Fox Island Magic

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As Arthur Sherwood, one of CBF's founding members and first executive director, said: "The place to teach people about the Bay is on it and in it." Now in its 40th year, our education program has been doing just that, providing students and teachers with meaningful outdoor experiences on the Bay and its rivers and streams. And our Fox Island Education Center is no exception.

Fox Island is part of a string of salt water marshes surrounded by the Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds of Chesapeake Bay and is the ideal place to investigate how the Bay's health depends on its watershed of 64,000 square miles, 17 million people, and six state governments and the District of Columbia. The lodge was constructed in 1929 by the Fox Island Rod and Gun Club for recreational fishing and hunting. After many years of hunting and fishing, the group decided to donate the lodge to CBF. 

At Fox, we want to inspire current and future generations of environmental stewards. Even after 40 years, each field experience is completely unique, and this season has been filled with some amazing moments. Veritas School (an independent school in Richmond, Virginia) started our season off with a bang by breaking in the lodge and being the first school to join our "Conservation Challenge Hall of Fame"! This distinguished award is given to those groups that meet or exceed our conservation challenges in water usage, energy conservation, species identification, and S.L.O.P. (Stuff Left On Plate). Because of its unique elements, if Fox Island students use 3 gallons of water or less each, have less than three strikes in energy baseball (a race to shut off lights), identify at least 50 Chesapeake species, and have no S.L.O.P. after each meal, then they are true conservationists and are inducted into our "Hall of Fame." When students take these conservation practices home, they send out a wave of responsible resource use that influences their family, friends, and community.

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One of Veritas' favorite field investigations was exploring the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and the critters that inhabit this environment. Using a crab scrape, a tool used by watermen for centuries that includes a metal frame and net that extends roughly 5 feet, we scraped the grass beds underneath the Walter Ridder, CBF's 40-foot, jet-drive field investigation boat, for about two minutes and dumped our catch onto the engine box. Sixteen students crowded around the Ridder’s engine box, sifting through the grasses, on the prowl for life. A habitat that provides food and protection for many types of animals, underwater grasses harbor large critters like terrapins, blue crabs, and fish, along with small mud crabs, amphipods, and shrimp.

As natural filters of pollutants and sediment, Bay grasses are incredible indicators of the health of the Bay. As students explore these grasses and the species that rely on them, with their hands and using books and dichotomous keys, the connection between the health of the Bay and the grasses is immediate. Further, we discuss what prevents these grasses from thriving, like contributing excess nutrients into the Bay's rivers and streams and overworking the grasses with large sediment loads.

Time and time again teachers and students talk about something called "Fox Magic." We certainly experienced that "magic" out there in the middle of the Bay with Veritas students, and I, too,  experienced that magic in high school on education experiences with CBF on Fox Island in 2010 and 2011. It's an honor to capture these awesome moments and speak for such a great place.

—Adam Dunn, CBF Fox Island Educator

Click here to learn how you can take part in "Fox Magic" and other CBF education experiences.

 


Teachers on the Bay

Image003Last summer, I participated in CBF's Chesapeake Classrooms course, Teachers on the Bay, thanks to a scholarship from the Garden Club of the Northern Neck. My goal was to bring some of the participatory lessons CBF teaches back to Northumberland County Public Schools, specifically middle schoolers and my 6th grade Community Problem Solving team, which I tasked with taking on a Chesapeake Bay-related problem.

Some of my students come from families who have worked on the Chesapeake Bay for generations; others have never been out on the water. What most students and I have in common is a lack of hands-on understanding of the Bay.

The week-long teachers education program began on the Rappahannock River where we learned how to test water quality and watched the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries electrofish to monitor species, most of which were invasive blue catfish. We listed types of marsh grasses, species we sighted, including 50 bald eagles in our first hour out on the water and a nesting pair of peregrine falcons that live under the Robert O. Norris Bridge in Tappahannock. We motored part of a route once traveled by Captain John Smith, some of which has barely changed. We also learned about the threat of development to the river and Fones Cliffs, where we spotted most of the eagles.

