Student Challenge Promotes Water Quality Understanding

2-5-2016 10-45-43 AMNow through March 1, high school students have the opportunity to study and map nutrients in the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as part of the Visualize Your Water Challenge. The Grand Prize winner gets $2,500 (wow!) and a chance to head to San Diego in June for the Esri Education GIS Conference. Through this challenge, we hope that students learn more about water quality issues in our area and what they can do to combat them. For nearly 40 years, we have strived to show these water quality problems to more than a million students across the region through meaningful, hands-on education experiences. Now, through this challenge, students can take what they have learned out on the water with us one step further through interactive digital mapping technology. Below, high school teacher Mr. Kelly W. Garton talks about the value of this challenge. 

For the past 20 years, I have taken my Advanced Placement Environmental Science students to the Potomac River with Chesapeake Bay Foundation. There is simply no better way for me to provide a perspective on environmental issues affecting the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. By using the Water Quality Index, a 100-point scale that summarizes results from a total of nine different measurement (Dissolved Oxygen, Fecal Coliform, pH, BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), Temperature difference, Total Phosphate, Nitrates, Turbidity, and Total Dissolved Solids), we have been able to evaluate and discuss environmental issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

Over that 20-year timespan, I have seen signs of improvement in the water quality. For example, we now get lower readings of both Phosphate and Nitrate in the river and we see increased biodiversity. Unlike years ago, it is now common for us to see a breeding pair of bald eagles near our Nation's Capital. 

This contest would be a great visual to show that, although there is still a lot of work to be done in restoring the health of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, there is data to support the claim that progress is being made. 

—Mr. Kelly W. Garton, 
Walt Whitman High School,
Bethesda, MD

Ready to start the challenge?! Click here.

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An example of what students can create through ArcGIS software.

The Seasonal Swings of CBF's Education Team


62422_10151345892560943_665673842_nWinter maintenance on CBF's skipjack the Stanley Norman. Photo by CBF Staff.

With 73-degree days as December came to a close, CBF's Education team soaked in every moment of the end of a gorgeous fall season. Whether they were investigating wetlands at Port Isobel Island, surveying biodiversity in Virginia Beach, or exploring the streambanks of the Susquehanna, our field educators immersed themselves in their passion, which fortunately for CBF and the students of the region, is also their job. 

A passion for teaching the next generation through environmental education, however, can have its limitations thanks to Mother Nature. As educators spend the next two months preparing for the spring season to begin in mid-March, they must deal with the now below-freezing temperatures, a potential stumbling block for maintenance, painting, and scouting new locations.

A passion for teaching outdoors also demands rigorous safety protocols, top-notch facilities, and research-based teaching methods. That takes time and hard work. So the winter is the ideal season to focus on Wilderness First Responder medical recertification; to remodel an island center kitchen; to study the latest Bay water quality and fisheries science; or to update one's skill set for inquiry-based lessons in the field. And just as classroom teachers need to reset and restore themselves during the summer, field educators use the colder months to rejuvenate their energy for the busy spring ahead.

The seasonal swings that CBF's Education team endures are part of what fuels their dedication to bring new material, new energy, new stories, and the ever-present authenticity to the field programs. Cool spring mornings are the ideal time to talk about new life in the Bay watershed. Summer is ripe to find shedding crabs in the mid-Bay and visit thriving farms in the highlands of the watershed. This past fall we witnessed clearer water than the Bay has seen in years. But winter brings a sense of peace and accomplishment as CBF educators reflect on the past year and prepare for the coming seasons, revisiting the many facets of how they live their passion on a daily basis: working with students and teachers across the watershed to Save the Bay. 

—Allyson Ladley Gibson
CBF's Education Outreach Coordinator


Student Leaders Take Their Clean Water Message to the Hill!

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Members of CBF's PA Student Leadership Program met with U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., of Pennsylvania at his office in Washington, D.C. in December. Pictured above are (from left to right): Allison Markel, Anna Pauletta, Senator Casey, Mallory Taramelle-Dickinson, Abby Hebenton, and Maria Seitz.

Five members of our new Student Leadership Program in Pennsylvania spoke with U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., of Pennsylvania last month, about the importance of clean water in the Commonwealth. 

"The general message I wanted to leave with the senator was that people really do care about clean water and agriculture in Pennsylvania, and we so badly want to see positive change," Fairfield High School student Abby Hebenton said. "What we do in Pennsylvania affects everyone downstream, not just Pennsylvanians. We are so behind compared to other states, things are really going to have to change as far as laws and regulations go, in order to change how citizens think and act in regards to water and environmental conservation."

