Inspiring Future Green Leaders

May 16th, 2014 by Julie Walker

Green Jobs are Everywhere!

If you are high school teacher (and even if not) now is the time of year that students will be reaching out for guidance on the future.  With questions ranging from colleges, tech schools, majors, careers, and life in general. Many times it is difficult and stressful to pick just one interest to pursue. But that’s where your sage wisdom comes in handy. Many careers today require a multitude on interest, especially careers involving the environment.  Check out some of these careers the next time you talk to a student trying to plan for the future.

Have an interest in teaching? working with animals? and conservation? Try out a career as a Zoo or Aquarium Educator!

Many Careers in Zoos and Aquariums require a lot of hands on experience. Encourage students to pursue an internship or volunteer at a local Zoo or Aquarium.

National Aquarium (Baltimore)

Philadelphia Zoo

National Zoo (DC, Fort Royal, VA)

There are also many some college programs with a focus in conservation and education, great for a career in Zoos and Aquarium

George Mason- Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Arcadia University- Environmental Education

Michigan State – Zoology  concentration in Zoo and Aquarium Science

And many more! Check out these programs affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums!

Have a passion for Math? Building and Designing? and The Environment? What about environmental engineering?

Plenty of schools offer programs in environmental engineering, check out this list by state!

What about writing? photography? explaining difficult concepts? Try a career in Journalism or Science writing!

Check out this guide to careers in science writing from the Council for the Advancement of Writing, or career spotlight from sierra club

And some of these specialized programs in the field…

University of California Santa Cruz- Science Communication

Lehigh University- Science and Environmental Writing

Boston University- Science Journalism

NYU- Science Health and Environmental Reporting

Or to get a feel for science writing, get some experience with these internships…

Science News

Earth Magazine

And these are just a FEW of the possibilities! Encourage your students to make connections between their interests and their passion for the environment!

Check out more enviro-inspired careers from NAAEE, or Take a Quiz to check out your ideal Green job!

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

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.

A Holistic Watershed Journey for Students at the Gereau Center

December 10th, 2012 by Lori Sloan

Counting critters with our ranger from Booker T. Washington National Park

Feeling the cool mountain water

On the rock...connected to the earth

A healthy forest friend

This plastic is not going in our streams!

I wonder if the maker of that hole is still in there!

Knowing this place from our sit spot, where the water comes from the mountain

Mountain top of our watershed

Students in the environmental module at The Gereau Center experience their watershed through a network of activities linking trees and water quality. They often begin at the base of the mountain in the wetlands where they discover keystone species indicating the edge where one ecotone meets another. It is here the diversity is greatest and students locate places where wildlife find water, food, shelter, and a place to raise their young. It is in this place students begin to meet the plants such as the wild rose or blackberry getting their attention as the thorns grab their clothes. They learn the rose hips provide vitamin C for humans and wild animals. Students wonder at the clear, sparkling water flowing from a small waterfall gushing from the saturated wetland soil on its way to the stream across the street. They look up to find the mountain gap where this water springs out of Grassy Hill above them.

This site was donated by a local family to the Nature Conservancy and is now cared for by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. After examining topographic images and mapping their watershed, students learn they live at the headwaters of the Roanoke River watershed which flows through the soil and across the land to the Albemarle–Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.  As each student relates their own sense of place within this watershed, stories are shared about the creeks, streams and rivers in which they like to play and fish and swim. These young people know their responsibility for keeping their part of the watershed clean because everyone lives downstream.

After learning about the local history of lightning strikes and fire suppression on Grassy Hill, they see pictures of Menge’s Fame Flower (G3/S1) an endangered plant and other mountain residents like the Carolina Thistle, Blazing Star, and common trees living on the magnesium rich rocks along the path they will hike. Students learn about watershed tea and the importance of tree leaves feeding the streams, and their roots holding the soil in the watershed.

Young faces beam with excitement as they begin the ascent up the mountain trail. One student finds a tree fallen across the path revealing its age.  Another curious observer moves to get a closer look to see if something is living in the big hole at the base of a tree. Looking at the whole forest picture, they closely observe patterns in nature that tell the history of this mountain forest while gathering leaves to identify individual species along the way. An heirloom apple collected from the stream sparks questions and peaks curiosity of its origin. Student questions indicate their awareness of the importance of forestlands in maintaining our watershed. Their search gets in depth as they enter the stream looking for salamanders and other organisms; clues for discovering the quality of the water. The students stop to pause and find a sit spot, a quiet time to be with nature and reflect. The only sound heard in the forest is the wind blowing through the trees. One student gently lifts the sparkling stream water between his fingers. Individual students experience the headwaters of the collective watershed and will follow the creek down the mountain to the stream that weaves through the forest near the wetland.