After two days on the Rappahannock, we went out on the Bay and tested the water at about 126 feet, one of its deepest points. We spent the rest of our time at CBF's Fox Island Education Center in the middle of the Bay. We learned the purpose of marshes and climbed into thick gooey mud holes, a practice known as marsh mucking (highly recommended!). At one point, I was buzzed by what turned out to be a peregrine falcon on its way to harass some oyster catchers.

Image002Across the water, watermen from Tangier and Smith Islands scraped Bay grasses for crabs, a method that glides a mesh bag over grass beds. We, too, scraped the underwater grasses, bringing aboard oysters, crabs, pufferfish, and the occasional seahorse to observe, study, and then release. In a few months my 6th grade students would be doing the same thing, punctuated by squeals of delight, though some still apprehensive about handling a crab swiping at them.

Last year, Virginia Gov. McAuliffe signed an executive order, establishing the Environmental Literacy Challenge, a voluntary effort to increase meaningful, outdoor experiences and sustainability projects to improve student knowledge about their environment. Finding school time and money to accomplish this is a task, but I found there are resources from grants, support from local businesses as well as state and local officials who will volunteer their time.

In our county, a local environmental group, Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship funded a fall trip for a group of 7th and 8th grade students aboard a Waterman Heritage Tour. The trip along the Little Wicomico River and out to the Bay was modeled after the CBF teacher's program. Students counted species, learned how water quality is tested from a local shellfish sanitation official, and toured a working oyster aquaculture farm and oyster house. 

Also in the fall, my 6th grade Community Problem Solving team of 14 students spent three days at CBF's Port Isobel Education Center. Students crabbed, scraped, tried out a new tow net, did a night walk and marsh mucked. They spent time on Tangier Island visiting Mayor "Ooker" Eskridge's crab shanty where they saw shedding crabs and tried wrangling his eels. They walked the island to get a feel for life there and watched a movie at the museum about how the island is disappearing from rising sea levels, subsidence, and erosion. They were touched by the experience and back at school they announced their problem solve would be to "Save Tangier Island."

IMG_0337Their resulting two-year project encompasses raising awareness through education and fundraising to build a living shoreline to help the people of Tangier remain on their home or to help them move if it ever comes to that. The students have partnered with Tangier Town Manager Renee Tyler and participated in a webinar and other interactions with the Norfolk Division of the Army Corps of Engineers to learn more about living shorelines.

Last month, Tangier Town Manager Tyler invited the students to meet with the crew of the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Hōkūleʻa expedition when the Polynesian voyaging canoe visited Tangier. The resourceful students held a bake sale, got a grant from NAPS, and another $100 from the school superintendent so they could hire a heritage waterman to take them to Tangier. They then invited Norfolk Army Corps Commander Col. Jason Kelly, Corps Scientist David Schulte, and Virginia Institute for Marine Science Scientist Molly Mitchell. Along with Tangier's 6th graders and educators from the Hōkūleʻa, the group sat together and discussed climate change and Tangier’s fate along with the potential loss of its heritage and culture.

Community Problem Solving teams are a great way to align environmental literacy with classroom work, and CBF's teacher professional learning courses enabled me to use new lessons (and those shared by other teachers) to do just that. I have about one hour each week to pull students out of a morning class to work on their project. My team's work is entirely student driven while I coach. The students conduct research or bring in experts and plan field trips. The program usually runs for the length of a school year, but this time students are committing two years to the project due to the complexity of their problem. Community Problem Solving and environmental literacy are a great way to keep students motivated and focused on a project as they become active and knowledgeable members of their community.

 —Pamela D'Angelo Hagy
Hagy is a journalist covering the Bay for public radio and various publications as well as a part-time educator.

If you'd like to participate in a Chesapeake Classrooms teacher professional learning course this summer, see the schedule and course descriptions at www.cbf.org/CCsummer. There are still openings on a few courses!


