Trash Free is the Way to Be! Become a Trash Free School!

March 3rd, 2014 by Julie Walker

Alice Ferguson Foundation Photo Credit

The Trash Free Schools Project is a program run by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The Foundation has been working towards its trash free goal through sponsoring over twenty years of trash cleanups. In 2005, the foundation grew its efforts to include the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative that would work with leaders, businesses, organization, and citizens to solve the Potomac’s trash problem.  This has grow to encompass schools with the Trash Free School Project whose missions is to educate and empower students, faculty, and staff to reduce their school’s waste footprint by providing education and resources, including a comprehensive Guidebook, to aid in rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling. The aim of the project is to provid students and staff at K-12 schools  have the resources needed to investigate an environmental issue while implementing a strong waste reduction and litter prevention strategy.

Students and schools have a lot to gain from participating in the Trash Free Schools program; including creating an active and environmentally-aware school culture by increasing participation and engagement among the school body, fostering environmental stewardship through student action , gaining recognition as an environmental leader among schools and establish a starting point for other “green” certification programs, and providing a great service learning opportunity for students.

Eighteen schools from both DC and Maryland are already participating in the program, is school up to the challenge?

To become a Trash Free School, you first submit a signed Trash Free School Pledge, and form a Green Team. Then continue with the The Trash Free Schools 8 steps to help your school reduce waste.

Julie Walker is the Chesapeake Research Consortium / Chesapeake Bay Program's Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship Staffer.

Trash Travels. Really?

February 18th, 2014 by Jennifer Chambers

Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle

As a kid, did you ever wonder what happens to litter? When kids are asked today they have two common answers, “Someone else picks it up or it stays there”. Some may also respond that wind blows it around or it gets washed into those big rectangular holes in the street. For many though, it is hard to wrap their heads around the concept that litter travels much farther distances beyond their neighborhoods and schoolyards. It blows their mind that it may travel as far as the ocean.

A new children’s book, Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, brings to light the story of a water bottle’s journey in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and Atlantic Ocean. Upon reaching a storm drain, the personified water bottle travels the streams and rivers of Washington, D.C., meeting animals along its ride. Each animal—from the water strider to the loggerhead turtle—teaches the water bottle about itself, its origins, its journey, and those of other pollutants in the watershed. Alima is the five-year old water bottle’s heroine; making us all believe we can be one too.

The inspiration for this story came to me more than eight years ago when I taught a series of environmental classes to children in the Montgomery Housing Partnership’s after-school program. Using a large map during one class, the kids and I created a story and mapped the travels of a juice box from their apartment’s playground, through a storm drain, into Long Branch stream and to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. We brainstormed and discussed the animals it may encounter along the way and the harmful impacts the juice box would have on them.

Stories help children understand and bring alive history, issues, relationships and problems, such as pollution in our watersheds in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle. Stories often energize adults and children to take action to solve the problem narrated. For us all, it is important to learn about the harmful effects of litter on our streams, rivers and oceans but it is equally important for kids to observe and verbalize the impacts litter has on their space. For it is this that can also ignite a desire to remove and reduce litter in their neighborhoods and schools which results in cleaner waterways for animals and us.

Wanna use this book in the classroom? Visit the author’s educator resource page for activities and lessons to accompany this book. All book profits are donated to the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Surfrider Foundation.

Why are Melting Glaciers Important to our Coast?

February 10th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Glacier Retreat from 1941 - 2004

Hey there Bay Backpackers! I know you have all have been sitting on the edge of you seat watching the Winter Olympics, So I thought that I would start off this weeks blog with a little Olympic themed riddle….

I am breaking speed records, but in this race no one will win. What am I?

…Dramatic Pause…

Did you say… a retreating Glacier?? You are correct! Man, you are good at riddles! (Or maybe just good at reading titles)

Anyways, I was rather upset to hear that Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier broke its own speed record again, quadrupling its summer run to the sea between the 1990s and 2012. This is particularly upsetting for us coastline folk, who may be particularly susceptible to the consequential sea-level rise that is a result of glacier melt like that of the Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier.  Check out this dramatic video of a glacier calving. Wow, that was intense. I can hear those land locked states laughing now, while they make plans for their new beach front homes.