It is in this protected riparian buffer students will sample the stream using the Save Our Streams methods they learned in the classroom. The macroinvertebrates they collect will help them identify the water quality of this stream. Giggling is heard as they check the speed of the water with a tennis ball and stopwatch. They climb down a steep bank to check the pH and lift rocks looking for treasures. One student sighs as they have to get back to school and comments she doesn’t like to end her time in nature. We all agree. As we walk back to school, some of the students make a vow to bring back bags and gloves to clean up the trash around the stream. They share stories of clean ups they have done in their own neighborhoods. One student comments they put fences up on their farm so the cows cannot get into the water. Another student shares the story of the day their manure pond broke loose contaminating the Pigg River. We all remembered that day. The water treatment plant even had to shut down. The connections these students make between their actions, choices and maintaining the quality of their watershed is lifelong learning.

Back in the classroom, the light is turned on as students are asked if they are connected to mountain top coal removal. Most answer no. Viewing parts of Coal Country, students identify the values and beliefs of the people imbedded in this very local issue. Students listen intently as one teacher shares his family history connected to coal and what it was like when his father mined coal and died in a long wall mine in Virginia. Listening to Judy Bonds share deep concern for her community and the black water flowing in Coal River, the students cannot help but feel the despair of these nearby families torn apart by opposing views on this volatile issue. They learn of the inspirational steps she takes to save her river and her beloved mountain. In her passing, they learn it is the Clean Water Act and the endangered critters living in the river that save her mountain, the river and the people for whom it is their lifeblood.

As students experience a holistic watershed journey, they think twice about throwing a bag or bottle from their car into the creek. They know there is something alive in the water they want to protect. They appreciate the trees blowing in the cool mountain air and the rivers that feed the forest and bring life to their community and everyone downstream.

Lori Sloan is an 8th grade Physical and Environmental Science teacher at the Leonard A. Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration in Franklin County, Virginia.

Celebrating School-Wide Environmental Learning at Folger McKinsey ES

July 23rd, 2012 by Sue Rodger

Folger McKinsey second grade students seining.

At Folger McKinsey Elementary, our Maryland Green School and newly awarded National Green Ribbon status are part of the daily educational experience and integral to the culture that is fostered in and out of the classroom.  Dedicated to fostering life-long learners, the school capitalizes on every opportunity to promote environmental literacy.  “Being green” is much more than a few environmental science lessons and recycling.  It is part of the school culture in which lessons and activities that increase environmental understanding and responsibility are implemented whenever and wherever possible. In addition to grade level specific programs, school-wide educational activities allow students to experience the environment. Every little bit makes a difference…

The Greater Severna Park Watershed Action Group hosts an annual Earth Day Festival, drawing thousands to participate in environmental education.  Folger students and staff participate annually, both the day of with a demonstration and activity booth, as well as in the planning and implementation of the event.  Earth Day actually becomes “Earth Month” at Folger as the school gears up for the Festival, along with capitalizing on the popularity of the environment as a hot topic in April.  Each grade level creates or updates its tri-fold that is on display at the Festival.  Each grade highlights one environmental activity or concept that takes place at Folger throughout the year.  The PTO organizes volunteers to lead interactive games at the Folger booth, including the “Trash Challenge” and “Our Earth is in Jeopardy” quiz game.  Scout troops from the school created the banner for the booth.  As a result, the entire school takes part in making our school’s booth a reality.

At the recent Spring Concert, featuring the orchestra, band and chorus, parents were informed that there would no longer be a printed program in an effort to reduce paper and energy in creating it.

Read Across America Day celebrates reading by honoring Dr. Seuss and Folger makes this day special with “celebrity” guest readers in every class.  A “green” component was added to the event two years ago and it wasn’t eggs!  Instead, each student is asked to donate a gently-used book to be shared with a reading program in a neighboring area that seeks to get books in the hands of children who would not otherwise have access to reading materials.

