Environmental Literacy


Teachers sift through underwater grasses on a professional development trip.

CBF Staff

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Systemic Initiative

PHASE ONE: July 1, 2011 — June 30, 2014
PHASE TWO: July 1, 2014 — June 30, 2017

Through a unique public/private partnership launched in 2011, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system has participated in a systemic environmental literacy program with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) that could be a model for school systems across the Bay region and the country. What started as a three-year effort has been renewed to run through June 2017.

The The Virginia Beach Systemic Environmental Literacy Program brings together a diverse group of public, private, and non-profit partners to provide hands-on Chesapeake Bay field experiences and related classroom activities for all Virginia Beach sixth-graders. It also provides professional development for middle and high school life science, biology, and oceanography teachers in the school district. Its goal is to provide students and teachers with high quality and high impact watershed experiences aligned with and integrated into the core science curricula.

VBCPS is Virginia's third largest school division serving approximately 70,000 students each year. The mission of VBCPS is to work in partnership with the entire community, to empower every student to become a life-long learner who is a responsible, productive and engaged citizen within the global community. VBCPS sees this partnership as a key opportunity to advance academic achievement and accomplish its strategic plan goals for students as outlined in the Compass to 2015.

During its first three years, CBF and VBCPS reached every teacher in 6th grade science, advanced 7th grade life science, and high school biology and oceanography as well as roughly 11,500 students. In its second phase the partnership will expand its reach to an additional 90 teachers and approximately 22,658 students.

Since 2011, CBF has worked with teachers and administrators from Virginia Beach Public Schools to get them outside, experiencing the environment so they feel comfortable using it as their classroom. The Lynnhaven River is the backyard for many Virginia Beach residents, yet many don't know the major issues surrounding its poor water quality. These professional development courses not only introduce basic environmental concepts but also show teachers how the material naturally pairs with the Virginia Standards of Learning…and can be fun!

Throughout this second three year grant period, project partners will:

  • Provide professional development for approximately 30-45 middle school teachers and 30-45 high school science teachers during five-day Summer Institute Trainings;
  • Provide three one-day embedded professional development days for teachers from the Summer Institute Trainings during the calendar school year (these professional development days will be offered each year to each new cohort of teachers);
  • Provide an optional Professional Linking Program workshop training for teachers from the Summer Institute Trainings;
  • Develop field investigations and meaningful watershed education experience (MWEE) opportunities for target science courses, enhancing and building upon lessons developed in the initial project period;
  • Engage up to 15-24 principals and administrators in environmental leadership training;
  • Support job-embedded professional development to implement field-based environmental education lessons, including MWEEs;
  • By the third year, engage all middle school advanced 7th grade life science and 6th grade science and high school earth science and AP environmental science teachers in VBCPS in implementing model MWEEs and new field-based lessons and investigations (reaching 22,658 students total).

Any class is encouraged to join CBF on the water for field experiences with their students.

The partnership was initially funded by a $120,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office, a $55,000 donation from CSX Transportation, and a $12,700 grant from the Junior Virginia Beach Garden Club. In 2014, CSX donated an additional $75,000 to help fund the program for another three years. NOAA also awarded another B-WET grant of $270,000 to CBF to continue the partnership. Other partners are the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Lynnhaven River NOW, First Landing State Park, the Elizabeth River Project, and Oyster Reef Keepers of Virginia.

For more information contact Tom Ackerman at 410-268-8816 or tackerman@cbf.org.

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