"We chatted with Claire Borzner, Senator Casey's legislative correspondent, who was very friendly and interested in listening to our thoughts on the senator's work, and answered any questions we had," Hebenton added. "Surprisingly, few people actually reach out to the senator with issues they think should be addressed, although Ms. Borzner informed us that she and her colleagues read every letter or e-mail that go through their office." 

"We wanted to make the senator aware of the struggles and successes of the Chesapeake Bay," said Allison Markel of Cedar Cliff High School. "In D.C., we were able to serve as passionate witnesses for the Bay's significance in Pennsylvania."

The Student Leadership Program is open to all high school students and is designed to give them a voice and an active role in the fight for clean water in Pennsylvania. The Student Leadership Council will meet throughout the year through video-conferencing and will plan and coordinate advocacy and restoration activities throughout the Bay watershed in Pennsylvania.

"I thought that it would be a really amazing opportunity to meet with someone in authority who has the power to make positive changes regarding something I am very passionate about," Hebenton said. "I was just looking forward to getting to see the political side of environmental issues and hopefully networking with some important people who have the power to make change."

Cumberland Valley High School student Maria Seitz added: "I always really value the chance to meet and speak with Senator Casey because I know it's not something that a lot of people get to do . . . just by being there we were letting him know that young people from Pennsylvania are concerned about the water quality problems Pennsylvania is facing."

Other parts of the visit made lasting impressions on the students, including speaking with CBF's Federal Policy Director Alix Murdoch and touring the Capitol. "I will never forget the experience of sitting in on the Senate," Seitz said. "That was really cool! A great experience that I wish more people could have."

Cumberland Valley High School students Anna Pauletta and Mallory Taramelle-Dickinson also made the trip to Washington, D.C. to visit with Senator Casey.

"As a student team, we are working toward a healthier Bay and to ensure a better future for our loved ones," Markel added. "I hope the senator was moved by our desire to stand up for something bigger than ourselves." 

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator

Interested in learning more about CBF's Student Leadership Program in Pennsylvania? Contact program coordinator Lane Whigham at lwhigham@cbf.org.

 


High Schoolers Explore the Waters of the James River

On a sunny fall day this November, a group of about 15 seniors from Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, Virginia, got a chance to learn about the James River hands-on during a CBF education experience. Outings like these are key to educating students about the environment, says Lee-Davis teacher Lesa Berlinghoff. "CBF has given them an opportunity to engage in field experiences in a true context, something that we can't always accomplish in the lab or classroom," she says. "My hope is that it will enlighten future decisions they make when it comes to using our water resources wisely. For some, this experience will ignite a passion for the environment and possibly enlighten them about future career opportunities."

 

1The first step involves working as a team to unload the heavy canoes from the CBF trailer and carry them to the banks of the James River at Deep Bottom Park.


2After a quick lesson on basic canoeing techniques, students practice their paddling skills as they navigate the quiet waters of Four Mile Creek, a small tributary of the James.


3CBF Educator Rick Mittler explains how wetlands like this freshwater marsh are crucial for protecting water quality, leading the group in a "wetland warriors" chant.

4
The high schoolers test water quality in the creek by measuring pH, nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen and other key indicators.

5The results of these tests show how pollution from nearby cities, suburbs and farms affects the health of the waterway. Despite the relatively muddy waters, the group found that the river is in overall better shape than they expected.

6Next, students braved the chilly waters to survey life in the James River with a seine net. They drag the net along the river’s shallows, sweeping up fish, shrimp and other small animals.

7After pulling the net ashore, they search for fish and other aquatic life.

8With the critters safely in tubs of water, students examine and identify different species. When many different types of animals are present it’s a sign that the river is in good health. On this day, they had a great catch totaling eight different species.

9This small colorful bluegill is a common find in the freshwater tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.


10At the end of the excursion, the students once again work together to load the CBF trailer, leaving the canoes ready for the next day's trip.

—Text and photos by Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator


This Week in the Watershed

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A young student learns about oysters through hands-on experience. Photo by Drew Robinson/CBF Staff.

It's not every day that efforts on the local or regional level are recognized on an international stage. But that's just what happened on Tuesday, when the state of Maryland was awarded a silver 2015 Future Policy Award by the World Future Council. The award was in recognition of becoming the first state to impose an environmental literacy high school graduation requirement.