The importance of recycling is highlighted with an annual classroom challenge.  Students are encouraged to bring in magazines and catalogs from home to be recycled at school.  The items are measured to track just how much paper is coming into our homes and to highlight how we can reduce this and why it’s crucial to recycle, rather than just throw in the trash.  The prize for the class that recycles the most is an extended recess with team-building games led by volunteers.  Being outside is a great place to learn – and this kind of prize instills a renewed appreciation for the earth.

America Recycles Day is gaining attention and it was added to the calendar at Folger. Parent volunteers met with all 22 classes on this Fall day to remind students about recycling in class and in the cafeteria.  Lessons focused on what is recyclable and the difference recycling makes to the environment.  Taking it a step further, the presentation also addressed reducing waste through packing re-usable lunches.  For participating, every student was entered into a raffle and all prizes promoted the environment:  t-shirts with “green” messages, pencils made from recyclable material and re-usable lunch boxes, containers, utensils and water bottles.  All of this reinforces the message and helps students to actually make the step in improving their actions.

Capitalizing on pop-culture, the popularity of The Lorax movie was integrated into the classroom at many grade levels.  For example, students made posters in which their faces were placed on the Lorax then asked what he/she does or will do to save the earth.  This activity engages students of all ages and instills in them the idea that they indeed make a difference and their actions and ideas matter.

Classroom lessons, field trips, activities, community partnerships – they all help to promote environmental stewardship at Folger.  The Maryland Green School flag and National Green Ribbon are not just on display at Folger McKinsey Elementary; they are a way of learning and green living. At Folger McKinsey Elementary School, we seize every opportunity to make the connection between traditional curriculum requirements with the natural world, using the environment as a valuable instructional tool to attain educational objectives, in part by simply getting outside.

Sue Rodger is a First Grade Teacher and is the Environmental Committee Chairman at Folger McKinsey Elementary School.

Greening all Grades at Folger McKinsey Elementary School

July 9th, 2012 by Sue Rodger

First grade students at Folger McKinsey plant milk-week and other plants for our butterfly garden.

Students at Folger McKinsey Elementary learn many environmental lessons in school that they put into practice on a daily basis, both at school and home because they all eat, breathe and sleep in the shadow of this great estuary.  As such, Folger staff recognizes the importance of instilling environmental stewardship and capitalize on the opportunity to promote such an understanding as often as possible.  This is done through classroom lessons across all disciplines. Folger students enjoy the many benefits of living and attending school in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  With privileges come responsibility and the Folger education includes many lessons in all grade levels that are geared toward developing ownership of that responsibility by creating life-long learners committed to environmental stewardship.

Kindergarten classes have been involved in recycling this year via daily use of the recycle bin in the classroom and recycling at lunch. Children participated in an environmental education trip to Camp Woodlands in which lessons about trees were taught. Students learned about the parts of trees, the functions of the parts, the life cycle of trees, and how trees benefit animals and humans. The visit culminated in a tree being planted at Folger’s temporary location, Chesapeake Bay Middle Schoo. Kindergarteners also participated in environmentally themed class science projects focusing on soil, decomposition, and recycling. Finally, Kindergarten monthly newsletters and homework are sent home electronically.

First grade has been doing a year-long study of the monarch butterfly. In the fall we got monarch caterpillars and raised them through all stages in our classroom tents. We released about 16 butterflies throughout the month of October. During the winter, we went to the greenhouse at CAT North where we did monarch activities and planted milk-week and other plants for our butterfly garden. In May, we planted these plants in our butterfly garden at our newly renovated school. In the fall, we will be able to find our own caterpillars from our butterfly garden and use the milk-weed leaves that we are growing to feed them.

Additionally, first grade raised two terrapins this year, as we have done for the past 6 or 7 years, through the head start program in conjunction with Arlington Echo and the MD Department of Natural Resources. First grade also learned about Integrated Pest Management (the use of natural processes of nature rather than pesticides) through study of a STEM unit called Marianna Becomes A Butterfly concentrating on Agricultural Engineering.

