Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Education’

A Day in the Life of a Hard Bargain Farm 5th Grader

August 29th, 2018

By: Kayla David, Outreach Coordinator

For those of us to have walked the paths of Hard Bargain Farm, it is no wonder to us why Alice Ferguson first fell in love with these rolling hills, forests, meadows and wetlands. The land is so much more than dirt and rocks. Each student that comes to Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm walks in the footprints of the young adventurers who came before them. For many of those students, this trip is their very first outdoor experience – and what an experience it is! A day at Hard Bargain Farm is never the same twice, but it might look something like this:

Rising early, the students dress and make their way down a winding path towards the gleaming solar panels of the Cafritz Environmental Center where they eat breakfast, family-style. Once everyone is fed and watered, the students hit the trails that wind through the property.

Along the way, the students stop at a meadow to learn about the migration of local wildlife,  their adaptations, and the resilience of nature as they inspect a few milkweed seeds (or as we like to call them milkweed fairies), and blow them into the wind. Their next stop is at the swamp, where they use dip nets and buckets to dig down into the leaves and muck to discover the life there. Squeals of excitement are heard when they discover a crayfish hiding in the mud.

“If we want to examine it, someone has to pick it up and put it in this bucket,” explains the educator. Looks of disgust and fear cover the faces of the students. Finally, a nervous but determined little hand reaches forward and grabs the small crustacean. Joy erupts all around, and now each student is in line to prove they are just as brave.

Once the students finally reach the river, they gaze out across the water at Mt. Vernon and imagine what life would have been like before this land was developed, before pieces of plastic washed up daily onto the shoreline. In this moment, the students see with their own eyes both the rich cultural history of the area, and how their actions – at their school, in their community – might impact the world around them.

Then, out of nowhere, and osprey swoops down, catches a fish and carries it to a nearby tree to enjoy. The students gasp and exclaim in excitement. After watching the bird for a little longer, it’s time to head back. As the Hard Bargain Farm educator herds the students back on the trail, the most important words of the day are spoken.

A student exclaims, “Aw, I don’t want to leave.” 

Celebrating the Year of the Anacostia

January 17th, 2018
By Laura Cattell Noll, Program Manager, Trash Free Initiative

 

In the 60 years since our founding, we have seen firsthand the importance of the Anacostia River and, in particular, the educational, cultural, recreational and economic resources the waterfront offers to District residents. Earlier this month, the DC Mayor declared 2018 as the Year of the Anacostia to pay tribute to this incredible local resource.

Here are just a few reasons we’re so excited to celebrate the Year of the Anacostia:

The Anacostia waterfront provides District residents with unparalleled access to public lands in their own community. These riverfront public lands are on par with some of the best publicly accessible waterfronts in the world, including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Chicago’s lakefront parks. Since the 1970s, we have worked closely with the National Park Service, including Anacostia Park to encourage students and community members to visit our national public lands and discover nature in their own back yard. Green spaces are important to our communities and they bring real value to our lives.


The Anacostia river and waterfront provide an incredible opportunity for environmental and watershed education.
Learning is both more meaningful and more relevant when it happens in a student’s community. This year is also the 20th anniversary of our educational program, Bridging the Watershed, which brings more than 6,000 students per year out to their local parks. Through this program, hundreds of students visit Anacostia riverfront parks to engage in inquiry-based scientific field studies. The transformative experiences during these hands-on learning programs inspire our youth to utilize their local resources and engage with the environment in meaningful ways.

The Anacostia waterfront inspires community-based watershed stewardship.

As an important tributary of the Potomac River, the Anacostia watershed has long-been a focus of the Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup. Last year, more than 9,000 volunteers, removed more than 400,000 pounds of trash from the watershed. During our 30th cleanup later this April, volunteers will come together to host dozens of cleanup sites across the Anacostia River Watershed. We continue to be inspired by the unprecedented collaboration within the Anacostia watershed that includes thousands of volunteers and a diverse coalition of government, non-profit, business and community partners.

We are excited to celebrate, enjoy and honor the history of the Anacostia River and surrounding communities this year, and in the years to come.

Learn more about the Year of the Anacostia here.