What Did You Do on Your Spring Break?

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An unusual group of laborers could be seen bending and lifting in the distance on Paul Quick's farm in Union Bridge, Maryland. They were students from the University of Virginia, doing community service earlier this month as part of an Alternative Spring Break program.

While many of their classmates were still sleeping in, these 10 UVA students were working up a sweat as the sun rose and delivered unseasonably warm temperatures.

Each year at this time an inspired slice of students from many colleges commit to spending their spring break helping in the community in various ways. The UVA students volunteered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, where they worked at the organization's Oyster Restoration Center and Clagett Farm for several days, and then one day to help Quick on his farm.

IMG_4651Quick decided several years ago to put his farm in a conservation easement, to honor his father-in-law's wishes that the old dairy farm not be developed. As part of the arrangement, Quick used federal funding to get 20 acres of trees planted along streams on the property. The trees help buffer the stream from possible polluted runoff from the corn and soy crops.

Those trees have now matured. The students' job was to cut off plastic sleeves called "shelters" that had protected the young trees from hungry deer. With about 7,300 trees needing this attention, it was a day of hard labor for students who may be more accustomed to a library or classroom.

The labor was equally strenuous earlier in the week at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland, where the students cleaned debris off old oyster shells before planting them in restoration efforts. Those shells, which will be used to grow oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, are heavy. The students had to use a simple device to lift a pallet full of shells above their heads and "shake" the pallet. It was hard work.

But the students said this was the way they preferred to spend their vacation: "It's worth it, but boy, it was a lot of work," said Maggie Daly, a Third-Year biochemistry student from Yorktown, Virginia.

IMG_4646"My shoulders will be sore tomorrow," said Sarah Overton, a First-Year student from Herndon, Virginia.

Daly said she considers herself "environmentally conscious" but wanted to put that ethic to work in the field so to speak. Overton said she felt the same, and also saw the program as a way to see another part of the region. She had always wanted to visit Annapolis, for instance.

Another student, Conner Roessler, a Fourth-Year from Midlothian, Virginia, was doing the program for the second year in a row.

For his part, farm owner Quick said he was glad for the help. He said the conservation easement required him to plant some trees to help buffer his farm streams, but he decided to plant far more.

The trees not only will help keep the streams clean, they also will provide habitat for deer and other wildlife which Quick enjoys.

Rob Schnabel, a CBF restoration scientist who worked with the students, said trees not only help prevent pollution and stream erosion, but also help cool the stream so trout and other aquatic life are more apt to survive. Unfortunately, Maryland is far behind in its goal to get the banks of farm streams planted with trees, he said.

—Tom Zolper
CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Check out more photos of these inspiring students in the field.


CBF Education Experiences: "They Take My Breath Away"

Image-3Photo by Paige Sanford/CBF Staff.

Baltimore Lab School Outdoor Education Coordinator Patti Child recently took her high school students on a CBF field experience to our Karen Noonan Environmental Education Center. Here's what she had to say about it:  

Just when I thought it could not get any better learning about the Bay from one of your educators, I went on an Island experience with CBF's Captain Jesse, Paige Sanford, and Megan Fink. 

Seriously, I should not be allowed to have that much fun teaching students about the Bay.

I have had the pleasure of working with your team on Port Isobel Island in the past, but the quality of facilitating just went up another notch at the Karen Noonan Center this weekend! 

CBF trips are the foundation of our Baltimore Lab School Watershed Stewards movement. I call it a movement because the students and staff swell with ideas and projects after attending CBF Education Experiences.

Storm drain teams, trees, native plants, stream surveys and clean ups, behavior change campaigns, school air quality education, Student Wave reporters, species field guides, photo scavenger hunts, photo essays, film festivals, speakers, mentors, student leaders, green teams, partnerships, energy conservation, 0-waste movement, recycling, outdoor sustainability labs . . . The ideas and energy are flowing so fast, it takes my breath away.

Thank you.