Environmental education, while not a new trend, has been gaining traction not only for its obvious educational value in teaching science, but also the positive impact on student achievement in other core subjects such as math, reading, and social studies. Textbooks and classroom learning have their place, but allowing students to have hands-on learning experiences can shape the way they view the world. From wrestling with a Chesapeake Blue Crab, to marveling at the oyster's water filtration powers, to raising the sails on a 113-year old skipjack, hands-on experiences connect people to their environment and the Bay in a way no other experience can.

Leading efforts in environmental education has been a pillar of CBF for over 40 years. Cultivating a reverence and sense of stewardship for the environment and clean water in our future leaders is critical in the work to save the Bay and its rivers and streams. Validation for these efforts only strengthens our resolve in our work to have every student learn outside.

This Week in the Watershed: Harbor Oysters, Learning Outside, and Marcellus Shale

  • How did the Susquehanna River get its name? CBF's BJ Small weighs in.
  • There was a win for clean water on Wednesday when Maryland's largest water utility, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, settled a lawsuit filed by several environmental organizations, including CBF, over millions of pounds of pollution being dumped into the Potomac River from its water filtration plant in Potomac, Maryland. (Washington Post—DC)
  • In efforts to clean the Baltimore Harbor through harnessing the oyster's filtration powers, CBF is teaming up with Baltimore's Healthy Harbor Initiative, committing to plant 5 million oysters in the Harbor by 2020. (Baltimore Business Journal—MD)
  • Maryland was honored with an international award for it's environmental literacy high school graduation requirement. (Washington Post—DC)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial, effectively making the case for the preservation of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Learn why the James River's recent health grade of "B-" by the James River Association is worthy of celebration. (Lynchburg News & Advance—VA)
  • Another editorial board deserves a round of high fives, condemning Baltimore County for abandoning its stormwater remediation fee. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • ICYMI: The Richmond County Board of Supervisors voted to delay the vote on the development of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Alarming facts are being revealed surrounding Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale boom, finding that clean air, water, and land, played second fiddle to industry. (Patriot News—PA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

October 23

  • Easton, MD: CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore office is moving! Join us at our new building, the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Building tours and light refreshments will be provided, and CBF Eastern Shore staff will be present to visit with you as we celebrate the new space with partners and friends in the community. Click here for more info!

October 24

  • York, PA: More than 350 miles of York County's rivers and streams are considered polluted by Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection. Join us as we canvas throughout York, asking residents to sign our petition to Governor Tom Wolf. For more information and to RSVP, contact Hannah Ison, CBF's Pennsylvania Field Organizer, at hison@cbf.org or 717-234-5550 ext. 4214.
  • Baltimore, MD: Join us at the Great Baltimore Oyster Festival to celebrate the mighty oyster while enjoying five varieties of oysters, specialty foods, boat tours, music, and more! Hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Waterfront Partnership, and Healthy Harbor. Online registration is closed, but still come on out! Entry to the event is free, and oyster plates will be available for purchase on-site. Click here for more info!
  • Queen Anne's County, MD: Come paddle with us on Southeast Creek, just off the Chester River. Southeast Creek is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore creek, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh, abundant wildlife dominated by various species of bird life, and a watershed consisting mainly of farmland. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up close views of herons fishing in the shallows and wood ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. Click here to register!

October 31

  • Monkton, MD: Trick or treat! There’s nothing scarier than poor water quality! This Halloween, come help CBF plant 800 trees to restore four acres of forest on a farm. The planting of this forest buffer will help protect the Little Gunpowder, a natural reproducing trout stream. Click here to register!

November 7

  • Luray, VA: Get your hands dirty, planting trees on a Virginian farm! This forested buffer will filter polluted runoff and cool streams. Click here for more info!
  • Cambridge, MD: Come help CBF plant 800 native trees to restore a four-acre buffer to the Chicamacomico River. The farm is legally protected from development and now work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being done to restore wetlands at the site that provide wildlife habitat and filter runoff. This area is critical habitat for the federally-listed Delmarva fox squirrel and coastal dependent birds including salt marsh sparrows and American black duck. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

PC in Harris Creek
CBF oyster restoration staff in Harris Creek.

