Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

January 20th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Past winners include Carolyn Ruos Thomas, a teacher at Wildwood Middle School in West Virginia, who "accidentally fell in love with brook trout" and ended up engaging her students in a Trout in the Classroom Program.

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students. Up to two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regions, from different states, will be selected to receive this award. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers this award to nationally honor, support and encourage educators who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms & teaching methods.

Teacher awardees will receive a commemorative plaque and an award of $2,000 to be used to further the recipient’s professional development in environmental education.  But that is not all – the teacher’s local education agency will also receive an award of $2,000 to fund environmental educational activities and programs of the teacher.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, teachers must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Teach K-12 on a full-time basis in a public school that is operated by a local education agency1, including schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Hold a current teaching license from the state (or valid reciprocity from the state for a license from another state)
  • Have a minimum of 5 years of K-12 teaching experience, including at least 3 years of teaching environmental education and/or an environment-based curriculum
  • Anticipate a classroom teaching assignment involving environmental education for the upcoming school year
  • Be a citizen of the United States, its territories or possessions, or lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residency
  • Has not been a recipient of this award in the past 5 years

The deadline for submitting applications for the 2014 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators is February 28, 2014.

For complete details about this opportunity, please refer to the 2014 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators announcement.  You can also review the Application Requirements and Form and Frequently Asked Questions.

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.

        Learn about NOAA Environmental Science Center Winter Workshops!

        January 6th, 2014 by Bart Merrick

        Sign up for a ESTC Workshop today

        In early 2014, NOAA Environmental Science Center (ESTC) will hold 2 workshop series and a brand new climate education course:

        • Weather Ready Chesapeake II, College Park, Maryland, January 16 and February 20
        • The Chesapeake Bay in the Anthropocene Epoch, Oxford, Maryland, January 30 and February 27
        • Communicating Climate Change: Earth to Sky@ Mid-Atlantic.  This blended course (both online and in person) begins February 19 and runs through May 16.

        Weather Ready Chesapeake II

        Weather has a big effect on our lives—but how does it happen? And how can educators best explain the complexities of weather systems and weather safety to students? Environmental educators will gather at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (College Park, Maryland) for this two-day series developed by the National Weather Service the ESTC. The workshop will explore the science of observing and forecasting the weather. Day 1 will focus on “The Science of Observing and Forecasting the Weather”; day 2 on “Weather Safety, Weather Extremes, and Impacts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

        The Chesapeake Bay in the Anthropocene Epoch

        Scientists, conservation leaders and many others are having lively conversation about the notion that we are now living in the Anthropocene Epoch, the “age of man.” Environmental educators are an important part of this conversation. The Chesapeake Bay in the Anthropocene Epoch 2014 winter workshop series will explore how humans affect the Chesapeake; the notion that people have the ability to shape the environment at local and global scales; and how changes in climate, land use, human populations, and more will have profound effects on our approach to restoring, conserving, managing and teaching about the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed that feeds it. Join the conversation!

        Communicating Climate Change: Earth to Sky @ Mid-Atlantic

        To help meet the challenge to successfully communicate about climate change with public audiences, this regionally focused blended course (distance learning and face-to-face) will draw on NASA, NOAA, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expertise, as well as other subject-matter experts, to present accurate, up-to-date global and regional science and effective communication techniques. The two-day face-to-face sessions will be held at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, with a field trip to local coastal areas. Additional course details, registration information, and updates are posted on the Earth to Sky website.

        You can learn more about all of these workshops and/or register for them HERE.

        Bart Merrick is an Education Coordinator for the NOAA 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.

        Apply Now for NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Grant!

        December 23rd, 2013 by Kevin

        Students participating in Hartwick College's (NY) B-WET supported program collect and identify stream macroinvertebrates

        K-12 programs that provide students with meaningful watershed educational experiences (MWEE) related to the Chesapeake Bay watershed and related teacher professional development, this one’s for you:  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now accepting applications for FY14 B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) funding to support your program.

        Proposals for FY14 funding must:

        Be a systemic MWEE program that strives to reach the entire student and teacher population in one or more grades in an entire school system or recognized sub-unit of a school system;


        Incorporate Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences into K-12 Geographic Education.

        If you’re interested, be sure to read the full NOAA Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity for details and requirements. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Eastern Time, January 29, 2014.

        Contact B-WET Chesapeake Manager Kevin Schabow with any questions.

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

        Apps for Education: Chesapeake History

        December 16th, 2013 by Sarah

        This interactive textbook allows students to explore the early days of the Jamestown settlement via an App.

        When you think about teaching K-12 students about the Chesapeake Bay your mind probably jumps straight to science, but hold your horses: this watershed has a rich heritage and history!  Indigenous cultures, colonial settlement, wars that shaped the nation – these are just some of the topics that come to mind related to the history of our region.  History is  a great topic for teaching students about the changing landscape and environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and now it is a great way to get your students using technology in – and out – of the classroom.

