Tis The Season To Be Trash Free

December 14th, 2020

Written By Krupa Patel,
Trash Free Schools Coordinator

It’s said that 25 percent more trash is thrown away during the holiday months. My family and I make every effort to be trash free, especially during the holidays. From excessive wrapping paper and extra food waste, our communities and landfills are overflowing. I challenge you to make your holidays as trash free as possible. Here’s some little changes you can try that make a big difference…

  • Safely share homemade goodies by using reusable containers
  • Save cardboard boxes and plastic free packaging throughout the year so you’re all set when it’s time to wrap gifts. (I have requested family that if they have me for Secret Santa, that the gift be plastic free.)
  • Find alternatives to wrapping paper. Use items like fabric scraps, reusable canvas bags, newspaper, or even a basket.

 

  • Support small businesses. You’re buying directly from the business and saving the extra plastic packaging that would normally be used to ship. You can find a lot of small businesses that share environmental missions as you do. (I have found artisans that don’t use plastic in their product and packaging, i.e. ceramic earrings, soaps wrapped in cardboard, body lotion in aluminum or glass jars, etc.)
  • Buy experiences. Take a unique class together, purchase a membership, or begin planning a trip to a special place…safely of course. Give the gift of memories. (I even enjoy getting gift cards to yoga classes, because I wouldn’t want to buy for myself.)

 

There are many alternatives to make your holiday a trash free one, you just have to think outside of the box. Wishing you a safe and very Happy Trash-Free Holiday season!

 

Craft Time With Nature Nuts

December 1st, 2020

Take a look at some of the artistic pieces made by our Nature Nuts participants this past fall!

Nature Nuts Craft Examples

Woodland/Fairy Houses 

Children take a nature hike to collect natural materials found along the trails or shorelines to construct their own woodland/fairy houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Garden Scarecrow

As a team, children work together to build a scarecrow for our Children’s Garden. They stuff the arms and legs of old clothing with hay from the farm and add their creatives touches to the shirt and make the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf Crowns

While on a walk in the woods, kids collect the fallen leaves to make their leaf crowns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Feeder using pine cones

Children collect pine cones, cover with peanut butter and roll them in bird seed, and attach a string so it can be hung for the birds to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other crafts include Leaf Critters, Decorated Pumpkins, Turkey Creation using natural materials, Rainsticks and Luminaries.

More craft activities to come in Spring 2021.

We’re Thankful for Creepy Critters

November 16th, 2020

Spooky season may be gone, but creepy critters remain in our waterways…and that’s great! Small critters who live in the water and don’t have a backbone (our students know them as “macroinvertebrates”) are a very important part of our aquatic habitats. Plus, they can help us figure out the water quality of our streams and rivers. 

 

At Hard Bargain Farm, it’s not an unusual sight to see kids marching down a trail, wearing rubber boots and carrying nets and hand-held microscopes. They’re on their way to catch macroinvertebrates to investigate water quality!

Macroinvertebrates are a great clue about the health of our waterways. Some of these “creepy critters” don’t mind polluted waters, while others are extremely sensitive and can’t survive in streams with stormwater pollution such as runoff from farmlands, streets, neighborhoods, and factories. When things like fertilizers, pesticides, trash, oil, gas, and animal waste get in the water, some of the small aquatic animals are perfectly fine…and others aren’t. You can tell how clean or polluted the water is based on which small aquatic critters you find.

So this November, we’re thankful to these fascinating little creatures for testing the waters for us. And for the way kids shriek in surprise and delight as they discover these critters in the water, identify their names, and learn about the huge impacts people and pollution can have on our streams and rivers…and the small creatures that live in them.

Want to see how we collect and identify macroinvertebrates to test water quality? Check out our investigation of Accokeek Creek in this cool video: Is Your Stream Clean?

5 Things I Learned as an Alice Ferguson Foundation Intern

February 5th, 2019

By: Bryana Ellis

 

When I first got the news that I would be an intern for an organization in the town I grew up in, I was ecstatic. In 5th grade, I remember going to another farm for our big environmental science field trip, so I had only heard stories of Hard Bargain Farm from my older siblings and their friends. Growing up, visiting Piscataway Park had always been a fun and relaxing way to spend leisure time, but I did not know a lot about the area. Little did I know that my first internship that pertained to my major would open my eyes to so much.

Learning More About My Home

My first day was unlike any I’ve ever had before. After the casual meet-and-greet with coworkers, I was given the excellent opportunity to tour and learn so much about the history and legacy of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, Piscataway Park, and the Moyaone Reserve community. The most exciting part was my first interactive experience with seeing and feeding farm animals. Being raised in Accokeek, I discovered the trails and hidden ways of my neighborhood; it was hugely refreshing to see what was down these narrow dirt paths and hilly pastures. Not only did the beautiful view of the Potomac River await, but also a space full of history, heritage and a love of the environment.

Sustainability Isn’t Simple

Immersing myself with the culture of the Alice Ferguson Foundation wasn’t hard. My day might include drinking well water, making sure to separating regular trash from compost and recycling when throwing things again and more. Small daily tasks like that showed me how very simple, yet complex keeping our environment clean is. When I did research or draft content for social media, the statistics about good and harmful environmental factors are genuinely alarming. Reading and learning that 340,000 pounds of trash have been cleaned from your local communities in just one month is something to be elated over but educating yourself on how not to let the trash reaccumulate is even more important. My time at the Alice Ferguson Foundation has made me more aware of the products I use or the activities I partake in.

Social Media is Beyond Powerful

In a world where we are always on our phones, texting, tweeting, liking, or subscribing, the use of social networks can sometimes feel natural and innate. In my time creating newsletter, tweets, campaigns, and other post led me to honestly see how difficult the position of a social media content coordinator can be. The use of certain words, colors, or images has a ton to do with engagement and analytics. With each task, I felt myself growing more aware and deft with my work. Creating content for the Alice Ferguson Foundation has taught me the importance of staying true to the mission and being authentic. It is possible to care about the environment and reach the masses appropriately!

Places are Being Built to Save the World

When we think about construction and labor, we think about the daunting issues of pollution and emissions. During my time with the Alice Ferguson Foundation, I was given the opportunity to do research on the Living Building Challenge and learn more about centers across the globe that are built to be environmentally beneficial and support sustainability. The Foundation’s own Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center is a Living Building certified educational center. This information about these places are fascinating along with how they manage water use, generate power from solar panels, or have net zero energy is remarkable. Seeing technology and innovation thrive while supporting the environment is excellent!

Small Can Be Mighty

The staff size at the Alice Ferguson Foundation is not very big. Some days I would come in, and it would be very quiet, some days it would be bustling with non-ending phone calls and people walking up and down the stairs. Whether the attendance was three or thirty, I was always greeted with smiling faces of hardworking people. Their embrace has made me excel as an intern and provided me with the right tools to succeed after the internship ended. Their affable personalities made it easy for me to learn and be inspired about the world around me.

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.”