This Week in the Watershed

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 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

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


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], 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

Postcards from Paradise

5"Remember the excitement you felt, the love, and all the great energy. Take these and incorporate them into your teaching. And don't ever forget these experiences." That's what one teacher wrote to herself in a postcard from a CBF Chesapeake Classrooms experience last year.

Every summer, hundreds of teachers, principals, and administrators participate in a CBF five-day professional development immersion course along the Bay and its rivers and streams. In between testing water quality, setting crab pots, and learning lessons to bring back to the classroom, participants write and illustrate colorful postcards to themselves, reminding their future selves of the lessons learned and moments shared out on the Bay. 

1Last year, these were some of the meaningful anecdotes that hit teachers' mailboxes across the watershed:

"I will never forget coming eyeball to eyeball with tiny menhaden fish . . . written from the awesome crows nest on Fox Island."

"As with every trip, I always remember the calmness of the water, the sunsets, and the incredible starry nights."

"Dear Laura, Thank you for giving me this experience. This trip with CBF reminded me that I love science and all things connected to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed . . . don't forget to sign up next year."

"Every creature/living organism in and out of the bay is connected."

" . . . when we can help others to love the Bay, their education will become more meaningful and we will act on the love in our hearts."

Want to take home a meaningful Chesapeake experience like the ones above? We're still taking applications! Click here to sign up for this coming summer.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


Floating Classrooms Foster Love of Nature

The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

CBF's 42-foot, Coast Guard-inspected boat, "Baywatcher"

Many RVA residents have become spoiled by living near the James River and its wonderful amenities: stunning vistas, fishing, paddling, swimming, hiking, birding, and wildlife watching.

But imagine if the closest you ever got to the James was in a car driving over a Richmond bridge. What if you'd never dipped a toe in the river, cast a line to fish, or rock-hopped across the rapids to picnic or sunbathe? What if you'd never seen a great blue heron stalking the riverbank or touched the whiskers on a blue catfish? What if you'd never, ever seen a bald eagle soaring over the James?

Believe it or not, thousands of Richmond-area youngsters have never had such experiences. They are among a growing number of children suffering from nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv, author of the 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to a near-total unfamiliarity with the outdoors caused by a preoccupation with indoor electronic devices — televisions, computers, cellphones, electronic games and other gadgets. On average, kids 8 to 18 years old spend more than 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's more than 50 hours a week.

Fortunately, a beautiful natural world still awaits anyone willing to disconnect from electronic gizmos and venture outdoors. And this year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation celebrates 30 years of unplugging Richmond-area students and taking them outside onto the James to explore nature and the river.

Since CBF launched its James River Education Boat Program in 1985, some 55,000 students have participated in these hands-on, get-wet-and-dirty environmental education experiences. The kids board Baywatcher, a 42-foot, Coast Guard-inspected boat and one of CBF's many "floating classroom" vessels, and spend three to six hours on the water. There they read maps, identify landmarks, note shoreline land uses, take water samples, fish, crab, and ooh and aah at the critters they find.

But the boat trips are more than just fun days on the water. These science-based discovery experiences are led by professional environmental educators who reinforce knowledge and skills in Virginia's Standards of Learning and complement teachers' own classroom studies.

For many students, the CBF field experiences represent the first time they've ever been on a boat. For still others, the trips are watershed experiences that spark a lifelong love of science and nature. Many teachers have confided they were inspired to be science educators by a CBF discovery trip they took as youngsters. For testimonials and more about CBF's outdoor education experiences, go to

But environmental education provides other big benefits as well. Studies demonstrate that it:

  • Generally improves student achievement in science, likely because it connects classroom learning to the real world.
  • Improves student interest and engagement in the classroom. Students just seem to like environmental studies, opting to focus science fair and service projects on environmental topics more than any other.
  • Boosts reading, math and social studies achievement when integrated into other school subjects.
  • When used as a common thread in all classes, reduces student discipline problems, increases student enthusiasm, and generates greater pride and ownership in accomplishments.
  • Teaches critical thinking and basic life skills necessary for a 21st-century workforce.

All of which is why CBF encourages the McAuliffe administration and the Virginia General Assembly to make environmental literacy a priority in Virginia. A new Chesapeake Bay Agreement, signed last year by Governor McAuliffe and the other Chesapeake Bay partner states, includes an important environmental literacy goal: "Enable students in the region to graduate with the knowledge and skills to act responsibly to protect and restore their local watershed."

CBF urges the private and public sectors to work together in planning and funding a bold vision for all Virginia students to have the opportunity to become environmentally literate. Armed with this knowledge, Virginia students can become tomorrow's leaders, making sound decisions to restore the Chesapeake Bay and to protect Virginia's precious natural resources.

Still, it's hard to imagine the commonwealth will achieve these laudable environmental literacy goals unless more kids get outside and experience the wonders of nature. You just have to be there.

