Looking to learn more about the Bay? These curated activities are arranged by topic to encourage curiosity and love of the Chesapeake Bay. Teachers and students will find these resources helpful for learning more about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We will be updating this page with more resources and videos throughout spring 2020.
The State of Your Bay
At CBF, we talk about the health of the Bay in our State of the Bay Report. You can think about the health of your schoolyard, house, and neighborhood through these resources.
- Take a look at our Schoolyard Report Card.
- Find ways to make your neighborhood Bay friendly.
- Consider other Student Action Projects.
The Chesapeake Bay's 64,000-square-mile watershed covers parts of six states and is home to more than 18 million people.
- Need a visual? Check out this Chesapeake Bay Watershed poster.
- How does CBF protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed? Through the implementation of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
- Polluted runoff is a huge issue facing the watershed, what we do on land ultimately impacts our water and waterways emptying out into the bay. Learn more by analyzing our Green Filter/Gray Funnel poster.
- It’s difficult to imagine the size and scale of our watershed. To get a better picture of how one drop of water impacts the Bay, try this Bay-sic Ratios activity.
- In addition to our watershed, did you know we also have an airshed? Check out the map on our airshed web page to get a sense of how big our airshed is –it's bigger than you think!
Explore our self-guided tool for investigating water quality that is based on data gathered from years of students going on field experiences with us. Our What's in Our Water(shed)? Investigation Series walks students through interpreting the field data, creating graphs, synthesizing correlations, and developing conclusions, all to investigate different real-world natural phenomena.
- What we measure in water quality: nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and turbidity. These are also the indicators used in CBF's State of the Bay Report.
- You can also access real-time data from various points around the Bay as well as historic information about the area from John Smith's time through NOAA CBIBS Buoy.
Habitats of the Watershed
Fresh Water Streams
As the saying goes, "everything flows downstream." The Chesapeake Bay is fed by 50 major rivers and streams, with more than 100,000 smaller streams, creeks, and rivers throughout the watershed. Five major rivers—the Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James—provide almost 90 percent of the freshwater to the Bay. All of these waterways, large and small, provide habitat necessary for more than 400 species of fish and supporting hundreds of animal species. If we are to "Save the Bay" we must also save the thousands of waterways that flow into it.
- Find out more amazing facts about the 64,000 square miles we call the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
- Check out this map of all the major river watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay.
- The Susquehanna River is the largest tributary to the bay, providing almost half of the Bay’s freshwater!
- Check out this graphic about the mighty Susquehanna.
- Unfortunately, some of these rivers are seriously polluted and at risk, because their watersheds are covered with hardened surfaces, like roads, roofs, and parking lots. Is your local waterway at risk? Find out!
- Students can make a difference, in fact, they are champions of the Bay, its rivers and streams. A group of Pennsylvania student leaders even wrote a bill to designate the Eastern hellbender as the official state amphibian of Pennsylvania!
- Find out more about the Hellbender Defenders.
- Why freshwater mussels good for rivers and streams? How many species of freshwater mussels are there in the Bay watershed? Want to Ask an Expert? CBF's Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood shares why he loves these amazing mollusks—and why you should too!
- Are you looking for a way to help the Bay? Here are 12 things you can do today to clean up rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Wetlands are the link between land and water. The unique ecosystems that support a wealth of plant and animal life. Wetlands are not always wet year-round, and some of the most important wetlands are wet for only part of the year. In addition to providing essential habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife, wetlands also provide valuable economic benefits, such as controlling floods, filtering pollutants, and providing recreational opportunities.
- What challenges does CBF face protecting wetlands? We follow current legislation to ensure the Clean Water Act is implemented and are fighting for a stronger definition of an important rule called the "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS). To learn more about CBF’s legislative efforts, visit our Federal Regulations web page.
- Interested in different common wetland plants? Check out this overview of familiar plants found across the watershed.
- Learn more about what you can do by checking out CBF’s Guide to Protecting Wetlands.
Like the Lorax, CBF speaks for the trees! Trees, forests, and forested (or riparian) buffers are the front line of defense when it comes to preventing erosion and protecting water clarity. CBF supports both healthy forests and rivers and streams by building and restoring forested buffers (multiple rows of native trees, shrubs, and grasses) along streams and rivers.
- These forested buffers allow trees to capture and filter out the pollution from runoff before entering into a river or stream. They also provide important habitat for wildlife and aquatic species, stabilize stream banks against erosion, and help keep rivers cool in summer!