—Patti Child, Baltimore Lab School

Learn more about our hands-on, outside learning opportunities.

 


Running to Save the Bay!

DSC_0077Photos by Jeff Rogge/CBF Staff.  

Nearly 15,000 people ran across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Sunday, Nov. 9, a stream of fit humanity in colorful tech attire arching over the Bay flowing beneath. All deserve praise for participating in the 10k, but one runner in particular, one speck of color out in front of that stream, deserves special mention.

On Saturday, cross country star Shreya Nalubola ran the final race of her illustrious high school career on what has been described as the toughest course in the state. The meet was the Maryland Girls State Cross Country Championship at Hereford High School. She came in third.

Rather than sleep in on Sunday, however, Shreya pulled herself out of bed, and ran the Across the Bay 10k Chesapeake Bay Bridge Race. No easy course itself, the bridge features a two-mile incline. Shreya came in first place in her age group, and 11th overall of 9,662 women runners!

DSC_0084Shreya, a senior at Centennial High School in Howard County, didn't do the Bridge Race just for more exercise, or the spectacular view. She is a student advocate for the Chesapeake Bay. She wanted to do her part to promote the national treasure and to underscore its endangered health.

"In sixth grade, I attended a field trip with my classmates to the Chesapeake Bay, where we were able to experience and study it in-depth. The field trip made an impact on my young mind as we fished for crabs and oysters, convincing me of the importance of preserving the health of our ecosystem," Shreya said.

This past spring Shreya also spent time on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's skipjack Stanley Norman where she learned more about the human impact to the Bay's health. She decided to join CBF's Student Wave Leadership program.

Two other students chose to run in Sunday's race across the iconic bridge from Annapolis to Kent Island as part of their commitment to advocacy. Charlotte Waldman and Garrett Weintrob, both 10th graders at the Maret School in Washington, D.C., help support CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD, among many other activities.  

"I hope that events such as the Across the Bay 10k will continue to raise awareness about the problems that affect the watershed, including pollution, agricultural development, and deforestation. In the future, perhaps changes can be made and efforts can be put into reducing pollution and restoring forest buffers in order to better support and protect the Chesapeake," Shreya said.

Thanks Shreya, Charlotte, and Garrett! The future of the Bay is in your hands—and running shoes. 

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Maryland Communications Coordinator


Bay Blood

 

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Jacqueline Stomski dreaming of the Bay from far away!

Some kids around here grow up with the Bay in their veins: Boating from Memorial Day to Labor Day; crabbing, fishing, swimming, and tubing all summer long. Their parents grew up here, too—they loved this piece of the world so much that they just couldn't leave.

The Bay might not be the ocean, but it might be something better. It captivates anyone who comes to see it with the mighty trials and tribulations of this delicate ecosystem. A place so rich in history, and we are fortunate enough to call it home.

I've lived here my whole life, but I don't think I can say I quite have Bay Blood. I've never spent my summers on my family's boat, my crabbing experience is limited, in fact I've never picked my own crabs. What I can say though is that whenever I am gone, I miss this sliver of the world desperately.

The first time I felt connected to the Bay was on my first school trip to Echo Hill in elementary school. We collected aquatic organisms to survey the different populations living where the Susquehanna meets the Bay. For the first time, I was on the Bay, in the sun, and I loved it.

At Echo Hill they told us of how when John Smith sailed the Chesapeake, the water was blue and he could see the oysters on the bottom. Looking at the murky waters today, I still struggle to believe that. From that day forward I've dreamed of a blue Bay. 

Jacqueline Stomski, Senior at Annapolis High School and CBF Student Correspondent Spring 2014 

Interested in becoming a student correspondent, documenting life on the Bay and its rivers and streams? Click here to learn more.


Somewhere Between the Sky and the Water


Photo1Annie Prevas, a rising senior at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore City, visited CBF's Karen Noonan Center with her class in November 2013. Take a look at this vivid, Thoreau-like piece she wrote about her visit.