The 100+ students in second grade recently made their annual pilgrimage to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD.  During the day, students engaged in numerous hands-on lessons to bear witness to the importance of the Chesapeake.  Lessons focused on habitat exploration of aquatic and terrestrial animals, plants, water and soil.  The kids had a great time seining in the Bay to see what kind of habitat the Bay truly is, as well as examining oyster shells and trees.  Lessons also focused on how people influence the ecosystem.  This was evident, for example, when kids compared Chesapeake oyster shells of today to those of 50 years ago.  They could appreciate the considerable difference in size and how over-fishing, development, and activities on the Bay have affected the oysters; and how that in turn has resulted in the poor water quality of the Bay.  Students made connections to where they live, knowing that the Magothy River received a “D” on its report card and that they are not allowed to swim in the river following rain due to the poor water quality.  The lessons did not stop with understanding the situation and history; students also learned about what they need to be doing to solve the problem. By exploring nature through such hands-on, outdoor learning, the students appreciate and respect the natural world of which they are a part and the role they play in improving it.

The third graders at Folger have worked hard this year to maintain a “green” classroom environment. Students are mindful about recycling throughout the school day, both in the classroom and cafeteria. They have utilized the technology our school provides to help eliminate the use of extra paper. Dry erase boards are used often in math, and to reduce the use of tissues or paper towels as erasers, they reuse old socks. Third graders have also learned in science about water conservation and the use of a compost pile.

A week before Thanksgiving, Folger McKinsey’s fourth grade took a trip to Arlington Echo. The students experienced education in an outdoor setting during a series of hands-on activities. They tested water clarity and the effects of runoff pollution and sought solutions to each of these local environmental problems. The students also took time to learn about local crops and made their own applesauce. The trip was a great way for the students to experience the concepts that they were learning in science and see the practical application of their studies. The students are now researching an environmental issue that they will propose a policy or law change to help resolve the problem.

In the fall of 2011, fifth graders were tasked with solving erosion and stormwater management in the neighborhood around the school.  Classroom instruction, via a presentation from an Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Specialist, introduced the students to the challenges of development in the area and the impact to the water quality and habitat of the Chesapeake Bay.  Provided with information about native plants, the students applied their math skills to create a budget and plotted a map using native plants to help with stormwater management. Students took a field trip up the road to actually plant trees and shrubs to address the real-world problem.  This environmental project included a STEM project-based activity.

These are just some of the many examples of our students actively learning about the environment.  At Folger McKinsey, students are inspired to be life-long learners taking action to serve the environment in which they live!

Sue Rodger is a First Grade Teacher and is the Environmental Committee Chairman at Folger McKinsey Elementary School.

Wild Is The Way

July 2nd, 2012 by Claire

Can't you just see the splash coming?! Jump into professional development by participating in the Chesapeake Classrooms!

One group of Chesapeake Classrooms teachers was able to band terns with an expert from USFWS on a spit of sand near Fox Island.

Sometimes teachers get so busy trying to inform, that we squander our chances to help students form.  We lose sight of what is important; my week with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation brought everything back into focus, and my goals for the new school year include taking time (and making time) to allow my students to connect with nature.  The Chesapeake Classrooms course allowed me to become the student again and realize the value of these necessary experiences.

We were led by Bart Jaeger with collaboration from Shawn Ridgely, Adam Wickline and Bob Lehman.  These educators love the bay.  They love it because they know it, and they know the bay because they experience it with every fiber of their being; I think brackish water must flow along with the blood that runs through their veins.  I would be willing to bet that they are truly at their happiest when totally immersed in the bioregion of the Chesapeake Bay.

We started the week’s study at the Horn Point Laboratory (outside Cambridge, MD) learning about the lab’s role in indentifying solutions for restoring the bay which include researching submerged aquatic vegetation, and providing the largest hatchery on the East Coast for developing oyster spat used to re-seed depleted oyster beds.  We gleaned plenty of information to keep us thinking, questioning, and connecting the vital work being performed at the lab with our experiences throughout the week.

I car-pooled with 3 colleagues, and we continued driving through the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge.  We all marveled as I braked for a heron and egret as they gracefully lifted their long legs, searching for food at the road’s edge.  Since the road went directly through the marsh (and is occasionally underwater at high tide), extra caution was needed when driving.  This gave us an opportunity to slow down and observe; this was a fitting and important prelude to the entire week.

