As songbirds begin to chirp at sunrise and daylight stretches longer into the evenings, CBF environmental educators flock back to the Chesapeake Bay for the start of another season. Winter is fading and it is time to pull out nets and spring mud boots.
The start of the spring season as a CBF island program educator brings feelings of excitement and eagerness at the thought of a new, fresh season filled with students traipsing through the black needle rush in the marsh, crab pots brimming with feisty blue crabs, and silent sunrises over the awakening Bay. However, before any of these adventures can be had, staff must prepare the boats, education centers, and grounds for the consistent flow of students and teachers that will soon be arriving.
The fleet of Chesapeake Bay deadrise boats and unique jet drive boats have been pulled out of the water for the winter to allow captains and crew to spruce up paint jobs, perform regular maintenance, and complete any big projects that time won't allow for once the regular season gets rolling. The houses and buildings have to be awakened with a deep cleaning after their long winter naps. Heat and water gets turned on, and the buildings creak back to life. Mops, brooms, and vacuums stay busy in educators' hands. The tractor grumbles across Port Isobel's soggy ground as it pushes dirt into holes that high winter tides have carved out. Fresh grass seed is scattered over bare patches of earth with hopes that the brackish Bay water will stay back and allow grass to grow.
Educators convene at island team meetings to share ideas for how to keep student field investigations fresh, active, hands-on, and engaging. Staff brainstorm ways to include and integrate new information on current events and Bay topics, such as addressing agriculture's role in curbing nutrient pollution and effects of climate change that the islands see firsthand. The plans for land and water experiences evoke a sense of learning, wonder, and connectedness with the Bay for both CBF educators and the students who will arrive this month.
Long, busy days of preparation are tackled with excited energy as a spirit of newness and eagerness hangs in the air over the four island education centers. A walk down the weathered, wooden dock includes observations of how different this quiet scene will be in just a few short weeks. Soon students will be scattered across the dock, some shrieking with excitement as they catch and release their first rockfish and others working together to pull up an old crab pot that is covered with sea squirts, skillet fish, and blue crabs. At another end of the dock, an educator may be showing students how gobies have adapted to life on an oyster reef by not having any scales. Learning, exploration, and discovery will soon enough be back on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay at CBF island centers, and we can hardly wait.
CBF's Smith Island Manager