Environmental Education Programs Go Virtual For 2020-21 School Year

August 22nd, 2020

Accokeek MD – This school year, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is engaging schools and students in science-based learning through its virtual field trips and online academic programs. 

“Though our gates are closed to school visits, we are doing our part to bring science and nature to life for students across DC, Maryland and Virginia,” said Theresa Cullen, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “Supporting teachers during this virtual transition and continuing to provide quality environmental and STEM-based experiences is of the utmost importance to our team.” 

 

While executing nine exciting weeks of virtual summer camp, educators spent the summer creating lesson plans and piloting online versions of our programs in our newly designed virtual studio space for the upcoming school year. Virtual programs can include a visit to our barnyard, discovering the macroinvertebrates found in our rivers and streams, or observing birds up close. 

Virtual programs include a variety of activities ranging from 30-minute lessons to 3-hour block interactive learning activities which are all closely aligned with learning standards to provide the most value to teachers and students. 

To learn more about Alice Ferguson Foundation’s program offerings, visit fergusonfoundation.org/virtual-programs/

For more than 65 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has shared the wonder and excitement of outdoor hands-on learning with students and residents of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC. Located on 330 acres of working farmland, emergent wetlands, and the longest, freshwater Living Shoreline in the nation, the staff and educators of Alice Ferguson Foundation have provided transformative environmental education experiences for nearly half a million area students since 1954. Alice Ferguson Foundation’s team of educators are a critical provider of equitable access to learning that builds environmental literacy skills and connects over 8,000 students to the wonders of their local watershed, and their role in stewarding it. Learn more at fergusonfoundation.org.

Environmental Education Programs Pause Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

March 25th, 2020

Accokeek MD – In light of the recent developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and school closings, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has suspended all education programs and events until further notice. 

“Our community faces historic challenges with the growing COVID-19 pandemic. To do our part, we are cancelling all of our upcoming events and keeping the health and safety of our community, staff, and students a priority,” said Theresa Cullen, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “Amid the stress and uncertainty, it’s never been more critical to support each other and reduce transmission. Our thoughts are with all those impacted, as well as those caring for others.”

Cancelled programs include:

  • All Spring educational programming, impacting more than 5,600 students.
  • The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, cancelling more than 265 cleanup events in April
  • All special events through May, including Pinot on the Potomac, Spring Farm Festival and all meetings and workshops

 

The Alice Ferguson Foundation will be referring to local health authorities, school officials and Center for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance on when it is reasonable and safe to resume and reschedule programs and events.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation relies heavily on grant funding we receive from serving the more than 8,000 school children who participate in our programs each year to experience the wonder and excitement of being in the out-of-doors. The income the Alice Ferguson Foundation receives from these trips pays for our educators and support staff and for the upkeep of our property and buildings. With schools being cancelled, it means that the students are not able to experience all that is magical here, and that the Foundation’s regular funding sources – which provide funds to pay educators and support staff, and for the upkeep of the property and buildings – are on hold.

People continue to ask how they can help the Alice Ferguson Foundation during these uncertain times. To ensure our gates remain open in the future, visit www.fergusonfoundation.org/support.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy.  Learn more at fergusonfoundation.org.

Bridging The Watershed: Teacher Workshop

08/11/2020 - 08/13/2020
9:30 am - 4:00 pm Bridging The Watershed: Teacher Workshop

4 Quotes for Environmental Educators to Live By

July 25th, 2018

By: Christina Morgal, Communications Intern

Did you know that every year we help local teachers bring the wonder of the outdoors into their classrooms? Our summer workshops bring teachers out to their local parks to prepare for and experience the Bridging The Watershed activities their students will do in the upcoming school year. After taking this summer training, teachers are confident and ready to dive into the hands-on science learning activities with their classes, both inside and outside the classroom.

Recently, I shadowed a group of teachers from Charles County Public Schools as they explored renewable energy, litter prevention, and sustainability activities with our Bridging The Watershed educators.

 

As we learned about pollution in local waterways, I overheard these four awesome quotes:

 “Small changes lead to bigger changes.”

Sustainability will not be achieved in a day. But, if everyone makes one change in their own lives, then we would all make a big stride to save our waterways!