So during this Earth Day season, consider taking a young person you know to a park, on a hike, to a lake or stream, or just out into the backyard. Look around. Smell the air. Touch. Explore. You might even see a bald eagle and change a life.

—Ann Jennings, CBF's Virginia Executive Director

Gardening and the Bay: A Future in the Making

Lindsay Bushong, a junior at Drexel University, shares her story of encountering a love for gardening, and the role CBF played along the way.

Some of the Backyard Beds in Philadelphia, PA

In high school, I took a half day field trip with CBF. I had a blast and when they talked about the summer programs they offered, I knew I had to go. Fast forward a year and I'm two days into a week long adventure down the James River in Virginia. We did various things to learn about the Bay, digging in the detritus, not leaving any trace at our campsites, going to leadership workshops. However, what I remember most is our visit first to a large organic farm, and then to a smaller, urban garden in Richmond. I grew up in a really rural community, but had never seen an organic garden to the scale of the one we visiting in Virginia. There was a beautiful rainwater catchment system and rows upon rows of lush, gorgeous veggies. In the city, we learned about the benefits of having nature in an urban setting, how its good for both people and the environment. While I didn't realize it then, the idea of the "triple bottom line benefit" would follow me to Philadelphia.

I recently began my own social entrepreneurship project, Backyard Beds. Backyard Beds came into fruition for a number of reasons. Having moved to the city from an agricultural community, I was astounded at the lack of fresh food in my neighborhood. Through my academic studies I began to learn about food deserts and food insecurity, which really sparked my interest. My freshman year I worked on an urban farm, and this experience seemed tie together all my passions into one amazing social venture. Through professors, mentors and classmates, I soon found myself managing a small garden only a few blocks from my house at The Dornsife Center. While gardening there, I got to meet a lot of amazing people, but most importantly, I got to meet Mantua (my neighborhood) area residents. These are long-term residents. One afternoon a neighbor was asking how she could build her own raised garden beds, I immediately offered to help, and thus Backyard Beds was born from this interaction.

Harvested radishes from backyard beds

Our seed funding came from a fellowship with The Resolution Project, an amazing organization helping young people start really cool projects around the world. In the summer of 2013 we built five gardens for five families. Not only are these gardens beautiful and relaxing, but they provide practically free fresh, local produce. Something most Mantua area residents lack. The gardens also decrease stormwater runoff and the heat island effect. We hope to create a small food distribution competent to the project that helps move the food more efficiently around the neighborhood.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been pivotal in my growth and development. I would have never discovered my passion and interests without my experiences in and around the Bay. This project has brought my studies and experiences full circle, giving me the opportunity to create real, meaningful change. In high school, after I got back from I trip I knew I wanted to start a little organic garden. CBF helped me do this, leading to me earning a Certificate of Environmental Leadership. The ways in which CBF facilitate and support students are incredible, and I wish every student could take advantage of the opportunities they have to offer.

A Student's Take on the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

What is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint? A video I recently helped produce with my school's green club, ECO Sherwood at Sherwood High School, working alongside the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Student Leadership program, helps answer that very question:

The Blueprint is a process that coordinates Washington, D.C. and the six states of the Chesapeake Watershed to clean up their pollution to the Bay by 2025. Our video describes the Blueprint and maps out simple things that  students, parents, teachers, or anyone can do in their daily lives to lessen pollution into our beloved Bay. To make the concepts pop, we chose to use a dry-erase whiteboard to display images in a fun way. We also filmed some projects that our club had done, to illustrate more vividly actions that others can take.

This project meant the world to me, as it should since I am a proud resident of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed! I treasure the Bay and all its wonderful resources, and I hope the video can make a difference. All the hard work was well worth the outcome, for now thousands (hopefully) of people will view this video and make some small change to help our Bay.

CBF has always been a part of my life. My mom is a naturalist and loved taking me out with her on many CBF sponsored field trips. I have also been on overnight trips to island education centers, as well as day trips on the Skipjack Stanley Norman, canoes, or boating over oyster restoration projects! CBF has helped open my eyes to the beauty of our Bay and the efforts we can take as citizens to help keep the Chesapeake a marvel for many generations to come.

I hope not just Maryland residents view this video, but citizens from every state in the watershed, and collectively they make a change in their daily routine. While many people think that one small change will have no impact on the Chesapeake's health, but in reality, that is complete crazy talk! Any small change can make a huge impact, because think about it: If every student turned the faucet off while brushing their teeth or washing their hands, it could add up to a lot of water conserved.

The video is imperative for the Bay's health because it promotes the changes we all can make towards helping the Bay, and highlights the efforts our government leaders are also supposed to be taking in order to clean the Bay by 2025. Ultimately, I hope that after viewing the video, people start to see that they can make a difference every day to help save the Bay.

—Hayley Mazur, Class of 2015, Sherwood High School

Share this video with friends and family. We need everyone to know and fight for the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!