Accokeek, MD – The Alice Ferguson Foundation held a ribbon cutting ceremony on December 16 to unveil its new education pavilion and celebrate the conclusion of the Potomac Watershed Study Center capital improvement project.
Maryland State Delegate Kris Valderrama, Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Executive Director Dr. Monica Goldson, and other dignitaries were in attendance to offer remarks and show support of the nearly decade-long construction.
“The vision for this project began with our educators and the desire to have a living sustainable study campus that would allow students and the community to understand and appreciate the natural world and find joy in nature,” said Theresa Cullen, Executive Director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
Construction on the Potomac Watershed Study Center began in March 2014 and was completed in November 2022. The Center includes a brand-new education pavilion, living building, an ADA accessible wetlands boardwalk, two overnight sleeping cabins and features a rain garden, bioswale, demonstration cisterns, native plants, and interpretive signs.
The Foundation has a long working history with Prince George’s County, committing to work alongside the County to support environmental initiatives.
“I am really excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Andrea Crooms, Director of Environment for Prince George’s County. “It’s exciting that there are organizations like the Alice Ferguson Foundation in our own backyard who demonstrate the best management practices for stormwater runoff can be beautiful and work in harmony with the natural environment.”
The pavilion will be a gathering place for school groups, community residents, businesses, and organizations for outdoor educational programming, reinforcing the Foundation’s commitment to “nature as a classroom”.
“I am continuously amazed at the work of the Alice Ferguson Foundation,” said Delegate Kris Valderamma. “Programs beyond the classroom that activate hands-on learning outdoors and promote careers in science are critical experiences for all of our students here in Prince George’s County, and elsewhere.”
The Alice Ferguson Foundation and Prince George’s County Public Schools have had an ongoing partnership since the 1960’s to deliver day and overnight programs to local school children and professional development for teachers.
“For many years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has been a valued collaborative partner for Prince George’s County Public Schools and the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center,” said Dr. Monica Goldson, Chief Executive Officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools. “The Foundation has helped us ensure every last one of our fifth graders have the opportunity to have an overnight environmental experience.”
The pavilion was dedicated to honor the long-time contribution and support from Shirley and Frank Nicolai, generous volunteers and Board Emeriti of the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
“Naming this pavilion after the Nicolai’s is a fitting honor, but it also tells a broader story about what we do,” said Stephen Kim, Board President of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “What started as a single visit to the Hard Bargain Farm evolved into a long term dedication to this organization.”
For many years to come, the Shirley and Frank Nicolai Education Pavilion will help connect children to the natural beauty that Southern Maryland and the Potomac watershed have to offer.
“Originally we thought we were going to help fund a classroom but this open pavilion is really so much better for children to be outside,” said Shirley Nicolai, generous volunteer and Board Emeriti of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. “When the children come here they learn how to live gently on the land and that their actions have an impact on the environment, which is so crucial for their futures.”
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. For nearly 70 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. Learn more at fergusonfoundation.org.