over the average building, this first part of the Potomac Watershed Study Center (PWSC) represents a light year leap ahead of the current best practices in construction.

Complementing the Grass building are two sleeping cabins along with a special boardwalk/nature trail through an emergent wetland on the Foundation’s 330-acre working farm that serves as the backdrop for our environmental education endeavors. Welcoming students to these new facilities this fall is a fitting capstone to the celebration of our 60th year of operation. We will be officially cutting the ribbon on the new facility in early October. Soon thereafter, we look forward to beginning Phase Two of the project, which will include replacement of our current overnight lodge that has served students for nearly half a century.