Posts Tagged ‘trash free schools’

2016 in Review: What’s going on in the Trash World?

January 24th, 2017
by Julia Saintz, Community Outreach Coordinator

 

At the beginning of a new year, we pause to reflect on recent successes of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative.  This past year was filled with proud moments for environmental educators, litter fanatics, and volunteers in action.

Keeping the conversation going

A little over a decade ago, we launched a multi-jurisdictional, region-wide conversation about the issue of trash with the first ever Trash Summit. As a result, more than 100 officials signed a treaty pledging their commitment to the issue.  Spring 2016 saw the 10th annual trash summit, Transforming Communities, which convened nearly 200 community members and representatives to talk about the issue of trash in the region’s waterways and what can be done about it. In the fall, just a little over a decade after the first Trash Treaty was signed, officials from the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County came together to renew their commitment with the Anacostia River Accord. 

Officials at table shake hands after signing the Anacostia Accord.

 

Inspired by our volunteers

Each April, we celebrate Earth Month with an enormous region-wide cleanup effort. In 2016, our team helped organize more than 9,400 volunteers for the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup who removed more than 330,000 pounds of trash at 265 sites! Volunteers from across four states and the District of Columbia came out to clean up their neighborhoods, roads, parks, and waterways. Even after three decades of organizing this event, the passion and community commitment to our environment and waterways continues to inspire.

Group of kids in bright yellow vests roll a discarded tire out of the woods and towards a road.

 

Youth and leadership

This summer, we also launched the Watershed Leadership Program, which teaches young people about the watershed, the importance of proper waste management and how to lead a successful watershed cleanup. The program engaged youth from the Student Conservation Association and the Green Zone Environmental Program of the Department of Energy and the Environment in the District of Columbia. This program joins initiatives like Trash Free Schools and Trash Free Classrooms in working to engage the next generation and give them the tools to make a green difference in their community.

Three children sit on playground fence holding bright yellow trash bags.

 

Keep an eye out for more in 2017:

  • In 2016, we continued to refine our litter prevention campaign with brand new social marketing research to help us better reach millennials and Spanish-speakers. What did we find? Messaging focused on healthy communities and drinking water was most effective with those groups. Based on these results, our campaign has been updated and will be unveiled soon!
  • The Alice Ferguson Foundation is excited to partner with Rock Creek Conservancy for a three-year project to create a D.C. Adopt a Stream Program.
  • If you live in DC, you’ll be seeing more of us. This year, our Litter Prevention team will be working in all 8 wards of DC!
  • Keep an eye out for our 11th Annual Trash Summit, coming this autumn.
  • As of January 1, 2017, the District of Columbia joins Prince George’s County in implementing a Foam Ban, requiring food service packaging to be made from recyclable or compostable materials only. This is great news; Styrofoam is one of the most toxic and least degradable plastics out there. Be ready to support upcoming legislation on Foam Bans in other jurisdictions! 

 

Ready to dive into 2017 with us? Sign up for our mailing list to stay on top upcoming events, cleanups, and happenings.

 

 

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:

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.