Yet, moderate projections only predict that sea-levels will rise 0.387-m rise by 2100, which makes pictures like this one of a drowned inner harbor of Baltimore under 10 meters of water a picture of the distant future. But this is not the case for all of our coastal cities. Cities like New York, New Orleans, Miami and many other international cities are in much more immediate danger from the effects of sea-level rise. Even an increase of just 1 meter could be devastating to some of these cities.

Even though you may not live in one of those cities that will be first impacted, it doesn’t mean that this could not have huge ecological, social, and economical impacts to the Chesapeake Bay area. Which makes it a great topic for classroom discussion.

Sea Level rise can be used to teach many different skills…

Such as data interpretation; Try using NOAA’s lesson plans on sea level rise to use actual data to draw conclusions.

Or maybe have you class think about the political implications of sea-level rise, what policies should be in place? How can we better plan for our cities? Have you kids make decisions about how they would plan for a rising sea-levels, and what laws and policy they would implement.

Want to integrate some technical skills? Did you like those pictures from earlier in the blog? You can have your students model the effect of sea level rise in your area by making your own “Drown your town” maps using google earth.

Want to use a hands on discussion? Try making your own glaciers and seeing what effect sea level rise more,melting land ice or sea ice?

Well I hope that you got some ideas about how to integrate sea-level rise into your classroom discussion! As well as how to use it as a tool to talk about other disciplines and introduce new skills!

Julie Walker is the Chesapeake Research Consortium / Chesapeake Bay Program's Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship Staffer.

Why Teach about Climate Change and Current Events

February 3rd, 2014 by Julie Walker

Image Courtesy of Waterloo University

Why Should YOU Teach about Climate Change and Current Events?

As we have all experienced the extreme cold this winter, it seems easy to let climate change slip from our minds. After all its hard to feel bad for those melting polar ice caps, when you have one rapidly forming in your driveway at home. But being the good environmental stewards that you are, you know that weather and climate are two very different things. Unlike the growing number of Americans that cite their personal observations of cold and snowy winter conditions as the primary factor influencing their disbelief of climate change. So hopefully some fresh polar vortex air will give you the second wind that you need to pull out your climate change soap box.

How Can YOU Teach About Climate Change and Current Events?

“BUT HOW!?” you say; “I’ve taught my students about climate change! How do I make it interesting?”

It’s true, not all students will find greenhouse gases, and mitigation strategies all that interesting. But, that doesn’t mean they can find some connection to climate change. Drawing connections from climate change to current events may be the ticket to grabbing their attention.

For example if you are reading this at my point in time, your students might be hyped on a sports overload with the recent Super Bowl, and upcoming Winter Olympic Games. And even if they might not think that carbon emissions are all that cool, they might find it interesting that Peyton Manning carpools to games, that Super Bowl 48 is being billed as the “First Mass Transit Super Bowl” because of the increased focus on public transportation, or that in 2012 the NFL purchased renewable energy certificates to offset the carbon footprint of the big game day at “Lucas Oil Stadium”.

And you can’t forget about the Olympics, everyone loves the flags, the patriotism, and the inspiring feats of athleticism. But, did you know that  if we experience climate change to the degree predicted by scientists by the mid-21st century close to half of the cities that have hosted the Olympic Winter Games in the past would no longer be able to because it would not be cold enough? Or that in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway all of the silverware and plates were made from potato starch and fed it to cattle afterward?

NOW DIDN’T YOU FIND THAT INTERESTING? So did I! Maybe your students will too!

So if you want to get you students to relate to climate change try using current events to lead into a lesson, it could help students to make everyday connections to climate change. If you are looking for some lesson plans on climate changes try using some of the great lesson plans from Bay Backpack.

Related Articles:

The Future of the Winter Olympics in a Warmer World- University of Waterloo

The Best and Worst Olympic Cities – Discovery News

Super Bowl Tackles Climate Change- Discovery News

Taking the Bus to Super Bowl XLVIII – Sustainable Cities Collective

The Chilling effect of winter 2013 on American Acceptance of Global Warming - National Surveys on Energy and Environment

Protect our Winters- Organization started by winter sports athletes and enthusiasts, with a focus on educational initiatives, advocacy and the support of community-based projects to lead the fight against climate change.

Filed under: News
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Julie Walker is the Chesapeake Research Consortium / Chesapeake Bay Program's Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship Staffer.