Our group was pulled from their slumber this morning to watch the Bay come alive as the sun rose. Through the bayberry bushes and across the beach from the house was an old wooden dock. From the dock you could see miles in all directions. The wetlands continued to the north, with soggy grasses swaying as the shallow muck glistened. Small birds swooped up and down over the reeds, looking for food. To the south was the water, flickering with oranges and reds, with islands of Bay mush and tall grasses waving good morning from miles away. To the west were several osprey nests high above our heads.

The waterfowl looked down at us with warning yellow eyes, telling us to care for the land and Bay they call home. We were surrounded by life, but our focus right then, was on the rising sun, welcoming us to the new day with vibrant colors and warmth. The sun began to peek out from the horizon with its rays reaching to the land, giving life. The small slice of the round sun grew taller, until the shadow across the bottom of our sun became evident. The partial solar eclipse was hardly noticeable to most of the world, but we didn't avert our burning eyes once.

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Annie and her friends during their recent trip to CBF’s Karen Noonan Center.

I felt myself living so intensely in this moment. My face was tingling from the slight chill of the November air, and the salty wind blew my hair wildly around my face. I watched  the sun and felt my breath and heart work together to keep me alive. I was somewhere between the sky and the water, watching the light come in, and my appreciation for their roles in keeping the world alive made my heart smile. 

Then, my whole body smiled at the crescent sun. It smiled back by sprinkling pinks and oranges across my face. The dock faded out of my consciousness and became a hammock of wind enveloping me keeping me afloat in a place above the water and below the sky, where I was doing nothing but existing. I was just existing, though it seemed, I was existing more completely than I had before in my life. The sun came up, and the Bay was awake.

Annie Prevas

Interested in becoming a student correspondent, documenting life on the Bay and its rivers and streams? Click here to learn more.


PA Students Explore Our Local Waterways with CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program

 

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Students explore Pennsylvania's waterways and the critters that live in them.

Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) kicks-off the Spring Season and Honors a Local Teacher

For the past 24 years, teams of CBF educators have taken to the Susquehanna River and other Pennsylvania waterways to explore the vast watershed with students and teachers from 85 different middle and high schools. The mission of the Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) is always the same: to teach students about the importance of clean water, to show how stream systems function, and to conduct hands-on experiments that engage and excite a student's sense of exploration.

SWEP Spring Education Season Started March 24 

Nearly every school day SWEP Educators Tom Parke and Alex McCrickard hit the water with their traveling fleet of canoes, 12 in all. Affectionately named by students, In a Pickle, Peas-in-a-Pod, and Tippa-Canoe, and the others have become far more than just boats--each one is a part of the team and of the experience. Through them, students get to feel and connect with the water. And for students who may have never been in a boat--the SWEP canoes can also help to instill trust and lessen their fears of the water. 

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SWEP canoes are a part of the team and the experience of learning outside.

The spring season runs through June, with each of the day's lessons--whether it's a hands-on experience with the critters living in the water or the technical water chemistry component--promoting active learning in a way that goes way beyond the classroom. Yet, each one is by-design a compliment to in-class studies.

Honoring a Teacher's Commitment

After 35 years of teaching science at Lower Dauphin Middle School, Mr. Ben Cooper will be retiring. For 19 of those years he has been taking his students out on the water with SWEP, and says "We study freshwater and watersheds, what better way to learn about them than to be in one."

On Tuesday, April 8, Mr. Cooper and 22 of his 6th grade science students joined Tom and Alex for a day on the water at Memorial Lake in Lebanon County. They had planned to explore the Swatara Creek but high-water levels led them to the calmer lake waters.

This was certainly not the first time Tom has been on the water with Cooper.

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CBF Educator Alex McCrickard (left), Lower Dauphin Middle School Teacher Ben Cooper (center), CBF Educator Tom Parke (right).