We chose our sleeping quarters, and met Shawn at the dock for a crab-pot-setting cruise.  After boarding the Karen N., we motored out to Hooper Strait in the Tangier Sound.  Shawn and Bart led a discussion on the history, anatomy and benefits of the fish we were using for crab bait; the lowly menhaden has an important role in the ecosystem, yet there are few limits to prevent over-fishing which has led to disruptions in the food chain.

The baiting/setting process was quite a production for us:  flip the pot, bait the trap, secure the bait-trap, remove and unwind the float, secure the opening, toss the float, wait for the signal, toss the pot.  And that was just setting them; we’d need to do all the steps in reverse when collecting them the next afternoon with the added steps of hooking and pulling up the pots.  We all gained new respect for the watermen who do this day in and day out, often alone.

After dinner, Bart guided us through the development of our organizing question:  How has the change in the natural and social systems had an effect on the health of the Chesapeake Bay?   Already, the experiences from the afternoon and evening were helping us formulate a response.  We found that we were steadily refining the question and looking at it from different points of view as the learning continued throughout the week.  Aren’t we like our students; don’t we want them to form opinions and responses based on thorough consideration?

The next day brought canoeing, marsh mucking, bay wading, shore exploring, a trip to Deal Island, oyster dredging,  a crab feast, and a light show provided by mother nature.  The canoeing, mucking, wading and exploring were all combined in our study of the natural system of the marsh as we discovered its value, purpose and function.  On closer inspection, we found that there was a diversity of vegetation and animals and a discussion of interdependence followed.  The experiences of this day were empowering; don’t we want our students to gain and feel the empowerment of accomplishing goals that may have previously been denied because of fear or lack of exposure to an activity?  Isn’t a stronger sense of self an essential goal for all students?

Our trek to Fox Island would be by way of proggin’ on Holland Island, passing South Marsh Island and the Martin Wildlife Refuge, and visiting the communities on Smith Island.  These events brought us face-to-face with the ‘social systems’ portion of our organizing question; these communities are shrinking just as quickly as the erosion is claiming the shoreline.  Our visit allowed us to see firsthand the fierce pride and determination that embody the Islanders.  While we question the affects of the social and natural systems on the health of the Bay, one cannot help but wonder about the influences of the social and natural systems upon each other.

Our arrival at the final destination on Fox Island required transferring to a skiff with a shallow draw; the tide would not allow our boat to venture beyond the channel.  Adam met us and prepared us for the most challenging part of the week—learning to live simply.  The lack of distractions allowed us to take advantage of simple pleasures such as marveling at the ability of the comb jellies to glow when agitated and wonder about the feeder fish attracted to a battery operated spotlight lowered into the water.  We had the time to take on the persona of the hunters that used Fox Island as we canoed into the duck blinds the next day and explored nearby marsh islands.  We watched with awe (and a little fear) as an evening storm approached and inundated the lodge.  With all manmade distractions (and conveniences) stripped away, it was a chance to reconnect with nature and find the wholeness that we often don’t realize is even missing.  Fox Island is magical to me; it provided a means to “strengthen the core skills underlying all learning: concentration, observation, relaxation, and open, receptive awareness with a positive, curious attitude.” (McHenry and Brady, 2009)  As a class, our best discussions and exchanges happened at Fox.  At our final group meeting, Bart encouraged us to use what we’ve learned and experienced to influence how we teach our students:  “You’re good enough.  You’re strong enough.  People like you.  Make it happen.”  I feel privileged to have been on such an inspiring adventure!  As teachers, don’t we all want to have that kind of positive impact on our students?

A plaque on a bench by the dock at Fox put everything in perspective:  ‘Open Spaces, Sacred Places’.  What a perfect setting to sort things out and focus on the impact of our actions.  We were given the opportunity to see the big picture and come to the realization that we have more power than we know.  We may now have more questions than answers, but we are able to ask them through a filter of respect for this fragile, vulnerable, one-of-a-kind, no-other-place-on-earth crossroads that has retained its ‘wildness’.  I look forward to helping my students find meaningful, authentic learning experiences in nature; wild is the way!

Claire Gardner is a 1st grade teacher at Cedar Grove Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland.

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

Paddling the Potomac: A MWEE to Remember

December 6th, 2010 by Page

Students on the "Paddling the Potomac" trip get the hang of paddling their canoes from one stop to the next. Photo courtesy of Page Hutchinson.