Embracing the Living Building Challenge

November 19th, 2015

By Karen Jensen Miles

Sponsored by the United States Green Building Council, Greenbuild is the world’s largest conferenceLiving Building and expo dedicated to green building. The green building community gathers annually to share ideals and mutual passion. The conference features uplifting speakers, unparalled networking opportunities, showcases, LEED workshops and tours of green buildings in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Greenbuild offers a place for thousands to gather and renew their commitment to the green movement.

This year, Greenbuild is hosted by the National Capital Region chapter. The Alice Ferguson Foundation is honored to have been chosen as the site for two of the carefully vetted tours. On Monday, November 16th, we were the last stop on a day long tour entitled ‘River Ride Along the Watershed’, where attendees visited our new education campus that contains the region’s first ‘Living Building’. Attendees learned how this site embraces the principles of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), while also continuing their day of education about the perils threatening, and opportunities arising, for the area’s watershed. The presenters discussed the foundation’s mission and history and why it was important for our organization to embrace the LBC; an introduction to the LBC; and an overview of the building and the site’s water systems that included existing site conditions, project priorities, supply water, waste water and stormwater. Attendees also participated in an interactive, educational lesson called ‘Who Polluted the Potomac?’ that highlights the types of activities that all of us do that impacts our natural waterways. They also walked the site to see the ‘flow’ of water on the site.

On Friday, November 20th, a technical tour comprised of about 50 attendees and ten presenters will arrive at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center to learn about the Living Building Challenge (LBC) in the context of our project. There will be information about AFF as a whole; the project description and development to include: design process, charrette, construction process; rainwater and the site; water and energy; materials used; and LBC lessons learned. Our LBC project is being monitored carefully by the ‘green’ world of architects, engineers, planners, contractors and governmental agencies. We are very excited to be under the microscope since our experiences will aid others as they determine the various routes and responsibilities they want to undertake in the future.

Spring Fever at Hard Bargain Farm

April 17th, 2014

By Ann Bodling, Children’s Garden Associate

Annie and goatsYou know how it is, those first warm days of spring, when you feel you can tackle any adventure that comes to mind and no destination is deemed too far away. Our barnyard animals had just such a day, a couple of weeks ago and several Hard Bargain Farm staff spotted our cow, goats, barnyard rooster and turkey in unexpected places. As it was also a day of many students going through our barnyard gates, opportunities for escape were plentiful, and apparently, too good to pass up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt some point in the morning, Annie, our cow, and Dot and Dash, our goats, found an open portal to adventure and moseyed up the road leading from the barnyard to the Farmhouse. All ended well, as Eileen, our farm manager and Karen, our facilities manager escorted them back down the road and into the barnyard for a little while, at least. A few hours later, Dot and Dash discovered yet another unsecured gate and let themselves out for a bit of grazing, though they stayed near to home this time and reluctantly allowed themselves to be led back to where they belonged.

Wanderlust was not just a mammalian state of mind on that eventful day. Among the fowl who call Hard Bargain Farm home are a tom turkey who was raised among chickens and a wildish rooster who came to us from one of our naturalist’s flocks. Both must have been feeling the tug of springtime and, seemingly, both felt the urge to find our hens, housed a ways up the hill from the barnyard. Later in the day, I found the rooster looking quite at home in the one chicken yard that lacked a male, and the turkey strutting and gobbling outside all of the chicken yards, in turn.

Turkey and Rooster in Black Stars Yard 003When you attend Spring Farm Festival on May 3rd, you will find our turkey and rooster happily dwelling among the hens, rather than down in the barnyard where they once lived. You will also be able to visit with our cow and goats, as well as our sheep and lambs, donkey and geese down in the barnyard. As exciting as was our day of Spring Fever, we prefer to know the whereabouts of all our animal members. After all, they are family.

