CBF and MASC Are Helping to Save the Bay by Pairing Leadership & Education

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The partnership between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) is the perfect example of how the natural and social worlds in which we live crisscross.

I would describe the relationship between CBF and MASC as one of 'mutualism.' Ecologists use the term 'symbiosis' to refer to the close relationship that two or more organisms have with each other. One type of symbiotic relationship is called 'mutualism.' That is when the organisms interact in a way that is mutually beneficial. Bees and flowers have a mutualistic relationship. Flowers can provide nectar for the bees' food, and the bees transport the pollen to help flowers reproduce. CBF and MASC have one of these win-win relationships.  

MASC is a student-run organization, composed of middle and high school leaders from across the state. They sponsor training sessions, advocate for student rights, hold conferences, and contribute to philanthropies. When MASC selected CBF as its Charity of the Year for 2012, we realized the potential of this relationship Could become much more and last for years to come.  

Building a Relationship

Knowing CBF through field experiences on education programs, the leadership of MASC recognized that we could offer their constituents opportunities in learning, service, and leadership training. CBF knows MASC as a well-organized group of motivated students who recognize the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. MASC's members have a domonstrated commitment to environmental issues, centered around an organizational platform supporting the teaching of environmental literacy, promoting the Green Schools program, increasing recycling, and reducing the use of toxic chemicals on school property.

As Charity of the Year, CBF educators traveled across the state delivering workshops and presentations to student groups. Each presentation is part education session and part focus group, sharing the ecology of the Chesapeake and listening to students share their thoughts and experiences on the Bay and local streams and rivers. Through crabbing, boating, or just kicking around outside, the youth of this state have a growing awareness about the environmental legacy they will inherit.

Completing the circle of a mutualistic relationship, CBF invited several members of the MASC Executive Board to Annapolis to help envision a student leadership program. Students and CBF educators then worked together to design a training program that would be in the best interest of students and the Bay. Ideas put on the table included: viral social media outreach, restoration projects, flash mobs, and canoe-based leadership workshops.

As this relationship has progresses, we keep discovering areas where CBF and MASC naturally complement each other. When MASC's Anne Arundel County Chapter organized a Lobby Day to learn about local government, the student Legislative Affairs committee endorsed three environmentally friendly bills and then invited CBF to help teach about lobbying and the environmental significance of the legislation.  

There is another player in this mutualist relationship. The Bay itself provides the inspiration for the MASC students, and in the exchange will benefit from the projects, advocacy, and stewardship of an enthusiastic , motivated, and well-informed generation.

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