12:00 am - 3:30 pm
Staff Development Center, Walkersville Maryland
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.”
Interning at AFF
By Camryn Collette
For my high school senior project, I volunteered 21 hours with the Alice Ferguson Foundation in Accokeek, Maryland. For our senior projects, we each proposed one question through a social justice lens that we would then attempt to answer. My question was, “How can I help to work towards more natural, peaceful, and greener ways for humans to live, while taking in consideration all forms of life?” I worked with Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator for AFF’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, as well as, AFF’s Hard Bargain Farm educators. The facilities and land they have are beautiful; especially their newest building that is currently in the process of being certified as a Living Building, which is like nothing I have ever seen before. My favorite part of the Living Building was the solar panel roof and front deck made out of recycled plastic. One thing that makes AFF special is the amount of passion and enthusiasm the staff has. As Hannah says, they are a “small but mighty crew,” and she is absolutely right.
One of the many important things they do at AFF is educate younger kids from D.C., PG County, and other places in the metropolitan region about environmental issues, and how to make a difference towards saving the Earth in everyday life. Since the majority of these students live in the city, this program often connects them to nature for the first time. While I was on the farm, I learned lots of cool and useful facts and ways I can help work towards a more natural, peaceful, greener life for humans to live, and I am excited to share this knowledge with others. One of the many things I learned on the farm is how huge of a positive impact humans can make on the environment just by doing simple things, such as sorting trash from recyclables and picking up trash or recycling that has been littered.
Community comes together for 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup
Drawing from results collected on AFF’s Trash Network, nearly 10,000 volunteers collected 334,952 pounds of trash at 265 sites throughout the watershed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia.
“I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to do this year to clean up our watershed,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “As the largest regional event of its kind, the Cleanup provides a transforming experience that engages citizens and community leaders and generates momentum for change. I want to thank all of our partners and volunteers for their efforts and commitment to making the Potomac Watershed healthy, clean and trash-free.”
A wide range of litter was removed during the cleanup – including 16,116 plastic bags, 1,003 tires, 14,280 cigarettes, 11 bicycles, car parts and even a bowling ball.
The announcement comes during the first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, a joint effort by Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to draw national attention to the history and importance of the nation’s largest estuary. The Potomac is one of the largest rivers that flows into the Bay, and littering is a widespread problem in the area.
The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is one of many of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s programs designed to promote environmental sustainability in the region and connect people to the natural world. The Foundation’s Regional Litter Prevention Campaign empowers communities to “Take Control, Take Care of Your Trash,” and has reduced littering behavior by over 30 percent when comparing target areas before and after the campaign began in 2011.
“What you do every day matters more than what you do only once in a while,” said volunteer Keenan Williams from Charles County, MD.
Several hundred organizations and groups partner in the Cleanup each year, including Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia Watershed Society, C&O Canal Association, Charles County Public Works, City of Alexandria, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Fairfax County Government Center, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Joint Base Andrews, Montgomery County Parks and Planning, National Park Service, Prince George’s County, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Reston Association, Rock Creek Conservancy and Rock Creek Nature Center.