Best Practices in Environmental Education

January 13th, 2014 by Kevin

Environmental Education Best Practices at Work!

To ensure the health of the Chesapeake Bay in the future, NOAA and other agencies are working today to advance high quality K-12 environmental education for today’s students, who are the next generation of Bay stewards.

But what constitutes high-quality environmental education? To examine this, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Education Workgroup, chaired by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, convened a workshop to examine research-based best practices for environmental education. The workshop focused on student learning, but also practices in teacher professional development and “green school” certification programs—two topics recognized as essential to high-quality environmental education. A report highlighting the findings and summarizing the discussions has been published by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, which sponsored the workshop.

During the workshop, participants—including top researchers and evaluators in the environmental education field as well as key staff from federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations:

    • Examined best practices of education programs that lead to increased environmental literacy in K-12 students.
    • Revisited the definition of the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) in order to reflect MWEE’s role and importance in broader, more systematic environmental education programs.
    • Discuss indicators and metrics that will assess progress toward increasing student stewardship.

      Currently, all watershed states have a goal to provide each student with a MWEE during the course of their K-12 career. But in addition to tracking numbers of students who participate in MWEEs, how can the rigor and quality of those MWEEs be monitored? And while goals have been set for student experiences, no such goals for teacher/educator professional development or school grounds and maintenance have been established.

      Working from existing documents and drawing from their experience in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, participants, organized into three groups, dove in to developing a first draft of “best practices” in environmental education for students, teachers, and school facilities. These draft best practices are included in the full report as an appendix, and work on these comprehensive lists remains in progress with the Education Workgroup.

      Efforts started at the workshop and described in the report are also still in progress to determine the best metrics for tracking student environmental literacy in the mid-Atlantic.

      Sessions that were held at the August 2012 workshop and summarized in the report include:

        • The Framework: North American Association for Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education
        • What We Know: Environmental Education and the Meaningful Watershed Education Experience
        • Urban Environmental Education: The North Bay Experience
        • Inquiry-Based Learning: Leveraging Students’ Natural Curiosity to Learn about Their Environment
        • Keeping It Real: Using Schools and Communities as a Context for Environmental Education
        • What Does the National Environmental Literacy Assessment Mean for Metrics Development?
        • Education Priorities and Their Connection to Environmental Education Best Practices
        • Reflections on the Implications for Metrics Development

        Report authors presented on workshop findings at the September meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, which helped support the workshop.In addition, the report was featured in discussions at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Summit, held December 2-3 in Annapolis. The Summit is a biennial Chesapeake Bay Program Education Workgroup conference, organized by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, that brings together educators and decisionmakers to advance environmental literacy work in the region.

        Kevin Schabow is an Education Specialist at NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Office.

        Introducing a New Bay Backpacker!

        December 30th, 2013 by Julie Walker

        Searching for some wood ducks at Patuxent River Naval Air Station

        Hey there Backpackers!

        Hope you are all enjoying your holidays and are taking some time to relax from the busy school year. You deserve it! I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the newest member of the Bay Backpack Blogging community. My name is Julie Walker and I will be relieving Sarah as the head caretaker of the Bay Backpack Blog. I can hear you through the computer screen now…“Oh no! But we love Sarah!” Well don’t worry I’m keeping Sarah close by (literally one cubical over) to impart all of her wisdom and insights.

        But now, more about me! I am recent graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I received my degree in Biology, with a focus in Marine and Estuarine ecology. I also received minors in Environmental Studies, and Museum Studies. While at St. Mary’s I got to study abroad in both Australia and Belize, conducted independent research on oysters, and completed internships at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Calvert Marine Museum, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. My claim to fame in the environmental education world comes from my time at the Calvert Marine Museum, were I developed and administered educational programs to kids and adults, along with my other duties such as cleaning tanks and feeding the river otters!

        I started working here at the Chesapeake Bay Program a month ago, and have been adjusting to my new role as the new Environmental Stewardship Staffer. I can’t wait to get to know all you Bay Backpackers out there, and hope you continue to enjoy the blog!

        Filed under: News
        Julie Walker is the Chesapeake Research Consortium / Chesapeake Bay Program's Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship Staffer.