        Early Jamestown

        Do you want to teach your students about the history of the Chesapeake Region?  The Early Jamestown App is a great place to start!  This App is an interactive textbook exploration of the early days of the Jamestown settlement and the state of Virginia. Students will enjoy the rich interactive graphics and the engrossing story of a key moment in the history of the United States.  Embedded videos chronicle the beginnings of the Jamestown Settlement, interactive timelines document the development of the first permanent English colony in North America, zoomable maps link history to the geography of the Chesapeake, and clickable key words will help students learn definitions and pronunciations of vocabulary.  Embedded assessments also allow teachers to check student understanding of concepts.  This interactive version of Our Virginia was developed by Victory Productions and is part of the Virginia Department of Education’s Beyond Textbooks initiative to explore and test technical, social, and policy implications of textbook alternatives.

        Civil War Trust Battle Apps

        The Civil War Trust’s Battle Apps will help your students unlock all the rich history that our Civil War battlefields have to offer. “Virtual Signs” provide access to accounts, audio links, and videos from true battlefield experts and leading historians. These apps for the battles of Gettysburg, Antietam, Bull Run and more are great for field trips because the include detailed, GPS-enabled battle maps that will show users their location on the battlefield, and many also include various time-phased maps that will allow users to see where Union and Confederate units were located on the battlefield at various key moments.  Students will love the “Field Glasses” augmented reality viewer, which uses a smart phone’s camera to analyze your location, find key battlefield landmarks, and superimpose them on the modern landscape with links to more information.  Here is a great article about how one school used the Battle App in the classroom and beyond:  A Field Trip with Battle Apps: Students From West Springfield High School Take Gettysburg Battle App to the Battlefield

        DocsTeach is an online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. On the web site, you will discover thousands of primary sources and learning activities. When registered for a free account, teachers can borrow from and modify an ever-expanding collection of activities, plus create unique ones using the online tools. Log in and create classrooms full of activities, then share the classroom’s auto generated code with your students to access on their iPads.  This is a great app to engage your students in activities that will help them make sense of stories, events, and ideas of the past using documents from the holdings of the US National Archives.

        Hold the Fort

        Alright, this one is not an App, but it is worth mentioning:  Hold the Fort is an online game that puts players in charge of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, responsible for the defense of the fort and the city. As commander, players lead the troops, manage resources, and keep the fort from falling under the withering British bombardment.  The game, produced in partnership with the National Park Service, begins by providing historical context for the Battle of Baltimore and includes educational information throughout.  Teacher Resources are also provided.

        For more great ideas on teaching with Apps, check out this blog series.

        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.

        Be a Climate Steward

        December 10th, 2013 by Bart Merrick

        Become a certified NOAA climate stewards.

        Do you want to learn more about climate science, investigate innovative teaching methods and become part of a vibrant learning community?

        If this sound like you, well then you should consider becoming a NOAA Climate Steward!

        NOAA’s Climate Stewards Education Project (CSEP) provides formal and informal educators working with elementary through university age students with sustained professional development, collaborative tools, and support to build a climate-literate public that is actively engaged in climate stewardship.

        Applications are being accepted right NOW!

        You can learn more about CSEP and find out how to apply online, Watch the introduction to CSEP video on the CSEP homepage, the link to the online application is at the end of the video.

        Certified NOAA Climate Stewards are eligible for:

        • Mini-grant funding to develop and implement a climate stewardship action plan
        • Travel stipends to attend and present at key professional development conferences.
        • Special CSEP contests with monetary and educational resource prizes.

        The Fine Print… If you decide to join this effort, you will be committing to:

        • Complete and reflect on at least 15 hours of professional development (PD) training in climate science and education in 2014.
        • Complete and reflect on at least 9 hours of PD training in climate science and education for each additional year you remain with the Project.
        • Fully participate in monthly CSEP national and regional events during evening hours. National level events occur on the first and last Monday evenings of every month.
        • Develop and Implement a climate stewardship project in your school, community, or organization, focused on mitigating the effects of climate change.
        • Use the CSEP Wiki to post PD reflections, classroom activities in climate change, stewardship project plans, progress updates, as well as share resources, comments and results with other CSEP educators.
        • Fully participate in CSEP evaluation efforts

        Applicants will only be accepted until Friday, December 13, 2013.

        Individuals selected to participate in CSEP will be notified by the last week of December 2013.

        Filed under: Training
        Tags: ,
        Bart Merrick is an Education Coordinator for the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.

        No Potato Left Behind at The GreenMount School

        December 9th, 2013 by Jill Goodman

        The sixth grade poses with Ms. Elizabeth after cleaning up spent vines and harvesting the last of the tomatoes and watermelon.

        The garden beds in July.

        Eighth graders harvest 30 lbs. of sweet potatoes with a parent volunteer.