The morning mist rises above the river while a great blue heron leads the way. Besides the occasional cry of a Kingfisher, the only sound is of many paddles dipping in and out of the water. I know it won’t stay this blessedly peaceful and quiet for long once the 19 eighth graders find their rhythm and wake to the day.

This is our third morning of paddling on the Potomac River after spending the night camping in one of the many sites along the C&O Canal. Some of these children have never camped or canoed and are finally finding their daily stride. Today we made it onto the river in record time after requiring that the tents get packed before breakfast…good motivation!

Many years ago, Judy Cutright and I were  both teachers at J.P. Burley Middle School in Albemarle County. We developed this fall trip we call “Paddling the Potomac” in conjunction with The Mountain Institute in Spruce Knob, W. Va. Every year, we’ve tweaked the trip just a bit to make it better than the previous year.

On the first day, we meet TMI staff at Little Orleans on the Maryland side of the river. The students learn how to pack and seal a dry bag since we carry all our gear in the canoes with us. Usually they arrive with way more than they need and we have to convince them that their long underwear is more important than their favorite stuffed animal brought along for comfort.

Next is safety and paddling instruction. It may seem crazy, but yes, we takechildren on the river who have never paddled a canoe. The first day is always a little frenetic with canoes zigzagging back and forth across the river, heading the wrong direction or going in circles, but we coach them along and they finally get it. The shallowness of the river lessens any danger and we all wear life vests.

Students navigate to their next stopping point along the Potomac River. Photo courtesy of Page Hutchinson.

TMI provides one land guide who sees us off in the morning and then drives to our daily stopping point to mark it with hot pink plastic flagging ribbon easily seen from the river. Often, the TMI guide has to hike or ride a bike into the camp site since not all of them are easily accessible to a parking area. After several years of experimenting, we’ve finally worked out the distance between stopping points well enough that we land before dark.

We haul the gear, both personal and group, out of the canoes and pass it up to the campsite “bucket brigade” style. Due to erosion, most of our landing sites are steep and not conducive to individuals running back and forth. This teaches our students two great lessons: teamwork and erosion.

Trip participants pass supplies and gear along an assembly line from the canoes to camp for the night. Photo courtesy of Page Hutchinson.

Next is dividing into cook crew and tent crew. Every evening a different small group of students has the opportunity to cook dinner on portable camping stoves for the rest of the group, which is another first for virtually all the students. The rest of the students set up tents.

Countless opportunities offer themselves up for watershed instruction: erosion, algal blooms, land use, tributaries, habitats, and so forth. We can pretend we are traveling water molecules, and history and the role the river has played rounds out the experience.

The second day we pull out at Hancock, Md. to walk the C&O Canal, read the historical plaques, study the locks and peruse the museum. Most fun are the old film clips of the canal in use.

The group poses for a photo at Fort Frederick. Photo courtesy of Page Hutchinson.

The third day we land at Fort Frederick and enjoy a leisurely afternoon learning about life in the fort and its many uses over the years. Best of all is a visit to the store for a soda, ice cream or candy. It’s been three days of no junk food, after all.

Our fourth and final day on the river is a short one, only a couple of miles. We pull out at McCoy’s Ferry, unload, and rack the canoes. Next stop: Antietam Battlefield by school bus.

This last night together, we’ve made camp at the Harper’s Ferry KOA for the express purpose of taking showers. Unpacking dry bags and getting showers is interspersed with setting up camp and starting a special celebratory meal of lasagna made in two Dutch ovens. The evening ends with us around the campfire delighting in s’mores followed by a talent show.

"Paddling the Potomac" is a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience none of the participants will be soon to forget. Photo courtesy of Page Hutchinson.

The final day of the trip, Friday, takes us to historical Harper’s Ferry at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, two rivers that have determined the fate of Harper’s Ferry. It is here we say goodbye to our beloved TMI staff who have to head back to Spruce Knob and deal with wet tents, mats, stacks of muddy dry bags, cooking gear, leftover food and the like. Living together as such a close community even for only five days makes this a heart-wrenching affair.

After a tour and some free time, we load up and head home to greet parents who can’t quite believe what they’ve just let their children do. Occasionally, I run into former trip participants and they never fail to mention it. “Remember when….”

It’s those moments that make it all worth it for the kids and for me – never mind four days of canoeing rather than being in the classroom!

Page Hutchinson is the MWEE Grant Coordinator for the Virginia Office of Environmental Education.

