Teachers on the Bay Course Celebrates 25 Years

Bay Bound
Spring 2013

It began with this organizing statement in 1989: "The Chesapeake Bay is a natural resource that needs a knowledgeable and caring public to restore its health and manage it wisely."
That year the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, St. Margaret's School, and Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) established a partnership to create and teach a two-week, on-water institute for K-12 teachers. The goal of the program was to create a practical, hands-on experience for teachers by providing a background of oceanography and estuarine science with a focus on curriculum design so that teachers could take what they learned in the class and apply it in their own schools using their own nearby resources—from creeks and marshes to the Bay itself. It was also something of an experiment as teachers began exploring new methods for using the Chesapeake Bay in and out of the classroom as a tool to teach science. Study progressed from basic investigation to more sophisticated analyses of the interrelationships that exist with the entire Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Teachers resided overnight at St. Margaret's School for the first seven days and ventured forth daily in their field investigations. The class concluded its work on Port Isobel, one of CBF's Island Education Centers.

The course was also created to engage the public in local Chesapeake Bay issues by garnering sustained public support and participation for cleaning up the Bay. Current issues and living resources management of the Bay were addressed beginning in its first year with a "Distinguished Speakers Bureau" series, where experts came to deliver cutting-edge research with the class in the evenings at St. Margaret's. The public was invited, the programs free and well attended, and this aspect (with associated local press stories) helped to build community acceptance and engagement of both the science of Bay restoration and its needs.

This summer 2013, Teachers on the Bay participants will continue to explore the biological, physical, chemical, and geological aspects of oceanography and their applications in the Chesapeake Bay region. But with it's place-based instructional model success, the program has evolved so teachers now learn how to develop and incorporate project-based instruction into their curriculum using Common Core Standards and Virginia's Standards of Learning. The teachers will still learn to utilize their own nearby resources while fully engaging their students in meaningful, authentic field investigations.

Teachers on the Bay was made possible initially through a generous grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Religious, Charitable, and Educational Fund. Later, support from the Virginia Environmental Endowment provided for and sustained the program for over six years. The program has been recognized with regional and national awards including the National Environmental Education Merit Award (1995) from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Soil and Water Conservation Society's Merit Award (2008), and both the Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula and Garden Club of the Northern Neck.

CBF Senior Educator for the Bay Bill Portlock designed and has directed the program since its inception. Many CBF Educators have taught this course with Portlock but two stand out: Yancy Powell and Jimmy Sollner will both teach this course with Portlock for their 13th consecutive year this summer.

Bill Portlock's Teachers on the Bay course is currently open and accepting registrations.

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