New Program Enriches 25 Years of Environmental Education

The Takeaway: A stewardship program for older schoolchildren soon will join a popular, two-day field trip for fourth graders at Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Research Reserve.

In its 25-year history, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has introduced thousands of public school children to environmental stewardship through its 6,000-acre classroom and living laboratory. Now the reserve is adding an estuary education program for older schoolchildren that deepens insights through fieldwork, data analysis, and stewardship projects. Both programs fulfill state watershed education requirements.

Each September, up to 250 fourth-grade students flock to Deal Island for Wetlands and Wildlife Field Day to learn about the reserve’s marsh habitat that supports green herons, snowy egrets, striped bass, and a world of other creatures. More than 3,000 Maryland fourth graders have taken part since the program began.

A new initiative, Shoring Up Resiliency through Education, will deepen environmental insights for more than 600 fifth, seventh, and ninth graders yearly in Somerset County. Storytelling by area farmers, watermen, and scientists will highlight for students how intensifying hazards and other changes could affect their cultural heritage and coastal economy. These older students also learn resilience strategies to “shore up” their community’s future.

Somerset County, which is vulnerable to rising natural hazards, has an economy that depends heavily on coastal resources. According to a NOAA report, the county’s 2016 ocean economy garnered more than $25 million in gross domestic product, most of it in the traditional sectors of tourism and recreation and natural resources. (The latter sector includes commercial fishing, fish or seafood hatcheries and processing, and related industries.)

A vivid story map captures the research reserve’s achievements in environmental education, outreach, research, and ecotourism projects. Partners in Wetlands and Wildlife Field Day include Maryland’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service, and Wildlife and Heritage Service. Many state partners helped fund the successful pilot year of Shoring Up Resiliency through Education, and The Chesapeake Bay Trust has funded the program for the next three years. (2019)

More Information: Chesapeake Bay Research Reserve-Maryland

Partners: Chesapeake Bay Trust, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Coastal Service and Wildlife and Heritage Service, and Somerset County School District