        Experts Focus on Improving Environmental Literacy in the Mid-Atlantic

        December 2nd, 2013 by Sarah

        Congressman John Sarbanes, pictured here speaking about the MUDDY FEET program at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, will give the keynote address at the 2013 Summit.

        In Annapolis, Maryland, the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Summit (December 2-3, 2013) is bringing together environmental education experts, representatives from federal and state governments, and decision makers from around the watershed to discuss how federal, state, and local partners can be more effective and efficient at developing and implementing environmental literacy programs.

        Since 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership has coordinated and conducted the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, and in 1998 it launched a federal-state partnership in support of environmental education, recognizing that:

        “The future well-being of North America’s largest and most productive estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, its thousands of tributaries, and its 64,000 square miles of watershed will soon rest in the hands of its youngest citizens. These citizens, three million strong in kindergarten through 12th grade, are tomorrow’s leaders. They also will be the stewards of the Bay’s precious resources including its fish, crabs and oysters, forests and wetlands.” – Directive 98-1 of the Chesapeake Bay Program

        This statement remains as true today as the day it was written, and the regional commitment to advancing environmental literacy efforts throughout the watershed remains strong as the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Education Workgroup, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and Chesapeake Bay Trust convene the 5th biennial Environmental Literacy Summit.

        This year, summit participants will explore how environmental literacy can be achieved using existing and emerging standards and practices and will work together to better connect and align federal programs and grantees with efforts at the state level.  On the second day of the Summit, a smaller group will participate in working sessions designed to review the new education best practices and metrics under development for the Chesapeake Bay Program and to discuss specific strategies for advancing environmental education at the state and regional level.

        For more information about the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Summit, please refer to the meeting webpage:

        Additional information about the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Education Workgroup is available here:

        Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

        Support Ocean Literacy by Volunteering to Help Students with the Chesapeake Bay Bowl

        November 12th, 2013 by Christopher Petrone

        Another perk of volunteering, you get a cool t-shirt and lunch! Volunteers at the 2012 Chesapeake Bay Bowl. Image via Chesapeake Bay Bowl

        The National Ocean Sciences Bowl a competition for teams of high school students that is coordinated by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance research, education, and sound ocean policy. Regional competitions, such as the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, are run by staff at universities, research institutions, Sea Grant programs, and aquaria, and rely heavily on a large, knowledgeable volunteer base.

        For the first time this year, the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, which serves students from PA, DE, MD, and northern VA, will be coordinated by Delaware Sea Grant and the University of Delaware. The competition will be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Delaware – that’s right, at the beach – AND we are looking for volunteers!

        In some regional competitions, the competitor to volunteer ratio can be close to 2:1 or even 1:1. These volunteers include university faculty and staff, museum and aquarium scientists and educators, graduate and undergraduate students, personnel from the US Navy and Coast Guard, and NOAA staff, all brought together for one purpose—to foster the next generation of ocean science professionals and ocean literate citizens—through good-spirited competition.

        If you are interested in volunteering, in any capacity, all Regional Coordinators would love to have you!  Jobs include everything from presiding over matches and reading questions (Moderator) to Science Judge to Rules Judge to keeping score or running the clock. Are you more into scoring the Team Challenge Questions? Each bowl needs several of these important volunteers!

        I have volunteered with NOSB regional competitions nine times in the last eight years (yes, I still have all of my t-shirts!). I have served as Science Judge, Rules Judge, Team Challenge Question Scorer, Room Runner, and Chief Scorekeeper. Year after year, it is one of the most worthwhile programs I am involved in; I look forward to it every winter. I have been fortunate enough to work with all kinds of interesting marine science professionals, and even cooler, with volunteers who are former competitors.

        Volunteering typically includes participating in a few training sessions in the weeks leading up to the event, and then committing a full Saturday to your competition. It’s a long day, but extraordinarily rewarding—these students are amazing to work with and watch! The knowledge, tenacity, and strategy the students demonstrate are remarkable.

        For more information about volunteering, visit the Chesapeake Bay Bowl website:

        OR you can register as a volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Bowl using this form:

        Learn more about the National Ocean Science Bowl and the Chesapeake Bay Bowl by checking out this blog!

        Christopher Petrone is a Marine Education Specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant & University of Delaware. He is also the Coordinator of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Bowl.