        As an urban K-8 independent school, our students come to us with varying degrees of experience with gardening and the outdoors. GreenMount parents want to raise their children in the culturally rich and diverse atmosphere that the city offers, and they also want their children to understand our relationship with the environment, our stewardship of the planet and the unique role humans play in the balance of nature. To that end, one of our keystone programs is Explorations, an environmental science curriculum that is born from the belief that kids should go outside, get dirty, and be awed by the natural world.

        Seventh grade students harvest sunflower seeds. The seeds are dried and used in our bird feeders over the winter.

        Since the school was started in 1993 we have been gardening. First, in a borrowed backyard plot, then after moving to a larger building, in raised beds in our own yard. With additional funding from The Maryland Environmental Trust and from Parks and People Foundation we expanded our gardens from five to nine beds. Now every child at the school spends time in the garden, planting, tending, weeding and harvesting. The garden offers teaching opportunities in many areas of study: botany, economics, community service, hydrology, nutrition and geology. There are also opportunities to explore cultural studies by planting crops commonly eaten in other countries.

        We focused our attention on growing food that would be most appreciated by the guests at Paul’s Place, a community support center in Washington Village/Pigtown. The center is located in a food dessert, and fresh foods are particularly difficult for area residents to obtain. All of the produce was donated to Paul’s Place…about 18 bags in the course of the summer. The center is near and dear to our heart since our 8th graders volunteer there three times a year, helping to prepare and serve meals and assisting guests as they choose new clothes.

        We love to see the reactions and problem solving from the students to all aspects of gardening. From the child who wanted to talk to the plants each week to encourage them to grow, to the child who came to appreciate the beneficial insects, to the cheers from the group who harvested the impressive sweet potatoes, each child has a story and relationship with the garden. As nature is unpredictable and interesting, so are the experiences through the garden. When the broccoli was attacked by mysterious striped beetles, all students were involved in identifying the predators and determining an organic solution. The presence of the beetles also affected the students’ decision to plant other members of the cabbage family, knowing that this beetle was in our midst. Those are the really exciting teaching moments, the ones that are generated from the students’ own curiosity and experience.

        Jill Goodman is the Director of Development at The GreenMount School. This blog was co-authored by The GreenMount School's Explorations Teacher, Elizabeth D’Alessio.

        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.

        Apps for Education: Experience the Chesapeake!

        November 25th, 2013 by Sarah

        Child geocaching along the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail. Image via Chesapeakae Bay Program.

        Bring technology into your classroom as you get your students outside of it! Whether you are looking to find a field trip location or to integrate Apps into an outdoor Chesapeake experience, these are some great resources for you:


        Have your students join the search for geocaches and the growing community of urban explorers and outdoor adventurers! What is geocaching? It is basically an outdoor scavenger hunt using GPS units and coordinates (or a cellular devise with an App) instead of clues. Importantly, geocaching is a cross-curricular activity that can be tailored for all ages and learning styles. It is the perfect way to get your students outside and interested in technology! If you want to take your students on a field trip that uses geocaching, check out these articles about teaching along the Captain John Smith Geotrail or the Star Spangled Banner Geotrail, both of which are associated with the National Park Service trails. Want an example of how to use geocaching to get students outside on your own school grounds? Learn about Geocaching at Southern Guilford High School and get some helpful tips on how to do it yourself!

        Chesapeake Explorer

        With more than 50 national parks in the Chesapeake and thousands of miles of trails and public landscape to explore, educators can find countless field trip opportunities – and this is the App to find them with! In October 2012, the National Park Service launched “Chesapeake Explorer” mobile app helps get members of the public to over 400 Chesapeake places including national trails, heritage sites, and state and national parks. These are treasured locations where you and your students can learn about the region’s diverse environments, history, heritage, and beauty firsthand. Find places nearby by activity, trail name, or type of site. Take your students on a suggested tour, build your own tour, tag favorites, share photos or save places for field trips you would like to take your class on later!

        National Wildlife Refuges: Chesapeake Bay

        This App will help your students explore the 11 iconic National Wildlife Refuges of the Chesapeake Bay! It features overview information about the Chesapeake Bay watershed, details that could help you schedule a field trip to a refuge (including location, operating hours, and refuge guides) and a digital field guide that lets users view all the plants and animals observed at each refuge. Students who visit the refuges independently or on a field trip can submit wildlife observations, help document species, and earn some awesome patches along the way! The app was developed through a partnership among the Chesapeake Conservancy and National Geographic Society with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It incorporates the popular Project Noah wildlife photo-sharing service.

        Chesapeake Bay Field Guide

        Created by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, this interactive field guide includes ALL the wild animals and plants of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. For novices and experts alike, the Chesapeake Bay Field Guide provides localized wildlife information about the birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, trees, and seashore creatures you’ll find around the Bay. It’s comprehensive– all native birds and animals are included, along with photos, in-depth descriptions, audio, field marks and more. Users can also search for Endangered Species or Poisonous/Dangerous species. This is a great App for students to use for research project about Chesapeake critters!

        For more great ideas on teaching with Apps, check out this blog series.

        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.
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