Pearson Benson, Christian Hodges, Devan Ogburn, Jessica Qiu, and Paul Hubner sort through their underwater survey finds aboard CBF's education vessel Jenny S. Photo by Jeff Rogge/CBF Staff
Discovering the Connection
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Prince George's County, Devan is exactly the kind of high schooler our student leadership program was designed to reach: leaders who have yet to discover their connection to this national treasure.
James Hemphill and other volunteers create "oyster castles" to create an oyster reef along the Lynnhaven River shoreline. Photo courtesy Virginia River Restoration
Student Leaders Showing Us the Way
Progress in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will not be sustained unless future generations understand the value of a healthy Chesapeake Bay and clean rivers and streams. Students like 16-year-ol James Hemphill already have that understanding and have been taking action for clean water for years.
"Teachers on the Bay" Course Celebrates 25th Year
It began with this organizing statement in 1989: "The Chesapeake Bay is a natural resource that needs a knowledgeable and caring public to restore its health and manage it wisely."
Teachers on the Bay. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF staff.
Teachers on the Bay. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF staff.
That year the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, St. Margaret's School, and Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) established a partnership to create and teach a two-week, on-water institute for K-12 teachers. The goal of the program was to create a practical, hands-on experience for teachers by providing a background of oceanography and estuarine science with a focus on curriculum design so that teachers could take what they learned in the class and apply it in their own schools using their own nearby resources—from creeks and marshes to the Bay itself. It was also something of an experiment as teachers began exploring new methods for using the Chesapeake Bay in and out of the classroom as a tool to teach science. Study progressed from basic investigation to more sophisticated analyses of the interrelationships that exist with the entire Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Teachers resided overnight at St. Margaret's School for the first seven days and ventured forth daily in their field investigations. The class concluded its work on Port Isobel, one of CBF's Island Education Centers.
The course was also created to engage the public in local Chesapeake Bay issues by garnering sustained public support and participation for cleaning up the Bay. Current issues and living resources management of the Bay were addressed beginning in its first year with a "Distinguished Speakers Bureau" series, where experts came to deliver cutting-edge research with the class in the evenings at St. Margaret's. The public was invited, the programs free and well attended, and this aspect (with associated local press stories) helped to build community acceptance and engagement of both the science of Bay restoration and its needs.
This summer 2013, Teachers on the Bay participants will continue to explore the biological, physical, chemical, and geological aspects of oceanography and their applications in the Chesapeake Bay region. But with it's place-based instructional model success, the program has evolved so teachers now learn how to develop and incorporate project-based instruction into their curriculum using Common Core Standards and Virginia's Standards of Learning. The teachers will still learn to utilize their own nearby resources while fully engaging their students in meaningful, authentic field investigations.
Teachers on the Bay was made possible initially through a generous grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Religious, Charitable, and Educational Fund. Later, support from the Virginia Environmental Endowment provided for and sustained the program for over six years. The program has been recognized with regional and national awards including the National Environmental Education Merit Award (1995) from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Soil and Water Conservation Society's Merit Award (2008), and both the Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula and Garden Club of the Northern Neck.
CBF Senior Educator for the Bay Bill Portlock designed and has directed the program since its inception. Many CBF Educators have taught this course with Portlock but two stand out: Yancy Powell and Jimmy Sollner will both teach this course with Portlock for their 13th consecutive year this summer.
Bill Portlock's Teachers on the Bay course is currently open and accepting registrations.
Photo by CBF Staff
Maryland Is the First State to Require Environmental Literacy
The Maryland State Board of Education now requires that each public school student be environmentally literate before he or she graduates from high school. The historic vote cements Maryland as the first state in the country to approve a graduation requirement in environmental literacy, a credit to Governor O'Malley, to board members, and to Dr. Nancy Grasmick, the former State Superintendent of Schools.
The state school board vote clarifies for schools that each child must receive a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education that meets the approval of the State Superintendent of Schools. Regulations given final approval by the board provide critical flexibility and oversight for school systems as they develop effective environmental literacy programs aligned with the Maryland State Environmental Literacy Standards.
While many exemplary environmental education programs already exist in some Maryland schools, not all students have access to these programs. That can occur when schools feel compelled to emphasize math and reading instruction over science and other subjects because of the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law. School districts must now move beyond standard courses that provide minimal focus on the environment. With programs that use an interdisciplinary approach, CBF's education programs are the ideal way for classes to get experience outside and to tie classroom lessons to real world situations. Whether the topic is STEM material, local literature, or even music, using the environment as an integrating context brings local issues to life and now directly helps students graduate.
Studies show environmental education has a measurable, positive impact on student achievement not only in science but in math, reading, and social studies. Business leaders also increasingly believe an environmentally literate workforce is critical in a burgeoning green economy. Field experiences and related activities, when part of the regular school curriculum in environmental education, also help students become healthier.
"This is a defining moment for education in Maryland," said Governor O'Malley. "By approving this environmental graduation requirement, the Board of Education is ensuring that our young people graduate with a keen understanding of and connection to the natural world. Only through exposure to nature and education about our fragile ecosystem can we create the next generation of stewards."
Teachers sift through underwater grasses on a recent professional development trip. Photo by CBF Staff
Virginia Beach, CBF Partner for Environmental Literacy
Through a unique public/private partnership, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system has a new systemic environmental literacy program with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) that could be a model for school systems across the Bay region and the country. The program includes public, private, and non-profit partners. It provides hands-on Chesapeake Bay field experiences and classroom activities for all 11,500 sixth-grade students, as well as professional development for more than 50 middle and high school biology and oceanography teachers.
During the 2012 summer season, CBF worked with three different groups of teachers and administrators from Virginia Beach Public Schools to get them outside, experiencing the environment so they feel comfortable using it as their classroom. The Lynnhaven River is the backyard for many Virginia Beach residents, yet many don't know the major issues surrounding its poor water quality. These professional development courses not only introduce basic environmental concepts but also show teachers how the material naturally pairs with the Virginia Standards of Learning…and can be fun!
Any class is encouraged to join CBF on the water for field experiences with their students. The systemic environmental literacy program is designed to integrate environmental concepts with a multi-disciplinary approach so that all students find out more about taking action to save the Bay.
The partnership is funded by a $120,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office, a $55,000 commitment from CSX Transportation, and a $12,700 grant from the Junior Virginia Beach Garden Club. Other partners are the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Lynnhaven River NOW, First Landing State Park, the Elizabeth River Project, and Oyster Reef Keepers of Virginia.