Walking across a stage to receive a diploma at any level of education is a milestone achievement. While the accomplishment should be celebrated, in reality, graduation is announcing an individual's ambition and preparedness to make a difference in his or her field of interest. In much the same way, there are points in time when we celebrate success of Bay restoration efforts while looking toward what the future holds.

Recently, the oyster restoration project in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, reached a milestone by completing the construction phase. While it's inaccurate to say the creek is "restored," the oyster restoration project has made significant progress, and the creek's oysters are now prepared to make a difference both in the water quality and the oyster levels in surrounding waterways.

CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) also celebrated a major milestone, marking its 25th anniversary. With Pennsylvania second only to Alaska in the number of miles of waterways flowing through the state, it is critical that future leaders are motivated to improve their local water quality. The work to improve environmental literacy and cultivate a reverence for clean water throughout the watershed is ongoing. But with accomplishments such as the Harris Creek milestone and the SWEP anniversary, there are times to celebrate our success.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Milestones, Education Anniversaries, and Tiny Trash

  • The endeavor to restore the oyster population in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, is celebrating a major milestone. (CBF Statement—MD)
  • It's the 25th year of the CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, where students get in touch with their local waterways. (Public News Service—VA)
  • The results are crystal clear—getting students outside improves learning and strengthens interest and respect for the environment. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Finding bags, bottles, cans, and other visible signs of trash in our waterways is disturbing. But to grasp the bigger picture, you need to look closer. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Oyster restoration is tough work, but ultimately very fulfilling. CBF's Jackie Shannon can certainly testify to that. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Two Hampton Roads area principals are bringing their experience with CBF this summer on Tangier Island back to the classroom. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

September 19

  • Gambrills, MD: Help CBF and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm. This 800-acre farm is the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was the old manure pond back when the farm was a dairy. Click here for more information.

September 22

  • Melfa, VA: The Eastern Shore of Virginia VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class on Tuesdays, starts September 22! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!

September 26

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us in making the Choptank River cleaner and safer through a stream cleanup at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. Click here to register!
  • Baltimore, MD: A vacant lot in West Baltimore is getting a facelift, with 4,000 shrubs, wild flowers, and grasses planted. Volunteers are needed for this urban restoration project that will reduce polluted runoff and beautify the neighborhood. Click here to register!
  • Solomons, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Solomon's Island September 26. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

September 27

  • Baltimore, MD: CBF's oyster gardening program is expanding to Baltimore Harbor! We're looking for 50 new gardeners to care for two cages of oysters each over the winter and then "plant" them on a reef in the spring. This unusual hobby is fun, educational and helps to clean the harbor waters. Register here!

September 30

  • York, PA: A good time is to be had by all at BrewVino. Residents can meet neighbors looking to protect local waterways and learn about new opportunities to get involved in ensuring clean water, healthy communities, and a thriving economy for York County. Oh, and there will be good food! Click here to register!

October 2

  • Annapolis, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Annapolis October 2. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

October 3

  • Easton, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Easton October 3. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Back to School Doesn't Have to Mean Back Inside

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Students from Dunloggin Middle School in Howard County learn about water-filtering oysters before releasing them into the Bay. Photo by Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

It's "that time of year" again. Students, teachers, and parents are preparing to go back to school. Over the next few weeks, millions of What I did on my summer vacation essays will be written by students describing the camp they joined, the river they swam in, the beach they visited, the neighborhoods they explored with friends. But all of that is over now, it's time for back to school. Time to go back inside and learn important things from adults, and books, and the Internet.

As I watch my own kids (ages 8, 12, and 14) reluctantly get ready, it raises some questions for me: Which learning is more valuable? Why is 98+ percent of all of our instruction done indoors? Why aren't more teachers and students learning outside?

Certainly, there are a lot of challenges to leaving the four walls of the school building for learning: lack of transportation, physical safety concerns, lack of teacher experience, lack of time due to testing schedules. But there are amazing benefits to using the outdoors for learning.  Learners of almost every type are more engaged and active when they are outside. There are more opportunities for practicing life-relevant learning. And we need the next generation to understand the value of a healthy environment and the impact of our choices on it.

Based on my experience as a classroom teacher and an environmental educator, we don't give our teachers support to utilize the environment or to create the expectation that students should ever learn outside beyond their PE classes. Education is a very traditional field with massive cultural inertia. We teach the way that we are taught, and the systems have grown to perpetuate the tradition of the teacher at the front of the classroom and students in rows of desks with books. (Replacing those books with iPads isn't all that revolutionary.)

