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

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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.

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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!

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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

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Floating Classrooms Foster Love of Nature

The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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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 cbf.org/education.

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.

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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.

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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!


Changing of the Guards on Smith Island

IMG_5768Captain Wes Bradshaw. 

CBF's Smith Island Education Program has been lucky to have the services of Captain Wes Bradshaw since the winter of 2001. Now Captain Wes has decided to hang up his oilskins and pass the important duty of Captain/Educator to Captain Jessie Marsh.

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Captain Jessie Marsh.

Captain Wes has been called an "invaluable resource" by many who have had the chance to interact with him on field experiences. His stories about growing up on Smith Island have shed light on the island's culture and challenges, which include water pollution, land subsidence, and fisheries. 

What's more, Captain Wes had the ability to make all participants--student and teachers alike--laugh and loved to play practical jokes, keeping everyone on their toes. Captain Wes will still be living in the town of Ewell on Smith Island with his wife and plans to be available to fill in with CBF activities whenever needed.

Captain Jessie Marsh will serve as the new Smith Island Captain/ Educator and brings with him 20 years of CBF education experience. For Jessie, working on Smith Island means going home, as he was raised in Tylerton. He carries with him the experiences of working the water for crabs and oysters, as well as having lived on the mainland, and having worked as the CBF Islands Senior Manager.

The Smith Island Education program is thankful for Captain Wes' 14 years of service and looks forward to Captain Jessie leaving his mark as Captain Wes did so well.

—Phillip McKnight 

 Learn more about our award-winning education program and sign up for a field experience to Smith Island!


Skipjack Stanley Norman: Defying the Odds

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CBF's Skipjack the Stanley Norman. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

It is hard to believe a 70-foot wooden boat constructed at the turn of the 20th century is still sailing today. But CBF's Skipjack, Stanley Norman, defies the odds. A treasured piece of Chesapeake Bay history and culture, the Stanley Norman serves today as a "floating classroom," where students of all ages learn about oysters, the life of a Chesapeake Bay waterman, and Bay-related issues of the past, present, and future. 

A Two-Sail Bateau, known colloquially as a "Skipjack," is an oyster dredging wooden boat that reached its peak popularity in the Chesapeake Bay region in the late 1880s. A cheap boat to build and sail, the skipjack was tremendously efficient at dredging oysters due to its strength and power, which was necessary to haul oyster dredges across the Bay floor. While no boat matched its strength in dredging oysters, it was inferior in harvesting other fare found in the Bay. As a result, when oyster populations diminished dramatically in the 1960s, the size of the Chesapeake Bay's skipjack fleet shrunk simultaneously. The dwindling of the skipjack fleet was astounding—of the estimated 2,000 skipjacks in the Chesapeake Bay at their peak, an estimated 13 are left. Virtually none of these skipjacks are used for their original aim of dredging oysters, but instead are used for educational purposes.

Possessing a character only a boat of its age and history can hold, the Stanley Norman provides a unique educational experience. Indeed, when students step aboard the Stanley Norman, they're not only learning more about the Bay, water quality issues, oyster restoration, and the life of a waterman—they're taking a step back in time. More than 3,000 students step aboard the skipjack annually, participating in activities such as raising the sail as a team, with the accompanying call-and-response of "Heave!" "Ho!", exploring Chesapeake Bay geography through pouring over historic and current maps, and dredging and pulling up oysters, to name a few.

"If you want to experience the Chesapeake Bay, there are countless ways to go about it," says Dave Gelenter, Captain of the Stanley Norman since 1998. "You might study the Bay in school. You could read any number of books written about the science, culture, or history of the Bay. You could watch videos of Blue Crabs molting in Eelgrass beds or Bald Eagles feeding their young. All of these experiences would leave you richer for having done them. But to sail aboard the Stanley Norman, a vessel which is an actual part of the culture and history of the Chesapeake, makes you part of the Chesapeake. An experience on the Stanley Norman connects people to the Bay in a way no other experience can."

Aside from the tremendous educational value the Stanley Norman provides, this boat represents something much greater in the evolution of the relationship between the Chesapeake Bay and those who depend on the bounty of its waters. While the steep decline in the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population has several causes, including disease, changes in water quality, and habitat loss, it is undeniable that the overharvesting of the Bay's oysters played a large role. This overharvesting was greatly assisted by the skipjack and its incredible efficiency at dredging oysters. 

It might seem a bit counterintuitive therefore, to celebrate a boat that in some ways represents the overharvesting and accompanying decline of the Chesapeake Bay oyster. A closer examination however reveals our great progress as a society. Where once the skipjack was used to exploit the Bay's oysters, the Stanley Norman is now educating thousands of students on the importance of oyster restoration. And more importantly, the Stanley Norman is helping cultivate in our future leaders a love for nature through exposure to the beauty, history, and culture, of the Bay and its waters.

If the Stanley Norman will make it another 112 years is anyone's guess. But perhaps this old skipjack will continue to defy the odds, not in just mere survival, but in helping to restore the great Chesapeake Bay oyster and the waters which it calls home.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


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Can't get enough of the Stanley Norman? Click here to dive into it's unique history, dimensions, fun facts, and photos.


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.