Program educators highlighted the ways we help each class do an action plan or project they can implement in their own lives or schools based on what they learn during their experience with us. These actions often include small changes students can make in their daily lives, such as getting a recycling bin for their home or asking their parents to use reusable shopping bags. An action plan can also include writing a letter to their principal about how they could be a “greener” school.

Small changes like these definitely add up.

“You’re not the one that caused it, but you can be the one to change it.”

The environment is not picky about who helps protect it! Although you may not have been the person to throw trash in the river, you can choose to join the fight against pollution and take action by volunteering for cleanups, educating others about sustainability, or implementing changes in your workplace, school, or home.

 

 

“We don’t see what we don’t look for.”

Have you ever looked at a plastic straw and thought about it might end up once you throw it away? Turns out, plastic straws can’t be recycled or composted, so they often end up in landfills, waterways, and communities…and are one of the top ten items found during cleanups!

During the day’s pollution cleanup activity, we collected more than thirteen bags of trash from the Potomac River shoreline in just 45 minutes, which included more than 250 plastic straws. Once you see how these everyday items end up as litter, it’s hard to walk anywhere without spotting that discarded plastic straw, bottle cap, food container, or empty bottle.

 

“Buy green and reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

This old adage still rings true! The three R’s mantra continues to be one of the easiest sustainability practices to implement, with three small changes that anyone can make in their daily lives:

  • Reduce the amount of waste that we produce
  • Reuse items in creative ways
  • Recycle items that can be harmful to our environment

After spending just one day with this great group of teachers, I know that the lessons they’ve learned today will go back with them to the classroom and help inspire the next generation of environmental champions. Here’s to these four overheard and unassuming ideas can help change the world for the better.

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.

World Renowned Explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau meets with Students from Maryland’s First Ocean Guardian School to “Talk Trash”

April 26th, 2017

The National Mall, Washington, DC – World renowned explorer, environmentalist, film producer and educator Jean-Michel Cousteau met with a class of Ocean Guardians from North Point High School and their award-winning teacher Lolita Kiorpes at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Together, they delved into the sources and impacts of trash in our communities and on our waterways. The event, which came just a few days after International Earth Day, was a part of Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Bridging The Watershed initiative, a program to inspire personal connections with the natural world, lifelong civic engagement, and environmental stewardship through hands-on curriculum-based outdoor studies in national parks and public lands.

Cousteau2

 

The group of twenty students from Charles County used the Foundation’s Talking Trash activities as the frame for their interactive class with Cousteau, who shared his own experience with trash and marine debris from a global perspective. Students investigated the amount of time it takes for trash to decompose and the impact of trash and runoff on the nation’s waterways through the interactive Trash Timeline and Who Polluted the Potomac activities, then finished the day by assisting park rangers by picking up trash.

Cousteau1

 

In 2016, Kiorpes and her students were the first National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Guardian School in Maryland. An initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Sanctuaries, the Ocean Guardian programs encourage students to explore their natural surroundings to form a sense of personal connection to the ocean and the watersheds in which they live.

 

The Alice Ferguson Foundation
The Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy. Bridging The Watershed is one of the Foundation’s three flagship programs that partners with the National Park Service and area schools, to promote student learning, personal connections with the natural world, lifelong civic engagement, and environmental stewardship through hands-on curriculum-based outdoor studies in national parks and public lands.

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.”

Virginia Student from St. Stephens and St. Agnes High School Studies at HBF

June 23rd, 2016

Interning at AFF
By Camryn Collette

Teresa in the children's garden. Photo by Camryn ColletteFor 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.

Living Building at Hard Bargain Farm.  Photo by Camryn Collette

 

Alice Ferguson Foundation Hosts Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for New Environmental Education Building

October 29th, 2015

By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES  [email protected]
October 29, 2015

 

Imagine a futuristic building that can work in harmony like species in an ecosystem and mimic the beauty, resourcefulness and efficiency of nature’s surroundings.
It incorporates net zero energy, net zero water, carbon neutral and nontoxic materials into its construction. The building is so innovative in environmental design that it can generate hot water with its solar thermal panels, reduce the need for artificial lighting, heating and cooling, eliminate the need for toilet flushing and can even divert solid waste from the landfill to recycle and reuse streams. It also is one of only seven buildings in the world designed to meet the the most stringent set of green-building standards ever created in modern-day history.

Now click your heels three times and say “there’s no place like AFF.”