Better Than Disneyland!

August 1st, 2010 by Fran

Fran swimming with the "gentle giant" whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium.

Baiting crab pots with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on the James River.

For me personally, this has been a “magical” summer. It hasn’t been so much about learning as about living.

My summer “vacation” began two days after school let out. I participated in a three day technology conference offered by the Math, Science Information Center in Richmond, Virginia. Each day mini classes were offered that provided teachers with hands on activities to encourage kids (of all ages) to explore a variety of math and science concepts, from nanotechnology to raising trout as a classroom project.

The conference ended on Friday but Sunday was the day I waited for with breathless anticipation and wonder.   Sunday was the day I visited the Georgia Aquarium and I got to swim with whale sharks – “Gentle Giants”, measuring over 41 feet and weighing up to 26,000 tons.

It was inspirational and totally exhilarating. I can’t help getting psyched and excited every time I remember the experience.  What I also took away from the Georgia Aquarium was a passion. The passion passed on to me by everyone I met there who cared for and worked with their sea world family.

I doubted that my next adventure could “measure up”, but after three days of participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s, outdoor field course, entitled “Chesapeake Bay Classroom” I once more experienced that strong sense of dedication, caring and “passion”. It was obvious how each presenter felt about the Chesapeake Bay- the wildlife, the land, its past, present and future.

There were Chuck’s stories about the Atlantic Sturgeon coming back; Mike’s Mussels and the efforts ongoing to bring back native species to Virginia, as well as updates on the shad and herring populations; baiting crab pots with Ken on the James River and Cathy’s Prothonotary Warbler project that had all of us making birdhouses and excited about getting our students involved in a global effort to help this particularly beautiful little yellow bird.

Take a good look at the world around you – the people, the geography, the diversity of life beneath the sea and in the air – there is so much “magic”! And you know what? It’s even better than Disneyland!

Think you might be interested in Chesapeake Classrooms trainings? Check out this quick three and a half minute video.

Fran Glusiec is a special education teacher at Lee Davis High School in Mechanicsville, Virginia.

Summer Institute Leaves a Lasting Impression

May 12th, 2010 by Christa
Institute participants explore the shoreline by canoe, observing the biodiversity that can be found on the Potomac River.

Institute participants explore the shoreline by canoe, observing the biodiversity that can be found on the Potomac River.

In 2006, I attended one of Hard Bargain Farm’s Environmental Science Summer Teacher Institutes. I spent a week of my summer learning about watersheds, waste management, erosion and runoff, and biodiversity. Everything we did was hands-on. Everything we did was fun. And everything we did was informative. The institute not only taught me a lot of environmental science content, it also provided me and others in attendance with extra momentum to be better environmental stewards.

Perhaps my favorite activity that we did (I have replicated it many times over with my own students) is Who Polluted the Potomac? Participants each receive a small vial with a label on it. As a story is read about the Potomac River, different participants’ labels are called to come up to the front. We each then emptied the contents of our vials into what began as crystal clear water.

Participants will learn how to test water quality – some teachers really get into it!

Participants will learn how to test water quality – some teachers really get into it!

This story is quite impactful as we learn that we are ALL responsible for the river’s pollution, and as such, there are things we can all do to help prevent the pollution in the first place! I left the institute feeling inspired and rejuvenated to bring back to my classroom not only the content of the lessons we were taught but also the pedagogy of using hands-on, inquiry-based lessons and activities with students.

But I took it a step further. I decided to focus on environmental education for my master’s degree. I graduated with the degree almost two years ago, and am now working at Hard Bargain Farm as an educator and the outreach coordinator. I love what I do because I get to teach kids and adults about the environment. And this Institute inspired me to take my career in this direction. For most people, they stay in the classroom and incorporate environmental lessons learned during the Institute and included in our curriculum binder into their pacing guides and science curricula at school.

Our institutes are now 9 days long, and this summer it will run from July 12-22. Because of grant funding we have been able to secure through NOAA BWET and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Institute is offered FREE of charge – in fact, participants receive a small stipend! I encourage you to come to the institute, learn about the environment, learn how to teach about the environment, and be inspired to make a positive change in our communities.

You can find more information along with registration forms on our website.

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Christa Haverly is the Outreach Coordinator for Alice Ferguson Foundation.