Why Teach About Osprey and DDT?

March 28th, 2011 by Sarah

An Osprey mid-flight at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region.

Spring’s arrival is marked by the return of osprey to the Chesapeake.  Osprey can be found in almost every corner of the globe, but they are especially abundant here in the Chesapeake Watershed.  This has not always been the case though.  Did you know that like the Bald Eagle, osprey suffered a large population decline during the 1950-70’s as a result of the effects of DDT?

Why Should YOU Teach about Osprey?

The osprey population recovery is a great success story for bay conservation issues!  Some may say that the Chesapeake Bay is too polluted to ever really be healthy again, but the osprey is proof that when we identify a problem and focus our resources nature’s resilience can lead to great environmental recoveries.

DDT, an organochloride, was once widely used as a pesticide.  Unfortunately, this chemical is able to bioaccumulate and through biomagnification, is concentrated up through the food web.  It can cause bird eggshells to become so thin that they can crack during incubation, decreasing the hatch rate of chicks.  The decreased survival rate of chicks caused major population declines in bird species such as the osprey.

The United States EPA ban DDT in 1972.  As a result of this ban, and the construction of artificial nesting boxes, osprey populations have made a great recovery.  Today, osprey are a common sight, and it is estimated that approximately 2,000 pairs currently nest in the Chesapeake Bay region alone!

How Can YOU Teach about Osprey?

Osprey in the Chesapeake Bay can be used to teach about a wide variety of topics.  The osprey’s position at the top of the Chesapeake Bay food web, and the species high visibility make it a valuable indicator species that can help determine the health of the ecosystem.  You can also use osprey to introduce science classes to topics like bioaccumulation, chemicals, toxins, ecology, food webs, environmental successes, and population studies.  Incorporate osprey into English classes by having students read Rachel Carson’s Silent Springs and write a book report.  Want to learn more about osprey?  Check out these resources:

Lesson Plans

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.

Environmental Education Week Webinar: Teaching Ocean Connections from Watersheds to Reefs

March 21st, 2011 by Sarah Kozicki

Celebrate "Ocean Connections" by participating in a Teacher Webinar to help prepare for National Environmental Education Week! Photo courtesy of Suchana Chavanich/Marine Photobank.

The ocean covers nearly three quarters of our planet’s surface, provides 70 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere and houses about 20 percent of the known species on Earth. It regulates climate and weather and provides food and energy resources for humans worldwide. Water in every stream or river on the planet eventually ends up in the ocean, and all life on Earth is dependent upon its health. More than half of all Americans live within 50 miles of the coast, but whether near or far our lives are inextricably linked to the ocean.

In 2011, National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), the nation’s largest environmental event, will be held from April 10-16.  Here in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed we will be celebrating the 2011 EE Weeks’s focus on Ocean Connections in the nation’s largest estuary!

Registered EE Week participants are invited to participate in a free educator webinar hosted by the National Environmental Education Foundation.  The Teaching Ocean Connections: Watersheds to Reefs Webinar will be held on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from and interact with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) experts Rob Ferguson, Paulo Maurin and Cathy Sakas, who will share their knowledge and ideas for compelling classroom activities on watersheds and introduce participants to NOAA’s Rivers to Reefs Program. This webinar should be a great chance to learn about watershed lessons that can be connected back to the Chesapeake Bay and can be used in your own classroom!

Register for 2011 EE Week to participate in this online professional development experience. Registration is free, and registered participants will receive login information via email prior to the webinar.

Click this link to learn more about the Teaching Ocean Connections: Watersheds to Reefs Webinar, and be sure to check out Bay Backpack’s watershed lesson plans for more fun ideas on how to teach about watersheds!

Sarah Kozicki is an Education Program Coordinator for National Environmental Education Week.

National Park Service “Views” the Chesapeake Bay with a New, Online Education Tool

March 14th, 2011 by Cindy

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Sandy Point, State Park. Photo courtesy of National Park Service, photographer Middleton Evans

The National Park Service (NPS) features the Chesapeake Bay for its latest edition of Views of the National Parks, an online educational resource. Views is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay, and is a valuable tool teachers can use in their classrooms!

The Chesapeake edition of Views of the National Parks is a joint project of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office in Annapolis, Maryland, and the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship & Science program in Fort Collins, Colorado. This resource provides readers with a background in the natural world of the Chesapeake, its geologic formation as an estuary and its diverse ecosystems and species, as well as an understanding of the human history and cultural environment of the Bay watershed. Chesapeake Views also describes how the Bay environment has changed over time and how individuals can become involved in restoring and protecting the Bay.

With such a wide range of topics covered, the Chesapeake edition of Views can be used by environmental science, earth science, geology, biology, history, and social studies teachers alike! Teachers can use Views as an education module by developing questions for their students to answer as they explore the sites content.  Views is also a great resource to send students to for independent research projects.

A “Visit” section highlights some of the many places to experience the Bay and to learn more.  This section can help teachers identify locations for possible Chesapeake Bay field trips. Numerous photographs, pop-up sidebar text, maps, a glossary, and links to additional resources are among a variety of teaching tools that are available on the website.

“Partners in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, together with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trails, offer educators, students, and visitors meaningful avenues for learning about the Chesapeake”, said John Maounis, NPS Chesapeake Bay superintendent. “Now, supplemented with the Chesapeake module of Views of the National Parks, citizens have the tools they need to better understand and participate in the protection of this vital resource.”

On the National Parks Views website students can explore many bay-related topics, including how the Chesapeake Bay was formed.

Cindy Chance is a Management Assistant for the National Park Service, Chesapeake Bay office. She can be contacted at cindy_chance@nps.gov or at 410-260-2492.

Trout in Triadelphia Classrooms

March 7th, 2011 by Carol

Can you find the trout eyes on the eggs? Look for the small, black dots.

Newly hatched trout live in a "nursery" hatching basket.

The eggs have arrived and the Trout Patrol has sprung into action at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School in Howard County, Maryland.  Trout in the Classroom is an exciting example of how environmental literacy and stewardship can be incorporated into a classroom setting.  In Maryland, the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited and DNR sponsor the program.

At Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, fourth grade children volunteer to participate in the Trout Patrol and to work under my guidance to raise the trout through a series of hands-on activities.  These activities include testing water quality, feeding, and measuring trout growth and development. In addition, children research and learn about the trout life cycle and how trout are great indicators of water pollution levels.  Learning also revolves around topics such as the local watershed, ecosystems, preservation and the enhancement of natural resources, and protection of the environment.

A week after receiving the eggs, the Triadelphia Ridge Trout Patrol students eagerly observed the hatching of the trout eggs into alevin, newly hatched fish still attached to the egg sac, and are excited to watch the continued growth and development as they evolve into fry and fingerlings.  In the springtime, the students will attend a field trip to release the trout into a local stream.

Although the Trout in the Classroom Program involves some specialized equipment, many teachers, including myself, acquire a grant to fund the purchases.  I applied and received a wonderful grant from the NEA Green Across America Grant Program sponsored by Target.  Trout in the Classroom provides plenty of support and guidance to new teachers, such as myself in tank set-up and in ways to work with children in the classroom to make the program a worthwhile and meaningful environmental experience.  Go Fish!

Are you interested in starting a trout in the classroom program?  Check out the Trout in the Classroom program in your state!

Carol Brzezinski is a gifted and talented resource teacher at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School