        Building Ocean Literacy Through Good, Old-Fashioned Competition

        November 4th, 2013 by Christopher Petrone

        Ok, get your thinking caps on and no cheating! Can you answer the following three questions?

        Team faceoff in buzzer questions. Image via Blue Crab Bowl

        For a nice 4-minute overview of a regional bowl, check out this video about Virginia’s Blue Crab Bowl.

        1. Which organisms form the base of the food chain at hydrothermal vents due to their ability to convert carbon and nutrients into organic matter in the absence of sunlight?

          A. photosynthetic bacteria;
          B. chemosynthetic bacteria;
          C. secondary consumers;
          D. pelagic chondrichthyans

        2. What is the approximate age of the oldest oceanic crust?

          A. 100 thousand years;
          B. 1 million years;
          C. 50 million years;
          D. 180 million years

        3. Which part of a tidal cycle has minimal current?

          A. Ebb tide;
          B. Flood tide;
          C. Slack tide;
          D. Lunar tide

        These questions—written by top ocean scientists and educators—are just a few examples of the hundreds of questions asked of students participating in the 25 regional competitions and annual national competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.  Go to the end of this blog to see if you answered correctly!

        Created in 1998 in honor of the International Year of the Ocean, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl has grown tremendously, in size and prominence, to now involving roughly 400 schools, 2,000 students, and over 1,200 volunteers each year.

        In head-to-head competition, quiz-bowl style, individuals from two teams of high school students (four students, one alternate and, of course, a teacher coach) answer moderate and advanced-level questions covering all disciplines of the ocean sciences: biology, chemistry, geology, physics, policy, maritime history, and technology. In between two rounds of “buzzer questions,” students collaborate to answer more in-depth, graded questions known as Team Challenge Questions as a collective-brain. At the end of the day, a winner is crowned and prizes are awarded. The winners of the 25 regional competitions then move on to the national competition and battle for the championship and amazing prizes. Past winners have received trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Panama, field research experiences, and gear for the classroom and field.

        The Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic region is fortunate to have six regional competitions:

        For the first time this year, the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, which serves students from PA, DE, MD, and northern VA, will be coordinated by Delaware Sea Grant and the University of Delaware. The competition will be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014 at UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, Delaware—that’s right, at the beach!

        If you are interested in developing a team at your high school for any of the NOSB regional competitions, now is the time to start preparing your students. Team registration information for all regional competitions is now posted. The NOSB website includes a wealth of information on how to prepare for a competition, with recommended resources, training tips, and sample questions. If your school is interested in participating in the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, fill our this form by November 20th:

        I hope to see you at the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Bowl on February 1!

        How did you do on the quiz? Here are the correct answers:  Question 1: B;  Question 2: D;  Question 3: C
        Christopher Petrone is a Marine Education Specialist with the Delaware Sea Grant & University of Delaware. He is also the Coordinator of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Bowl.

        Engage Your Students in STEM and Win Technology for Your School

        October 21st, 2013 by Sarah Kozicki

        Enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest today!

        Increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) knowledge and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for students is a national priority. Student achievement in STEM is key to fostering a new wave of innovators who can creatively address complex 21st century challenges.

        Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest is an excellent opportunity to engage students in STEM while applying to win a share of $2,000,000 in technology and prizes for your school.  Samsung is asking teachers to answer the challenge:  “Show how STEM can be applied to help your local community.” Up to 255 applicants will be chosen to create their vision for this program, and then 51 teachers will be chosen to have their classes create videos addressing the challenge. Fifteen schools will win technology packages estimated at $35,000 and be invited to pitch their ideas to an expert panel of judges. Five of those schools will win prize packages estimated at $140,000 for their school and be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C.

        Additionally, each applicant will be eligible for the Environmental Innovation Sustainability Award, in which schools can win an additional $50,000 in Samsung technology by applying STEM to an environmental challenge in their community.

        The environment is a compelling context for teaching STEM as it provides teachers with a diverse range of real-world challenges that engage students in hands-on opportunities to apply and reinforce STEM concepts across multiple subject areas. Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest is an opportunity for students to make a difference in their community by using technology to apply STEM to a real environmental challenge.

        Learn more and apply for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest at:

        Application period ends October 31.

        Filed under: Funding,News
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        Sarah Kozicki is an Education Program Coordinator for National Environmental Education Week.
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