Written by Allyson Ladley Gibson, CBF Teacher Student Outreach Coordinator
Positive energy, pride, enthusiasm for conservation, and learning experience. These are the four items I would associate with the Thomas W. Pyle Middle School Chesapeake Extravaganza that I was fortunate enough to attend last week in Bethesda, MD. Every sixth grader at the school completed a student service learning project that had to do with the Chesapeake Bay. Whether they were picking up trash along a stream, creating a native plant garden, making a video or writing a book that they would use to teach first graders, the students put not only 10+ hours of their time into each project but also a little bit of themselves. I spoke with students and their families at the event and they all talked about how they really look at daily life with a trained eye now: Should I recycle that instead of throw it away? Does my lawn really need more fertilizer?
As one of three dignitaries who spoke to the crowd of over 400 students and their families, my experience at an evening dedicated to service learning and Bay education can only make me smile. The evening began with the U.S. color guard and the national anthem, a great opening element to represent the Bay’s national importance. Attorney General Doug Gansler spoke along with Jeff Lape, the head of the Chesapeake Bay Prorgram, myself, and one of the science teachers, who read a letter from Senator Barbara Mikulski.
At the close of the speeches portion of the night, we all said how impressive this event is…but how do we get other schools to do it too? Does the permission and spark come from the county education administrators? From the teachers? From the students? We determined that it’s a bit of everything, but the teachers would be able to most directly take it to other schools. I knew going into this event, now the third year in a row, that the teachers have participated in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Chesapeake Classrooms, our teacher professional development program. So I asked them if they would be interested in doing a workshop in partnership with CBF specifically about this event with the intention of sharing the creative process and the basic steps of how to execute such a HUGE and such a successfully wide-spread project. With the leadership of teachers like Margy Hall at Pyle Middle School, this fall could hold some exciting times for schools in the Bay watershed.
Thank you to the students and teachers at Pyle Middle School for all of your hard work and for asking me to celebrate with you. It is truly exciting to see the student leaders of our Bay’s future!