Watershed Voice
Winter 2012
Beyond Books

High Schoolers Teach Preschoolers about the Bay

By Phillip McKnight, CBF Staff

Save the Bay project at Little Bulldogs Preschool. Photo by Philip McKnight
Photo courtesy of Philip McKnight/CBF Staff.

Students at Southern High School in Anne Arundel County have an unusual project. They are using a giant brackish water aquarium filled with oysters, blenny fish, and a blue crab named Chester to teach preschoolers about the Chesapeake Bay.

The high schoolers are enrolled in an Early Childhood Development Class, and as part of their learning experience, they are running a daycare for preschoolers. Says teacher Fran Freeberg, "everything we teach in preschool will be about the Bay."

The high schoolers wrote the Bay-focused curriculum for the Little Bulldogs Child Development Center based on these questions: "What lives in the Bay? What has happened to the Bay's health? What can we do about it?" The students use the aquarium as well as posters to show the children the effects of nutrient pollution and the importance of oyster reef habitat. Even the letters of the alphabet have a Bay theme. The preschoolers learn B is for Bay!

Freeberg started the program after attending a Chesapeake Bay Foundation Chesapeake Classrooms Professional Development workshop led by educator/captain Dave Gelenter. Fran recalls, "I walked into CBF's Oyster Restoration Center and saw the aquarium and the layers of life living in it." The oyster restoration staff had filled two containers with Bay water, one with oysters and one without. Freeberg reports that the "visual impact of watching oysters filter the water" was the moment that inspired her to start an oyster project of her own. Today Freeberg uses a similar experiment in her classroom. She holds up a plastic bottle filled with murky brown Bay water and compares it to the crystal clear aquarium water that the oysters have filtered.

Freeberg created the Bay aquarium for the daycare center with the help of her high school students and with guidance from CBF's Dan Johannes. One of Freeberg's students, Dalton Leonard, was particularly knowledgeable about aquariums. "Dalton knew aquariums, and I taught him about the Chesapeake," Freeberg says. She hopes to keep the momentum going by taking field trips, creating rain gardens, and continuing to direct the energy of her high school students towards educating others about the Chesapeake Bay. Freeberg concludes, "Our students are connected to the Chesapeake. They like it, and it's their world."

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