There are many forward-thinking teachers, schools, and schools systems that are making strides to change their practice to a learner centered approach, but even many of these cutting-edge educators fail to challenge the basic assumption that school has to happen inside. When you think about it, we call it "school," not "learning." If we were designing a truly learner-centered approach, I would propose that we look to how students choose to learn when adults aren't structuring the experience. If your kids are anything like mine, that learning looks like outdoor exploration.

So what can you do? You can change that expectation. If you are a teacher, you can commit to trying your first outdoor lesson or challenging yourself to modify a lesson per quarter to use the outdoors, even if it's just on your own schoolyard. If you are a parent, ask the question of your teachers and principals: "Will my children have an opportunity to learn outside this year?" (And offer to support your school by chaperoning outdoor experiences.) Or incentivize your children to learn on their own. My sons are currently researching why their dad won't let them swim in our local river until at least 48 hours after a rainstorm, hoping to get me to slack up on the rules.

If you are a student, give your teacher some feedback on how you learn best, and if your school can't accommodate learning outside, find or create your own learning opportunities. Join or create an outdoors or environmental club. If you are a school leader and need other ideasget in touch with CBF or another environmental education organization, and we can share hundreds of ways to make your school greener.

I hope you get to learn outside this year with CBFor on your own. And to all CBF teachers and students, best of luck in starting what we hope will be another great year. We can't Save the Bay without you.

—Tom Ackerman, CBF's Vice President for Education

 


Photo of the Week: Feeds My Faith and Soothes My Soul

ByLauraWright

I took each of these pictures during a recent trip to CBF's Port Isobel Island and Tangier Island as a member of Chesapeake Classrooms' Mountains to Bay Watershed Academy.

The Chesapeake Bay feeds my faith and soothes my soul. It provides us with food, incredibly beautiful views, amazing examples of architecture and engineering. Most of all, island life gives us a glimpse at people who still know the value of hard work, family, and faith. My grandfather was a waterman who grew up on Smith Island and he passed on his love of the Chesapeake Bay to his children and grandchildren. He is no longer with us, so I will do all that I can to help continue his legacy of caring for the Bay and helping others to value this treasure.

—Laura Wright

Ensure that Laura and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprintthe federal/state plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite summertime Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Teachers Get Their Feet Wet at Envirothon Workshop

Brad McClain Warwick High-1200
Brad McClain, Envirothon teacher from Warwick High School, takes a closer look for macro-invertebrates in Elder Run at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. The two-day teacher workshop was sponsored by Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Lancaster County Conservation District. The teachers studied water quality, aquatics, forestry, soils, and wildlife. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Fourteen Envirothon teachers from Pennsylvania and Virginia went paddling, turned over rocks, and studied forestry and soils during a two-day workshop, co-sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Lancaster County Conservation District (LCCD).

Envirothon is a natural resource environmental education program that combines classroom learning and outdoor activities. Teams of five high school students compete at the county and state levels, testing their knowledge of soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and environmental issues.

"One of our focuses is to provide professional development for teachers," said Tom Parke, CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) manager. "With this training, we work with teachers who are already passionate environmental educators, so they can work to bring out the best in their students."

SWEP conducts summer training for adults, as well as day-trips for students during the school year. In its 25 years, SWEP has conducted 2,000 programs and involved 43,000 participants with its spring and fall Environmental Education Days. It serves students in grades 6 to 12 in more than 25 central Pennsylvania counties.

Gina Mason is the Envirothon advisor at Palmyra High School in Lebanon County and a SWEP veteran. Palmyra students have gone on SWEP trips for more than ten years and the school's team placed second in the statewide Envirothon in May. Mason said the workshop for teachers was "without a doubt" a good experience. "If the teachers don't learn, how do they teach the students?" Mason asked. "If you have experts teaching the teachers, then the teachers become the experts teaching their students."

Mason and other teachers said they benefited greatly from networking opportunities and sharing of ideas over the two days in Lancaster County.

Brad McClain has been teaching Envirothon students at Warwick High School in Lancaster County since 2003. "I got ideas that I can use to get more field experience with my team," McClain said. "Ideas on how to get more hands-on, like canoeing, that would be great for us to do. Our problem is that our kids are busy after school, so we meet in morning. I need to take it to the next level and start meeting after school."

Forestry and soils were subjects for the teachers the first day of the workshop at the Masonic Village Pavilion in Elizabethtown. 