A Truly Meaningful Watershed Education Experience

March 31st, 2014

This Guest Post by Lynn Talbott, Fifth grade teacher, Hendley Elementary School, Washington DC, is written about her class’ experience during the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center’s 3 day two night Meaningful Watershed Education Experience sponsored by the District Department of the Environment

 

Within an hour of arriving at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, my nineteen students and I were seated in the common room, awaiting lunch. Several of my kids spied a stink bug under the bench and immediately screeched! My first thought? This is going to be a long three days. If my inner-city fifth graders were going to screech and holler over every critter they see…well…maybe we aren’t ready for this learning opportunity, I thought.

Fast forward to our last morning on the farm. We were split into two groups and were led through interactions with the farm animals. We fed the pigs and lambs and milked the dairy cow, Annie. One of our groups was mid-milking when Annie, how do I write it politely, needed to relieve herself. The students were unfazed. No screeches, no yelling, nothing. They kept on milking.

HandleyESDAY Dip NettingWhat happened in those three days that turned my stink bug squealers into professional cow poop handlers? Risks. Lots of risks. Risk taking is a commonly used term in my classroom community at Hendley Elementary School in southeast Washington DC. We are always taking risks by volunteering answers, sweating it out with a difficult math problem, helping another learning partner or asking for said help, taking social risks, and so on.

At Hard Bargain, my learning partners met challenges like passing each member of the group through a spider web without triggering a bell that was affixed to the top, sorting leftovers into trash, recyclables, and pig food, as well as exercising their knowledge about food webs, animal adaptations, and watersheds. They had to sleep in a bunk room with their peers and teachers. Some slept away from home for the first time. Many spent FAR more time outdoors than they are accustomed to spending. Bird watching, woods walking, and hill rolling are not on their dance cards in southeast DC. These are risks, careful and rewarding ones, but risks nonetheless.

Successfully taking risks, having open minds, and stepping outside their collective comfort zone turned my stink bug squealers into cow poop professionals. They learned that they could acquire content knowledge while enjoying new surroundings. They let down their pre-middleschool cool personas to trust their learning partners and leaders. I will add here that while our classroom community is relatively peaceful, arguments happen and tempers flare from time to time.

HendleyDSBoardWalkDisagreements seldom occurred while during our stay at Hard Bargain Farm; kids who do not typically interact did
so with ease. The interactive model set by our team leaders, the time spent outside, and approaching science content and team building in new ways brought out the very best in my learning partners.

In closing, I would highly recommend a stay at Hard Bargain Environmental Farm Center to any and all of my fellow DCPS educators. The time and effort spent pay off in spades. You and your students will be changed and more knowledgeable. I can hardly wait to be back on the farm with a new group of learning partners in 2015. I will be prepared for the stink bug squealing…and the valuable learning experiences.

It’s All Fun and Games and Learning

February 25th, 2014

By: Emily Drobenak, Schoolyards as Classrooms Project partner teacher at Accokeek Academy

In early February each year, there is a convergence of minds in Ocean City, MD from an endless arena of education outlets. This was the second year in which I had the good fortune to attend the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education conference through my school’s partnership with the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Schoolyards as Classrooms Project. Last year, I gained invaluable information from a number of mini-sessions from waste reduction to excellence in STEM teaching. This year, I was able to dive deeper with a half-day workshop titled “Learn to Play, Play to Learn.” This session addressed environmental education practically and socially. Our energetic and enthusiastic instructors put us right into the games to experience the learning activities hands on.

Teacher's InstituteI was surprised but delighted when so many of the initial activities turned out to be teambuilding exercises. We gained a level of comfort and were able to get the most out of our workshop once a comfortable classroom environment was established. Meanwhile, we were also subtly, but purposefully learning and talking about our natural environment. These activities were fun, felt like games, AND had the underlying purpose of teaching. One such game was called Bats and Moths. The class forms a cave by grasping hands while a student is blindfolded in the center as the bat. In a fantastically scientific rendition of a game similar to “Marco Polo” or “Sharks and Minnows,” the bat must call out to the moth, another student, who must echo the calls. A group of adults, who may have long forgotten the joys of playing, had a blast playing, and so would students. Meanwhile, they are experiencing an animal adaptation that will open the doors for further discussion and inquiry.