- Unfortunately, we are losing vital forests throughout our watershed. Never fear, CBF is here! To combat forest loss, CBF and our partners have launched the Keystone 10 Million Trees campaign.
- Curious about the benefits of riparian buffers and their close cousin, living shorelines? Check out CBF’s Guide to Living Shorelines.
Oysters and Oyster Reefs
Food. Filter. Habitat. Oysters are the backbone of the Bay, providing habitat for Bay creatures, a food source for both animals and humans, and the essential ecosystem service of filtration. Not sure where to begin? Watch Back to Baysics: Oyster Sanctuaries.
- This oyster fact sheet and oyster infographic will tell you everything you need to know about oysters.
- Want to Ask an Expert? Check out this video of CBF’s Maryland's Fisheries Scientist, Dr. Allison Colden explaining why oysters are so important to the Chesapeake Bay!
- Find out more about the Bay's equivalent of coral reefs, watch The Incredible Oyster Reef.
- CBF is partnering with other non-profits, community organizations, and oyster growers to add 10 billion oysters in the Bay by 2025 –learn more about this initiative by visiting the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance website.
Get introduced to underwater grasses by watching this Back to Basics video! Like oyster reefs, underwater grasses provide essential habitat for many of the Bay’s most charismatic species—like pufferfish, pipefish, and seahorses!!! Underwater grasses are also a vital food source for migrating waterfowl. In addition, underwater grasses help to brace and support land from waves, slowing them down and reducing erosion.
- Want to try to identify some underwater grasses? Check out CBF’s Guide to Underwater Grasses.
- Where are bay grasses located today? Explore the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Bay Grasses Map.
What are the keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay? Many of them are in fact, fish! From striped bass (also called rockfish) to Atlantic menhaden and American shad, fish play a crucial role in the Bay’s ecosystem and food web. Getting back to basics, learn about the fins of a fish with this fun video or using the Know Your Fish tool.
Waterfowl and other birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway stop in and around the Bay, finding food and shelter in coves and marshes. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is also a major nesting area for the threatened bald eagle, the once-endangered brown pelican, double-crested cormorants, and home to the world's largest population of another raptor, the osprey, with more than 2,000 nesting pairs. Watch our video of a baby osprey feeding on a menhaden at CBF's headquarters at the Philip Merrill Center.
- Want to get up close and personal with one of the Bay’s most iconic bird species? Check out the Chesapeake Conservancy's Osprey Cam to get live video footage from CBF’s headquarters at the Phillip Merrill Center.
- Trying to get to know your local birds? This Pleasure House Point Bird Guide might help you out!
- For more information about bird species of the Chesapeake, visit the Bay Backpack website.
General Background on Bay Topics
Additional Classroom Resources
- Chesapeake Classrooms Teachers Guide (Adobe PDF)
- An Educator's Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) - Chesapeake Bay Program
- Videos of Bay Topics (polluted runoff, rockfish, etc) - Chesapeake Bay Program
- Bay Backpack - a great collection of field activities, funding sources, and a blog to keep you updated on Bay education issues.
Fix Your Schoolyard Bare Spots (PDF, 12 pgs, 1.2 MB) Bare spots are places where vegetation (such as plants, shrubs, grasses, flowers) no longer exists in the soil. Bare spots come in all shapes and sizes. The outcome of having any type of bare spot is the same: storm water hits the ground and is not able to soak in to the land. Use this step-by-step guide to fix the bare spots in your school or home yard.
Build Your Own Rain Barrel (PDF, 4 pgs, 612 KB) Capture rain water from downspouts to reduce runoff and have a water source during droughts using this easy step-by-step guide.
Build Your Own Rain Garden (PDF, 8 pgs, 627 KB) Add colorful habitat to your schoolground while keeping sediment from choking local streams by using this easy step-by step guide.
CBF Oyster Restoration—The Oyster Corps is a diverse collection of citizens and students dedicated to the common purpose of restoring oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. There are many ways people can help rebuild the Bay's depleted oyster populations, and participation in any of these activities makes you part of this grassroots movement. Explore our programs in Maryland and Virginia.
Storm Drain Stenciling—Many people are not aware that most storm drains lead directly to waterways that dump into the Bay. You can help clean up the Bay by stenciling a message that will help members of your community remember that nothing but rain water should enter the storm drains. Storm drains are not trash cans: whatever is dumped into them ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. Learn more about how to participate in this important project.
Bay-Friendly Living Tips -How can my behavior at home impact the Bay? Make sure you are being a good steward by reviewing these simple hints (Adobe PDF).