"I first met Mr. Cooper, Ben, when I was in 5th grade. As a student at Lower Dauphin Middle School, I participated in one of his summer stream study camp programs. Now as an adult, and educator myself, it has been an honor to lead Ben and his 6th graders on the same waterways that I grew up exploring--some with Ben."

Mr. Cooper may be retiring, but there were no signs of somberness as the group paddled into shore. Singing "row, row, row your boat" and counting down "21 bottles of milk on the wall," their songs and laughter could be heard from the shore.

One of the students proudly shared, "I had to do all of my homework, and get it right, just to be able to come today." She was proud of her achievement, as well she should be. And, while brief, her words speak volumes about the value of the program and of student recognition of the rewards of hard work.

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Loading the canoes is just part of the daily wrap-up.

After the canoes were loaded back onto the rig and gear put away, Tom surprised Ben by presenting him with a special gift of gratitude and recognition of his commitment to clean water, to his students, and to education. Local TV and newspapers covered the award presentation, with one naming Mr. Cooper a "Hometown Hero."

Tom said, "I asked Ben what he was going to miss most about teaching. He said, 'The kids, I will miss my sixth graders, and the canoe trips, too. But I will continue getting out on the water on my own.'"

Dan Berra, Principal at Lower Dauphin Middle School shared, "Mr. Cooper's commitment to environmental education has touched the lives of literally hundreds of students over his career. We are thrilled that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has chosen to recognize his work in educating our students that we all have a responsibility to care for the watershed in which we live."

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SWEP educators with Lower Dauphin Middle School's Ben Cooper and his 6th grade science class after a day on Memorial Lake.

CBF would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Cooper for 35 years of teaching his students the importance of science and water studies, and for encouraging them to love and explore the world around them. We are especially grateful for the 19 years that he has shared those experiences with us.

Before getting onto the school bus to leave, Ben confidently shouted back to us that he would be seeing the team out on the water, another day.

If you are a teacher who wants to get involved with CBF, please visit our website to learn how. 

 —Kelly Donaldson, CBF's Pennsylvania Communications and Media Coordinator


Reflections on CBF's Expedition Chesapeake

 How CBF's Expedition Chesapeake led to my career in environmental education.

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Kelsey Church Brunton.

Eight years ago, during my junior year at Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater, Va., I decided to be a part of a unique paddling expedition—the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Expedition Chesapeake to be exact, also lovingly called Bay Bound. Twelve other high school students and I journeyed from the fertile Shenandoah Valley to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay over the course of 30 days during the summer of 2005. 

As we canoed the Shenandoah River and kayaked the Potomac, we discovered the story of the watershed. We witnessed the impact of each unbuffered river bank, waterfront property, wastewater treatment plant, farm land, and the impact of 17 million citizens living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as we journeyed to CBF's Port Isobel Island Education Center in the middle of the Bay. We were able to talk with other high school students and watermen on Tangier Island. Many of these people depend on the water for their livelihood, just as farmers in Rockingham County depend on the land. On the Bay Bound experience, I learned how my actions "up river" have a direct effect on the health of the Bay.     

I returned to my high school feeling energized about the Bay, environmental awareness, and education. After I graduated high school, I pursued a college degree in environmental science while maintaining my relationship with CBF. Serving as a CBF oyster restoration intern, I spent many glorious days out on a boat working oyster reefs. I also had the opportunity to assist in facilitating an education trip at CBF's Karen Noonan Education Center in Maryland. Looking back, it is clear to me now that CBF and that month-long expedition have opened so many doors for me. 

One of those was the opportunity to attend graduate school at Virginia Tech and work for the Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) program. While completing my master's degree in agricultural and extension education, I worked as a program coordinator for VALOR—a new, premier leadership development program at Virginia Tech for adults in agriculture. Each of the 10 members of this year's inaugural VALOR class is challenged to engage in all segments of the industry, to create collaborative solutions, and to promote agriculture inside and outside of the industry. 

