Celebrate National Environmental Education Week!

April 15th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Celebrate National Environmental Education Week!

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is the nation’s largest celebration of environmental education. Continuing EE Week’s multi-year focus on connecting the environment with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, the 2014 EE Week theme is Greening STEM: Engineering a Sustainable World. In 2014, EE Week will explore how engineering plays an important part in the way we think about and solve some of today’s biggest environmental problems, leading to sustainable solutions for a healthier planet and healthier people. Increasing STEM 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-centery challenges. Environmental education can provide students with opportunities to engage in meaningful and exciting engineering projects that can spark their interest in STEM and empower them to take part in solutions to local environmental challenges. Studies show that environmental education (EE) increases student achievement in many ways. By engaging students in real-world problem solving, EE builds critical thinking skills. Many educators have found that incorporating environmental themes into the curriculum results in improved performance on standardized tests and other assessments. EE has also been shown to reduce student apathy and increase motivation.

5 Great Ways to Participate in EE Week

1. Investigate and plan a green energy engineering project at your school.

2. Use examples of biomimicry to design solutions to everyday problems.

3. Construct a wildlife habitat, schoolyard garden or outdoor classroom on your campus.

4. Organize a clean-up, water quality monitoring, or school recycling event.

5. Take a virtual or in-person field trip to a local aquarium or zoo

Why Register?

EE Week participants have access to:

• Free educator webinars and toolkits offering resources and ideas for green engineering.

• Examples of other teachers who have developed and used engineering lessons to enhance environmental learning.

• Discounts, giveaways and special offers.

• Opportunities to promote your school or organization’s programs and projects.

• Monthly e-mail newsletters with classroom activities, funding resources and professional development opportunities.

Register Here!

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

Sharing Ocean Acidification Resources for Communicators and Educators

March 31st, 2014 by Julie Walker

Image from SOURCE website

Sharing Ocean Acidification Resources for Communicators and Educators or SOURCE is a new webinar series that provides ocean acidification communication tools to formal & informal educators, and stakeholders across the country. One of its primary goals, is to promote a more integrated and effective ocean acidification education community by sharing ocean acidification education and communication activities virtually. With awareness of and access to these resources, the ocean acidification education and communication community will be able to utilize and continue to create cutting edge communication tools that incorporate current scientific and communication research. This series is jointly sponsored by the NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries and Ocean Acidification Program.

Check out these upcoming webinars!


Between July 2012-2013, Alexis traveled on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship studying how human communities in Norway, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Peru might be affected by ocean acidification. She interviewed, lived and worked with hundreds of members of marine dependent communities, investigating how they valued resources threatened by ocean acidification. The vast majority of the community members she worked with had no knowledge of ocean acidification and poor ocean literacy. Over the year, she developed tools to communicate and contextualize this complex science issue across language and cultural barriers. She found the most effective method of communication was to explain the science of ocean acidification in a personalized, narrative format, drawing from the lives of her audience to make connections between ocean acidification and resources and practices they value. In this webinar, she will share examples of how she listened and learned from her audiences and structured communication platforms for diverse communities, ranging from Seventh Day Adventists in the Cook Islands to scallop farmers in Peru. She will explain her methodology and discuss how formal and informal educators can design narrative tools suited for their own audiences.

Join in on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 4:00 pm Eastern Time


Presenter: Claudia Ludwig, Institute of Systems Biology

Primary audience: Teachers, Formal Educators

Date/Time: Wednesday, April 23rd, 6pm ET

Project Website: http://baliga.systemsbiology.net/drupal/education/?q=content/ocean-acidification-systems-approach-global-problem

This work is funded by National Science Foundation OCE-0928561 (to Mónica V. Orellana and Nitin S. Baliga).


