CBF educator Eric Weigandt shows students a catfish. Photo by CBF StaffCBF educator Eric Weigandt introduces students to a denizen of the Bay during a field experience. Photo by CBF Staff.

Urbanna Oysters and Education Partnership Thriving

Since the late 1990s, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Virginia education program has been involved with the Urbanna Oyster Festival. A partnership between CBF and the Festival's Marine Science Legacy Program (MSLP) began in Urbanna under a tent during the Festival's Education Day. We had a booth with aquariums and crabs for all the students to see and handle. Thanks to a great partnership and community support, the program has continued to grow.

Since 2007, we have been fortunate to provide environmental educational experiences on Urbanna Creek and the Rappahannock River, most recently aboard our education vessel, Bea Hayman Clark. Through the help of the MSLP we are able to provide field investigations for Middlesex County and Christchurch School students.

Vera England, previous Marine Science Legacy Coordinator, said the program makes students "really excited about learning" and that the hands-on experience makes a big difference in the classroom. "It's not just something in a textbook anymore," she explained, "it is something that they have touched and seen." (From Southside Sentinel Newspaper Website, Urbanna, Va. October 20, 2010)

These field experiences are matched to the Virginia Standards of Learning and meet the criteria for a "meaningful watershed educational experience" (PDF, 0.45 MB, 2pgs) as set by the Chesapeake 2000 agreement and Chesapeake Bay Program. During the field investigations, students learn about the history, culture, and ecology of Urbanna Creek and the Rappahannock River. Students discover their watershed address, how their actions impact water quality and its effect on local watermen communities, and what they can do at home to make a difference. Activities include towing a trawl net, fishing crab pots, and dredging for oysters to learn about ecosystems and biodiversity in the river.

These experiences expose many students to the water for the very first time. The teachers are able to teach about their local river since the experiences are coordinated with their curriculum in the classroom. It is CBF's goal that environmental education will inspire the next generation to "Save the Bay™."

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