The two-year VALOR program provides class members with opportunities to meet legislators, decision makers, industry leaders, agencies, and organizations during 10 regional visits, one national trip, and one international trip. For example, while in Washington D.C., class members met with Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte, representatives from Farm Credit, and the American Farm Bureau, as well as professionals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and America's Promise.

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VALOR participants set crab pots, dredged for oysters, and trolled underwater grasses while learning about connections between agriculture and the water. Photo by CBF Staff.

So when the VALOR director and I started planning for a seminar in the Northern Neck of Virginia, I knew exactly whom to call: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings, CBF Hampton Roads Senior Scientist Chris Moore, and two CBF educational staff members hosted VALOR members at CBF's Port Isobel Island for two days in July. After setting crab pots, fishing off the pier, canoeing, oyster dredging, and trolling underwater grasses, participants had a greater understanding of the health of the Bay and agriculture's role within the watershed. Many candid conversations followed, and opportunities for collaboration were discussed. Read their thoughts here.  

I felt honored to be a part of another experience that builds bridges between agriculture and the environment. And it all started with that Bay Bound journey eight years ago.

—Kelsey Church Brunton 

 Kelsey Church Brunton recently graduated with a master's degree from Virginia Tech. She currently lives in Blacksburg, Va., and on the weekends enjoys hiking the Appalachian Mountains and kayaking on the New and James Rivers. She recently accepted a position at Virginia Tech as the 4-VA Grant Assessment Coordinator. The 4-VA Grant is a multi-institutional initiative to enhance the success rates of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The collaborative effort also intends to decrease the cost of delivering instruction, increasing access to programs, and increase research competitiveness. When Kelsey is not working, "I am always trying to find a way to spend time on the Bay."  


Fourth Graders Work to Reduce Waste


NewAfter participating in CBF's Smith Island Education Program, our school (Chesapeake Public Charter School) realized how much of our food we might be wasting. So, we decided to start monitoring our lunch leftovers. We started small, just sorting the leftovers from 4th graders. Student volunteers, headed up by Smith Island alumna Debra Rosenstadt, began to help their peers sort their leftovers into: Recycling, Compost/Vermicompost, S.L.O.P. ("Stuff Left on Plate"), and landfill. 

Each day, these volunteers stayed in from recess to weigh the amounts of each and graph it on our class line plot (to the nearest ¼ pound). Certainly a dirty job, so look out Mike Rowe! Our S.L.O.P. Cops spread the word on how to reduce waste: saving it for later, snack share (a special bin to leave it in for others to take if wanted), etc.

As a school we have always recycled, composted, and vermi-composted (each grade has their own work bin). But, this school year, we decided to go schoolwide with the S.L.O.P. program as well. Two fourth graders each month volunteered to be S.L.O.P. Cops. They collected, consolidated, and weighed the S.L.O.P. from 331 students, grades K-8. The S.L.O.P. this year was picked up each afternoon by a local organic farmer, Brett Grosghal from Even' Star Farm. He uses the S.L.O.P. to feed his nine hogs and flock of chickens, so our waste was recycled back into food we could eat (a great lesson in where food comes from, especially bacon and eggs!). Chesapeake Public Charter School (CPCS) even has five resident chickens that take in some of our S.L.O.P., just on a smaller scale than the organic farm. CPCS chicken eggs are sold to our school families looking for a local, organic option. As Katelyn Kovach, 4th grader and CBF Smith Island alumna, puts it, "Your S.L.O.P. made my breakfast!"

Our 4th grade S.L.O.P. Cop volunteers learned other skills as well. They used Microsoft Excel to keep track of the data, researched facts about pigs, chickens, landfills, and made daily announcements to share the data and information with our school community. Included in their announcements were "SLOPPY Shout Outs" commending students or classes that did very well with reducing their S.L.O.P. that day.

During the 2012-2013 school year, Chesapeake Public Charter School prevented more than 800 pounds of unused energy in the form of food scraps from going to a landfill and instead helped recycle it into locally grown food.

April Skinner, Fourth Grade Chesapeake Public Charter School Teacher