Presenters: Meg Chadsey & Paul Williams, Washington State Sea Grant

Primary Audience: Teachers, formal educators

Date/time: Wednesday, May 14th 6pm ET

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

New Webinar – Explore! Marvel Moon

March 24th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Image from Earth to Sky Partnership

If you include Earth’s Moon in your interpretation and environmental education or have wanted to but aren’t sure where to begin, you may want to attend this webinar!

This free 2-hour webinar will be held Thursday March 27 at noon Pacific/1:00 Mountain/2:00 Central/3:00 Eastern Time.

It is sponsored by Earth to Sky in partnership with the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Lunar Science Institute.

These Partners have worked with informal educators to develop a set of materials and hands-on activities designed for use with youth ages 8-13, and their families. They use food, art, storytelling, and interactive investigations to celebrate our Moon. The webinar will introduce you to these activities; include chat time with a NASA lunar scientist; and provide opportunity for you to brainstorm how best to use these activities and materials at your site and to give feedback on the activities and materials.

Participants who develop an action plan for using webinar content in their work will be eligible to win a free kit, which will include binoculars, samples of moon-like rocks, a mini Moon globe and a binder of resources.

During this webinar you will:

  • Experience aselection of hands-on science activities designed for use with children ages 8-13. Explore: Marvel Moon activities rely on inexpensive materials and can be flexibly implemented to suit the needs of your site. They use food, art, storytelling, and interactive investigations to celebrate our Moon! Download the Marvel Moon materials, including step-by-step activity guides, facilitator background information, lists of recommended supporting media, and more at www.lpi.usra.edu/explore/marvelMoon. We will provide a materials list so that you may collect some common items and try out the activities at your computer during the webinar.
  • Chat with a NASA lunar scientist.
  • Brainstorm how to best leverage your site’s resources and priorities to engage and excite children about the Moon.
  • Earn a certificate of completion.
  • Be invited to provide feedback on the activities and webinar experience to help inform the development of future NASA resources and opportunities!


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

Keep Maryland Beautiful Awards

March 17th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Students from the Greenmount School harvesting sunflower seeds to use for birdseed. The plants grew in garden beds funded by Keep Maryland Beautiful. Image from MD DNR web blog

The Keep Maryland Beautiful Program was established in 1967 as the first program administered by the Maryland Environmental Trust. Keep Maryland Beautiful Program is partially funded by the Maryland State Highway Administration and provides grants to non-profit organizations and schools to support environmental education and demonstration projects that enhance and maintain the environment.

Maryland Environmental Trust accepts applications annually for the following two categories: the Margaret Rosch Jones Awards and the Bill James Environmental Grants.

The Margaret Rosch Jones Award of up to $2,000.00 is awarded to non-profit groups or communities for an ongoing project or activity that has demonstrated success in solving an environmental issue, whether local or statewide. This award recognizes those organizations that have been actively educating people in their community about litter prevention, community beautification, or eliminating or reducing the causes of a local environmental problem.

The Bill James Environmental Grant of up to $1,000.00 is awarded to school groups, science and ecology clubs, and other nonprofit youth groups for proposed environmental education projects.

The objectives of the grants are to:

• Encourage a sense of stewardship and personal responsibility for the environment

• Stimulate a better understanding of environmental issues

• Aid in the elimination or reduction of a local environmental problem

• Encourage education about growth management protection of rural areas and sensitive resources while

discouraging sprawl development

For more information  of applying check out Maryland DNR website. Completed applications must be received by March 31, 2014.

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

Less Screen Time, More Green Time

March 7th, 2014 by Stacey Widenhofer

Professional Development Day

Nature Deficit Disorder, Get Outside they say…. Sometimes this is so much easier to say than to do. As an educator in this field, I understand how hard this is. Seems simple though doesn’t it?