Since its founding more than 60 years ago, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has been dedicated to educating visitors of all ages about the natural world, inspiring them to recognize their role in protecting it and seeking innovative ways to solve environmental challenges, according to an information booklet.
“The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been a premier provider of transformative, experiential, environmental education programs for students in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” Lori Arguelles, the foundation’s executive director, said. “Over the past six decades, we’ve served nearly half a million students. …Our mission is to connect people to nature, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed and we do that through education, advocacy and stewardship.”
When the time came to renovate and refresh its educational campus, the Foundation honored its mission by regenerating, not depleting, the environment through state-of-the-art green design and construction.

The foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm broke new ground Oct. 23 in Accokeek with the unveiling of its new Environmental Education Building, a living structure that not only demonstrates a strong bridge between the natural and built environments, but also the sustainable use of natural resources and the science, technology, engineering and math concepts embodied therein.

“Our guiding principles have been education, inspiration and innovation, all three of which are exemplified in the building we are here to unveil today,” Arguelles said. “A building [that] embraces the Living Building Challenge which is the most rigorous set of energy efficiency green-building standards in the world today.”

Now that construction of the education building has finished, the foundation has to meet the Living Building Challenge’s criteria for net zero energy and water goals for one year.

Once the foundation is given the green light for certification, it will become the eighth leader in the world in providing advanced education programs, specifically in the area of long-term environmental sustainability.

“As you’ll soon learn, it’s more than just a building; it is our newest teaching tool,” said Dan Jackson, president of the board of directors at the foundation. “As an environmental engineer by training, I’m excited about how the workforce of the future will benefit from the STEM based education opportunities so abundant in this building.
… I know that the innovation we exemplify is going to change the face of construction forever.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he couldn’t be happier about the positivity the education building will bring for thousands of Marylanders, especially the residents of Prince George’s County.

“The Alice Ferguson Foundation has made such a positive difference in our environment and the legacies that we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren,” Cardin said. “For 60 years [and] 500,000 children, this is an incredible record. … This is team Maryland and we’re proud of what we do every day. … What we’re doing here at the [Foundation] is a model for what we do in Maryland and around the nation.”

For Cardin, the building is not just a national model, but a living example of the relationship between the built environment and the natural world.
“This is a building that will be positive on carbon emissions which means it actually subtracts carbon from our environment,” said Cardin. “It’s going to be totally friendly on the use of water [and] is a living example for the students that come through here. This center has been here for 60 years. It is an incredibly valuable part of our educational system.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said the project is a dream come true for the county.
“Here you have these very bright kids going around this nature, going around this farm, understanding how science, math and art all come together in the beauty of this facility,” said Baker (D). “We really are blessed in this county. … We’re making great progress in this county. We’re going in the right direction. … But the thing that we want to make sure [of] is the quality of [our children’s] education; that is what this stands for. … It’s to bring our young people here and get them to understand that history is alive, that science is alive, that art is alive and it’s right here in this facility.”

For other county leaders like Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin, he is grateful for the project’s vision toward a green and sustainable future.
“Today’s really a celebration of innovation,” said Franklin (D). “This is one of seven living buildings in the entire world. … So we should celebrate this achievement for what it means not just for the county, not just for the region, but for the world. We have the obligation to be the stewards of God’s earth [and] what God has blessed us with. To imagine that we can do so in a way that helps foster development is truly incredible. … This really is about opening minds so that we have students coming from Tokyo, South Korea [and] England coming right here to the Hard Bargain Farm because they know that we’re bringing the world to Prince George’s County and we’re bringing innovation for the rest of the world in terms of the environment. … With innovation like this, the best is yet to come.”
Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) said innovative projects like the Environmental Education Building promotes the importance of protecting the environment, a lesson that will carry on to students and future generations of environmental stewards.

“The net zero water and energy goals embodied in this living building help us all to reflect back on a time when we lived closer to the land and better understood the rhythms of nature,” Muse said. “We humans are but one species in a complex ecosystem interdependent on others and yet often we can be thoughtless and careless about our actions and their consequences. The thought-provoking lessons that the students learn here will now be taken to an entirely new level as they examine water, waste and energy through the lens of the foundation’s newest teaching tool.”

Online article

Bringing Solar Power to One of the Most Environmentally-Friendly Buildings in the World

October 14th, 2015

Read the article: Bringing Solar Power to One of the Most Environmentally-Friendly Buildings in the World