The group dodged thunderstorms and high waters on the second day. Plans to paddle the Susquehanna River pivoted to canoeing Swatara Creek, then ultimately shifted to "Plan C," spending the day at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's 6,200-acre Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Group briefing-1200
Envirothon teachers get a pre-paddling briefing from SWEP manager Tom Parke before going onto the lake at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Paddling on the 360-acre impoundment, the group spotted a bald eagle, conducted water tests, and heard about water quality in the lake and Lancaster County from LCCD watershed specialist Matt Kofroth. Middle Creek was built for waterfowl and in 2010 was designated as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Snow geese have slowly adjusted their routes north to include Middle Creek. About 110,000 snow geese were there on March 16 of this year.

The teachers also had the chance to conduct water tests, and collect and survey living organisms in nearby Elder Run, an exceptional value stream. Among the findings was a small native brook trout, hellgrammite, and a northern dusky salamander

In the afternoon, the teachers learned about waterfowl and mammals of Pennsylvania, and heard from Theresa Alberici, who coordinates the Envirothon on behalf of the Game Commission.

Ms. Alberici acknowledged that the Envirothon test is challenging and its lessons are lifelong. "There are kids who really do know a lot about the environment and this is the chance to show off their knowledge," she said. "Some kids might be involved in a career that involves the environment. But if not, they will think about the environment no matter what. So if they are a lawyer or accountant or on a construction crew, they will think about what they are doing and how what they are doing affects the environment. That's just as important as a career in the environment."

—B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


Middle School Mural Combines Art and Science to Study the Bay

SSSAS Bay Mural 2Photos by Susan Hamon.

As you enter the science wing at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (SSSAS) Middle School in Alexandria, Va., put on your waders, because you're about to take a tour of the Chesapeake Bay. The walls surrounding the classrooms are enveloped by a hand-painted mural of the Bay that also serves as a teaching tool. Water, animals, marsh, birds, and many other inhabitants are seen swimming and soaring in the place they call home. But this mural isn't just a painting. It's an interactive, 3D display where students add their own work, inspired by both art and science.

The mural was created in the summer of 2014 as a collaboration between Science Teacher Robert Davis and Visual Arts Teachers Jean Lynch and Joey Wade. First, Mr. Davis took Ms. Lynch on a tour of the Bay to provide the scientific background. "I came back loaded with sketches, photos, examples of shells, feathers, plant material, sand, etc.," said Ms. Lynch. She then created a scale model, studies, and elevations, which Mr. Wade, a professional scenic designer and artist, used to paint the design on the walls with help from Science Teacher Alexandra Chabolla.

SSSAS Bay Mural 4The mural shows different habitats in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, such as marshes, pine forests, grass beds, open waters, and mud flats. In science class, students learn about these habitats and create artistic models of the land animals, birds, and aquatic animals that live there, to attach to the mural. By incorporating student work, the mural becomes a "living project," growing and changing during the year.

Students learn about the unique features of the Bay and how all elements work together to create this important part of our region. The mural landscape includes inlets, water features, islands, and specific trees and grasses. "The colors are very specific to the Bay area, as it is a freshwater-meeting-seawater environment," said Ms. Lynch. The horizon of the mural matches up with the surface of several aquariums that are are visible from the hallway, creating an underwater perspective.

The mural is used to enhance Middle School science lessons that focus on Chesapeake Bay ecosystems. Additionally, SSSAS Middle School students have the opportunity to visit the bay during a three-day mini-course each spring, and all eighth grade students go on a day-long field trip to the bay to conduct water-quality monitoring and wildlife counts.

For schools that would like to do a similar project, Mr. Davis said, "Think big. Visit the Bay and take lots of pictures and make sketches. Incorporate the natural features of the building so that they mimic the habitats of the Bay. For example, our skylights are like aviaries for birds such as eagles, ospreys, and pelicans flying above the Bay." The project was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's surroundings. "On the islands there is no clear line between inside and outside, and all of the CBF buildings are like museums," Mr. Davis said. "They all have beautiful art on all their walls. We wanted to do something similar."

The project received great support from Charlotte Riggs, Middle School director and Visual Arts Department chair, and from the SSSAS buildings and grounds department. Next, the school hopes to extend the mural—down the hall and down the stairs—to include a crab shanty and "treasure chest" for the lost-and-found.

—Linda Stratton
St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School

Learn more about our CBF outdoor, educational experiences to get your students learning outside!

SSSAS Bay Mural 3