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 | The Watershed | Water Quality | Habitats of the Watershed | Wildlife | Neighborhood Discovery | General Background on Bay Topics | Additional Classroom Resources | Chesapeake Classrooms | Other Resources | Student Action Projects
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.
- How do trees, ditches, lawns, roofs, and other things that make up your neighborhood impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay? Find out with our Student Investigation & Activity: State of Your Bay.
- Follow along with our Student Investigation & Activity: Backyard Report Card video and downloadable investigation to explore how you impact the Bay at home and what you can do to safeguard water quality.
- What is water quality, why is it important, and how do you test it? Check out our Student Investigation & Activity: Water Quality Testing.
- Join CBF Educator Cameron Crannell to explore a stream in Virginia and evaluate the water clarity to determine how sediment is impacting the water in our Student Investigation & Activity: Sediment in Streams.
- Which is more effective in reducing erosion, armored shorelines or living shorelines? Find out the difference in our Student Investigation & Activity: Controlling Shoreline Erosion.
- 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. In our video Green vs. Gray Filters, CBF Educator Nathan Hesse examines different gray and green filters that make up the landscape and how they affect water quality. After watching the video, try our investigation When Rain Hits the Land.
- 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, watch this video. Need more practice? Try this Bay-sic Ratios activity.
- In our video Reducing Erosion is Good for the Bay, join CBF Educators Morgan and Kate at Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs as they explain why reducing erosion is good for the Bay. Then test what you've learned with our Erosion Investigation.
- Trees are among nature’s most important natural filters. But how much do you really know about them? CBF Educators Liz and Ronnie will walk you through the wonders of trees in our video The Importance of Trees. Follow up with the companion investigation to learn more.
- Riparian buffers, which are trees, shrubs or other vegetation along a stream or waterway, are an important tool to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Watch our video as CBF Field Educator Liz Yocom details how riparian buffers can improve stream health and identifies several macroinvertebrates that can be found in streams. After watching the video, complete the Riparian Buffer Investigation.
- Join CBF Educators Maya, Ochae, and Nate in our Nutrient Scavenger Hunt as they scour their neighborhoods looking for sources of nutrient pollutants and the methods used to reduce them. Afterwards, use the Nutrients: Too Much of a Good Thing Investigation for your own scavenger hunt. Can you find sources of nutrients and stormwater management best practices in your own neighborhood?
- 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!
- In our Student Investigation & Activity: Freshwater Stream Health, follow CBF Educator Doug Walters as he explores a tributary stream and discusses how to evaluate its health. Then see if you can identify key factors related to stream health
- 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.
Underwater grasses, or submerged aquatic vegetation, are a key component of the Bay’s ecosystem. They provide habitat for crabs and fish, add oxygen to the water, prevent shoreline erosion, clarify the water, and serve as a food source for birds. Learn more about their value with CBF Captain Bart Jaeger in our underwater grasses video.
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.
- In our Student Investigation & Activity: Freshwater Wetlands, learn about natural and manmade freshwater wetlands, what lives in them, and how they are threatened.
- 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!
- But don’t take it from just us! Watch as Avett the Dog explores a forest and explains how he and other animals benefit from the clean air and water they provide in our Student Investigation & Activity: How Forests Help Save the Bay.
- 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.
- Watch how oysters filter water then figure out how many oysters you’d need to filter the amount of water your family uses in our Student Investigation & Activity: Oyster Filtering Power.
- Learn how oysters' three-dimensional reefs create crucial habitat for a wide variety of aquatic life in our Student Investigation & Activity: Oyster Habitat Observations.
- 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.
- Blue crabs are the Chesapeake Bay’s signature crustacean. Watch as CBF Virginia Field Manager Ken Slazyk describes blue crabs’ key features and their life cycle in this animated video. By completing the Blue Crab 101 Investigation you can learn more about this important species.
- Get back to basics, learn about the fins of a fish with this fun video or using the Know Your Fish tool.
- The Chesapeake Bay is home to fish of all shapes and sizes, each species uniquely adapted for the conditions where it lives. What can you learn about a fish’s food source, habitat, and lifestyle just from looking at it? Join CBF Educator Tiffany Granberg as she goes “fishing” for answers and take a deeper dive with our Fish Adaptations Investigation.
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.
- In our Student Investigation & Activity: Spring Peepers, get a look at this elusive little tree frog and explore the small, rain-fed wetlands they call home.
- Get into action with our Student Investigation & Activity: Bay Balance Yoga. Get up close and personal with some of the Bay's coolest critters as you contemplate how each is adapted to live in a marsh environment.
- The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to a plethora of well-known birds. Join CBF Educator Tiffany Granberg as she explains how you can identify the birds that may frequent your backyard and other neighborhoods in the Bay watershed in our Student Investigation & Activity: Introduction to Backyard Birding.
- As plants decompose, their organic materials break down, which returns nutrients to the soil. When humans control the process of decomposition it’s called composting. Watch as CBF ducators Tiffany, Leigh, and Claire explain composting basics, how to build a composter at home, and the different stages of decomposition in our Student Investigation & Activity: Composting.
General Background on Bay Topics
- This Month on the Bay blog series
- CBF resources and magazines
- Bay Glossary
- More things you can do to save the Bay!
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.
Student Action Projects
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).