The session really brought to life for me how important playing can be when integrated with learning. The activities will get kids excited about their natural environment. If they enjoy learning about the world around them, they will want to protect it and secure it for the future. While it is already well past halfway through the year, I plan to incorporate these activities into my classroom and schoolyard activities. My students will soon be learning specifically about animal adaptations and “Bats and Moths” would be a great exploration of that. However, we will also be able to use the game Owls and Crows to explore other content areas while keeping our local environment in the forefront.

Our instructors referenced a book from the seventies, “New Games,” and nature educator Joseph Cornell as great resources to use playing to learn in environmental education. I encourage you to look into the resources for yourself and help your students learn to play and play to learn!

Three Days and Two Nights at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center

January 28th, 2014

By Brenda Wright, Hard Bargain Farm Education Center Coordinator

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”

John Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

 

My name is Brenda Wright and I have been a naturalist for the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center for the past 20 years. It is difficult for me to imagine that the kids I worked with back in 1994 are now adults with possibly their own children. I hope, if I had any impact on them at all, that they are sharing the world around them with the children who may be a part of their lives.

In these 20 years of teaching (and still ongoing) it never ceases to amaze me that there are 10-year old kids who, for whatever reason, have never had the opportunity to play in the woods. As a child I spent so much time in the woods exploring the natural world. My friends and I would spend whole days balancing on logs crossing the swamps and small creeks, looking at wild flowers and collecting as many different types of beautiful colored leaves as we could in the fall. Leaf rubbings were a favorite of mine.

I work with all ages of kids, but the 10-year olds generally spend the night, and for some this is not only the first time they will be walking through the woods but the first time they have spent a night away from home. During their stay at Hard Bargain Farm, many milestones are reached. Feeling the independence of being “on their own”, really getting to know their classmates and actually having the time to bond with other classmates that they may never have even taken the time to get to know before. It is an experience and transformation for many kids that will last a lifetime.

Last summer, the Alice Ferguson Foundation was fortunate to receive a grant from DDOE (DC Department of Environment). This organization has awarded many grants to the Foundation that made it possible for students in Washington, DC to visit the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. The latest grant differs in that they are funding the program for three days and two nights; this has been an amazing opportunity for the staff, students, and teachers. Having the extra day and evening with these students has been so rewarding. It gives us more time to help the kids to feel comfortable in the out of doors, being away from home, and bonding with their classmates. I hope it is a trend that will continue. These students have their campfire on the second night and during that time we ask them to reflect on their visit, and some of what they said was very touching and rewarding. Here are a few of the quotes: “I got to do things I never would have done”; “being in such a beautiful place”; “learn about birds, I did not know how amazing they were”; “I never thought I would stand next to a real goat”–and it goes on and on. I would like to end with a video of a teacher who was present on one of these trips.

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.

DSC_0239

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.

Don’t Litter Feed the Can, Man!

October 1st, 2013

By Everette Bradford, Community Outreach Liaison

This Summer, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) had the opportunity to work with approximately 275 youth, ages 6-12, at five Summer Playground Camps through Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. Each camper completed two sessions, a cleanup of their summer playground, and learned about the litter issues both in their neighborhoods and the Potomac River Watershed. The campers learned about some of the successes and also some of the challenges in working to create a behavior change when they were given a visual tour of the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign and shown some of the work implemented in the Trash Free Communities and Trash Free Schools projects.

Over the course of two weeks, campers were able to identify trash hotspots and determine how long it would take certain pieces of litter to either decompose or biodegrade through use of AFF’s “Trash Timeline” lesson and activity. Both campers and staff showed great fascination especially in learning that a plastic bottle could take nearly 450 years to decompose in the natural environment. Participants were also tasked and given insight on how to reduce litter through the items they pack for their lunches. Outside of learning how to pack a “Trash Free Lunch”, campers were given insight on buying in bulk, which will reduce packaging along with saving their parents money.

LitterPosterAlthough some of the campers admitted that they themselves were litterers and also knew litterers, they pledged to change their ways and even spread what they learned to friends and family. Participants were deemed honorary members of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and tasked to create ways in which they could positively impact the litter issues in their homes, schools, and communities.

If you would like to take control, take care of the trash in your community and be an honorary member or the Alice Ferguson Foundation, try the following:

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.