This article originally appeared the AnneArundelPatch earlier today.
Dirt is cold in March. The Harlem Shake is harder in a crab costume. A sycamore tree sapling is taller than a pin oak sapling. Those are just a few of the things you might have learned this past Saturday if you were Collin Kroh.
Kroh, a senior at Chesapeake High School, was one of about 20 student council representatives from several county schools who volunteered to plant trees at a farm in Gambrills. The effort was part of a growing collaboration between student councils around the state and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"Most of my friends Saturday morning are still sleeping, but my friends here and I did all this," said Kroh with a wave of his hand.
"This" was nearly 1,000 trees planted along Towsers Branch Creek where it runs in a gully through the Maryland Sunrise Farm. Those trees will help buffer the creek—stop nutrients from cow manure from washing into the creek, and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. A herd of black Angus cattle watched the crowd at work Saturday.
"It's like cleaning up my home," said Kroh, referring to the Chesapeake Bay.
And that's the type of realization the collaboration is meant to foster. Kroh lives on Bodkin Creek, a tidal creek in Pasadena. While his home is a 30-minute drive inland to Sunrise Farm, Kroh has realized that nutrients from inland sources make their way downstream and eventually to the Bay. Nutrients produce algae blooms which result in dead zones—low oxygen for aquatic life. And some types of nutrient pollution also carry bacteria which can make Bodkin Creek or any water body unsafe for swimming, or other recreation. So what happens on the land impacts the water which impacts each of us.
CBF and the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) started working together formally this past year. MASC is a student-run organization composed of high school and middle school students from throughout the state. Many MASC members have taken CBF field education courses through their schools. Leaders in the group recognized many more students would benefit from the learning and service opportunities offered by CBF. In turn, CBF recognized that a group of energetic, responsible youth could be great ambassadors for the Bay. The collaboration began.
Last year a core organizing group of MASC students took a trip to one of CBF's education centers on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Some also participated in a lobbying day at the Maryland General Assembly, learning how to advocate for strong Bay legislation. MASC chose CBF as its Charity of the Year for 2012.
Saturday's tree planting continued that collaboration, with the aim of providing a fun, hands-on learning experience, but also an opportunity to spread the news about Bay problems and solutions.
Sarah Lily, a senior at Chesapeake High School, said she had learned some things about the Bay in fifth grade at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center. But it wasn't until ninth grade that she learned more. Then last year, she attended the multi-day experience at the CBF education center in remote Dorchester County on the Shore, and learned by doing: investigating crabs, sea grass, menhaden and other aquatic life from the deck of a workboat, or canoe, or on a marsh "muck." The trip sparked two questions: How can I can keep learning about this stuff, and what more can we do? She e-mailed a CBF staff member who led the Dorchester trip, Jeff Rogge. A second trip was planned—to CBF's Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro. And then the lobbying event.
Now Lily says the focus is getting more students involved. So she Tweets about tree plantings, and other happenings, and solicits blogs from students. Kroh attempted a time-lapse video of Saturday's planting to post on YouTube.
And together with other organizers they planned a Harlem Shake video shoot after all the planting was done Saturday, with all 20 students participating, complete with crab costumes and other props.
"The interest is there for fun," Lily says. "I think showing kids that helping out is fun is important."
Students came from Chesapeake High School, South River High School, and Arundel Middle School. In addition, about 20 employees of the Allegis Group, an equal number of "alternative spring break" students from the University of Maryland, and others also volunteered at Saturday's planting. The event was also part of a plan devised by CBF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make Sunrise Farm more environmentally friendly. The farm is the largest organic farm in the state. The farmer also raises cattle. It is the former Naval Dairy Farm.
Maryland Communications Coordinator
Chesapeake Bay Foundation