Last year my coworkers and I decided to do just that – get back outside. We realized that each one of us has something unique that we find amazing about our natural world. My love is birds and nature photography, another coworker loves reptiles and amphibians, and the third loves to watch how everything interacts. We were able to take a day, a Professional Development Day, to get back out there and remind ourselves why we got into this field in the first place. We started early, visited some nearby parks and streams, tracked some turtles, looked for snakes, found over 7 species of salamanders (including a mudpuppy and a hellbender), and identified over 40 different species of birds. I am looking forward to getting an early opportunity for another day, actually a weekend, to meet up with colleagues from all over the state (as well as my coworkers) to learn more about the environment we live in, how to share it with others, and be surrounded by others that share the passion that we all have for Environmental Education.

This year’s annual Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators (PAEE) conference will be held March 14-16 at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA (near Ligonier). There will also be some Thursday workshops for those of us that can make it out early. I am very proud to say that my coworker, April Claus, will be the Friday night keynote speaker, sharing some local positive accomplishments and Steven Van Matre, International Chair the Institute Earth Education will speaking on Saturday night. He will also be leading a Thursday pre conference workshop. The National Aviary will be there on Friday with an amazing bird demonstration. If you attend the morning Game Commission workshop on Saturday, you are invited to attend their afternoon field study, a trip into the woods to find a bear den! Act 48 credits are also available. Register and get more information by visiting www.paee.net.

Can’t make it to the conference? Try something new, visit a new place, and take the time to reconnect! PAEE has been able to revisit their website that was used as a gathering place for outdoor events and environmental information. Take a look at www.eeresources.net (or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/eeresources) to find a new outing or event you would like to try or support. You can also submit your organizations’ events and job openings on the web site to help others fulfill their need to “Get Outside”.

Filed under: Uncategorized
Stacey Widenhofer is a Environmental Educator Fern Hollow Nature Center

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.

Students accept Stream Challenge

January 27th, 2014 by Krysta Hougen

Talbot County 9th graders assessing their future-planting site. Here students are recording the trees and width of the established stream buffer

Students in Talbot County are working to improve the Chesapeake Bay’s health by planting trees – thousands of trees. From an early grade, these students have seen maps of the Bay’s watershed and have learned that the actions of people from New York to Virginia affect the health of the Bay, just miles from their homes. And now, along with students across Maryland, Talbot County students are working on their most local waterways to improve our country’s largest estuary.

A grant from Maryland’s Stream Restoration Challenge program has allowed for a partnership between Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Environmental Concern, Inc., the towns of St Michaels and Easton, and Talbot County Public Schools. During the two-year program, 9th graders will be learning about and creating forested stream buffers. As of now, one semester and one planting has been completed.

In class, Environmental Science teachers prepare their students with lessons on Forest Ecology and the importance of forested stream buffers. Students learned that planting a wide forest buffer alongside a stream can reduce erosion, provide habitat for wildlife in and out of the stream, keep the stream’s temperature cool and, reduce the amount of nutrients entering the stream. Improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed streams will improve the health of the Bay.

After their in-class lesson students visited the project’s first planting site, the Tanyard Branch within the town of Easton. On their site visit, 9th graders recorded the bird species and the present yet narrow forested buffer, tested the soil, and the stream’s water chemistry and macroinvertebrate population. Back at school, students recorded their findings online on eBird and FieldScope and used the data to create a planting plan. Students choose from a list of native trees to design their forested stream buffer, keeping in mind the soil and light conditions and the wildlife benefits of each tree species.

In mid-October, the planting day had finally arrived but the task was daunting – plant 1,400 trees over 8 acres. Students from Chesapeake Christian School of Easton walked to the site to lend a hand. The over 130 students arrived excited and enthusiastic and, ended an hour earlier than expected. The same site data will be collected and the tree survival rate recorded by spring semester’s students and than, the project will be repeated at three additional sites next year.

The Stream Restoration Challenge program has allowed students the opportunity to learn more about how to help improve the Bay’s health but, maybe more importantly, the chance to put their mark on the landscape that will be around for generations.

Filed under: School Spotlight
Krysta Hougen is aTeacher Naturalist and Camp Director at Pickering Creek Audubon Center
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