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Founded in 1954, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) operates Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center and provides field studies to more than 10,000 students annually. More than half of their students come from low-income schools characterized by a high proportion of at-risk youth and a high rate of teacher turnover. In partnership with the National Park Service, AFF also provides Bridging the Watershed, an off-site program for high school students in area national parks. Last year, 7,500 secondary school students from the capital region visited national parks with their science classes to conduct field studies. The trips give students an authentic experience that allows them to take measurements and make field observations just as a scientist would do.
Every day, the AFF staff helps impact the lives of children through environmental education. Many kids who visit their facilities have never stepped foot outside of the city. AFF teaches them about their natural environment as well how to be stewards and take care of our environment. Additionally, recycling, composting, and taking care of a farm and its animals are all part of the students' learning experience. AFF truly provides a unique experience for District children. Imagine the look on a child's face as they touch a real live cow or chicken for the first time - AFF calls that "green shock!" Within a matter of hours, that look softens into appreciation, wonder and excitement. AFF's mission is "to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming, and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed, leading to personal environmental responsibility." Their staff is dedicated to serving children, their management is devoted to providing a solid organization with a values-based approach to daily operations, and their volunteers serve in any capacity they can. Words cannot describe the daily effort and enthusiasm displayed by the AFF staff, especially when teaching their children.
In addition, AFF has more than 20 years of experience coordinating the annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup. Since 1989, the Cleanup has rallied over 90,000 volunteers and has become a decisive catalyst for progress igniting people throughout the watershed with the AFF's community spirit. The largest regional event of its kind, the Cleanup provides a transforming experience that engages citizens and community leaders and generates momentum for change. In 2005, after 16 years of cleanups, the AFF Board, staff, and partners recognized that trash cleanups were not addressing the root cause and the sources of waterborne debris, and a systemic approach to this problem was required. In response, AFF launched the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative with the goal of achieving a "Trash Free Potomac Watershed by 2013!" AFF's objectives are to challenge regional leaders to work collaboratively; to bring together key stakeholders to research and explore alternative, innovative, and cost-effective solutions that will have long term impact; and to improve general public education and awareness that can shift individual behaviors.