• Introduction to the Schmidt Center


    A reflection on the genesis, development and chronological evolution of the Environmental Education Program and the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center



    In the early 1950’s staff from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) attended a workshop in Pennsylvania.  As a result of this workshop the seed was planted for the development of a program for our students.

    In 1958 the first workshop for Prince George’s County Public School teachers was held at Camp Letts, a YMCA facility in Anne Arundel County.

    In 1959 a committee consisting of Miss Eunice Burdette, Miss Ada Mae Warrington and Dr. Howard B. Owens was formed to institute a formal program in Outdoor Education for PGCPS.


    The first PGCPS sponsored outdoor education program began.  The program included sixteen (16) elementary schools.  Camp Letts was selected as the site for the program.  Each school selected a sixth grade class to attend the “outdoor education school” for a weeklong experience.

    In early 1965 William S. Schmidt, Superintendent of Schools, directed the standing committee to expand, find solutions to any problems encountered and address any curricula concerns.

    The most important event occurred on April 27, 1965 when the Board of Education unanimously passed Resolution 204-65 authorizing negotiations to acquire property for the development of a PGCPS outdoor education center.

    Board of Education Resolution 590-65 passed on August 13, 1965 directed the Superintendent to implement the comprehensive outdoor education plan proposed by the commissioned Nature Study Division of the National Audubon Society.  This comprehensive plan guided the development of what eventually became the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center.

    In order to accommodate the growing number of schools wanting to participate in the program the weeklong program was modified to a two-day experience.

    In 1969 the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s “Hard Bargain Farm” was added as an additional site for the PGCPS outdoor education program. 


    It was in the 1970’s that the most dramatic changes took place in the outdoor education program.

    The Federal Environmental Education Act (public law 91-516; 20 U.S.C. 1531-1536) was enacted in 1970.

    December 14, 1971 the Board of Education directed the Superintendent to:

    1. Proceed promptly to implement the 12 recommendations received from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), through Resolution 1970-15, directing schools to develop a comprehensive program in Environmental Education.
    2. The Superintendent shall consider the 12 recommendations as minimum requirements for the program.
    3. That those programs heretofore known as Conservation Education and Outdoor Education shall now and hereafter be called Environmental Education.

    In 1971 the first students arrived at the Center.  Students and teachers were housed in pup tents.  Conditions were very rustic.  Water was brought in by tractor and wagon and facilities were portable.  Four rustic cabins were constructed by students from Cross land High School and added to the site.

    January 1972 the Board of Education approved the educational specifications for the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center.  In the same year funds were received from MSDE to construct the Educational components of the Center.  Prince George’s County would provide the funds for constructing the dormitories. 

    In 1973 nine temporary classroom structures were placed at the Center.  They were used along with platform tents to house students and teachers.

    Construction stalled during the high inflationary 70’s.  The integration of PGCPS further stalled the construction of the Center.

    In 1975 PGCPS concluded its use of Camp Letts, but continued its relationship with the Alice Ferguson Foundation (Hard Bargain Farm).

    In 1979 Orme Elementary School closed and was incorporated as part of the Center.  At the same time approval was received to construct the new facilities; which were completed in 1981.