Learn Outside, Learn at Home

Liz Yocum Investigation Video capture 1171x593

CBF Educator Liz Yocum is shown here from her video "Riparian Buffers and Clean Water," one of several videos that are part of our Student Investigations and Activities section.

Photo Credit: Liz Yocum/CBF Staff

You can learn about the Bay from your own backyard.

CBF presents new interactive and social resources to keep teachers, parents, and students connected to the Bay and the watershed from your own backyard, porch, or park.

As we all deal with stay-at-home orders and social distancing, CBF educators are creating new content from their own backyards and home offices so educators and students can keep learning outside and learning about the environment. Below are a variety of student investigations and activities, blog posts on the environment and nature journaling, and videos to help your 'learn at home' efforts.

For a more comprehensive list of curated activities arranged by topic, see our Resources for Teachers and Students page.

Student Investigations & Activities | Nature Journaling | Ask An Expert Video Series

Student Investigations & Activities

Great for remote learning or use in the classroom, each investigation integrates video and PDF worksheets with Chesapeake Bay watershed content and curriculum.

  • Underwater Grasses

    You may notice flecks of vegetation as you glide across the water’s surface on the Chesapeake Bay. If you see this, just below the surface may be large beds of underwater grasses. These grasses 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. In this video, CBF Captain Bart Jaeger talks about the value of underwater grasses. To learn more, complete the investigation.

  • Freshwater Mussels

    Mussels are similar in many ways to oysters—they are bivalves with two shells that can filter water. But unlike oysters that only live in saltwater, several species of mussels can be found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s freshwater rivers and streams. CBF’s Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood researches the water quality benefits of these freshwater mussels. In this video, Wood explains why these mussels are good for rivers, how mussels trick fish into helping them out, and other interesting details about these dynamic organisms. After watching, test what you’ve learned by filling out the investigation.

  • Oyster Habitat Observations

    You may know oysters help improve water quality and clarity in the Bay by filtering water, but did you know they also create homes for other critters? Join CBF Educator Kellie Fiala to explore how oysters build three-dimensional reefs and why this habitat is crucial for a wide variety of aquatic life, including crabs and fish. Then try our investigation to learn more about the value of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Bay Balance Yoga

    The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary—a place where fresh and saltwater mix that provides a unique habitat for a vast array of birds, mammals, insects, and fish. Get up close and personal with some of the Bay's coolest critters as you contemplate how each is adapted to live in this environment. Then, unroll your yoga mat and have some fun interpreting what you see with our special investigation!

  • Controlling Shoreline Erosion

    Shorelines are an important line of defense for reducing pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Scientific studies have shown that natural or "living" shorelines braced by grasses, trees, and other vegetation are more than capable of halting erosion while also providing habitat for animals and capturing carbon to reduce the effects of climate change. CBF educators Tiffany and Michael discuss the value of living shorelines, as well as issues related to bulkheads and other armored shorelines. After watching it, see if you can complete our downloadable investigation.

  • Backyard Report Card

    Clean water starts with each of us—in our homes, in our yards, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities. From turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth to mowing lawns less frequently to provide habitat for wildlife, every action matters. Follow along with our video and downloadable investigation to explore how you impact the Bay at home and what you can do to safeguard water quality.

  • Sediment in Streams

    Sediment enters streams and other waterways when it’s picked up by rain washing across the land, as well as from streambank erosion. Too much sediment in the water causes it to become muddy, which restricts the growth of underwater vegetation and can endanger marine life. Watch as CBF Educator Cameron Crannell explores a stream in Virginia and evaluates the water clarity to determine how sediment is impacting the water. Follow up with our Reducing Sediment in Our Streams Investigation.

  • How Forests Help Save the Bay

    The towering trees and other vegetation that make up a forest provide several clean water benefits. 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. Then check out our Figuring Out Forests and Streams Investigation.

  • An Introduction to Backyard Birding

    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. To learn more about the birds in the area, follow up with our Identify Birds in Your Own Backyard Investigation.

  • The Importance of Trees

    Trees are among nature’s most important natural filters. They clean our air and water as well as provide shade and habitat for animals. But how much do you really know about them? Join CBF Educators Liz and Ronnie as they walk you through how trees improve water quality, how to identify them, and how you can analyze tree rings. Then learn more about how important trees are to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed in the companion investigation.

  • Fish Adaptations

    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 in this video, then take a deeper dive with our Fish Adaptations Investigation.

  • Composting

    When plants or portions of them, such as leaves or branches, die and fall to the ground they undergo a process called decomposition. 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. In this video, CBF Educators Tiffany, Leigh, and Claire explain composting basics, how to build a composter at home, and the different stages of decomposition. You can learn more about composting and its environmental benefits by completing the Composting Investigation.

  • Blue Crab 101

    Blue crabs are the Chesapeake Bay’s signature crustacean. They are delicious to eat, support commercial and recreational fisheries, and are a key piece in the Bay’s food web. They are also fascinating marine animals that are negatively impacted by pollution in the Bay. 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.

  • Reducing Erosion is Good for the Bay

    Every day throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, sediment from the ground is being washed or blown away by water and wind. This natural process is called erosion. When erosion happens too quickly—primarily due to water running off from agricultural land or excessive development in cities and towns—it can cause problems in waterways and the Bay. Too much sediment in the water makes the water cloudy, blocking sunlight from reaching underwater grasses. In addition, the excess dirt can potentially smother oysters. In this video, join CBF Educators Morgan and Kate at Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs as they explain why reducing erosion is good for the Bay. After watching, test what you’ve learned by completing our Erosion Investigation.

  • The State of Your Bay

    Every neighborhood is filled with features that can impact water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. In the following video, explore two different neighborhoods with CBF Educators Megan and Claire. They’ll explain how trees, ditches, lawns, roofs, and other things that make up our neighborhoods are related to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. After watching the video, try the State of Your Bay Investigation to explore your neighborhood’s impact on habitats and water quality.

  • Spring Peepers

    Follow along with CBF Educator Liz Glaston as she tracks down the source of the evening chorus of high-pitched peeps that rings out from marshy woodlands in the spring—a tiny tree frog called the northern spring peeper. Then explore the importance of the small, rain-fed wetlands they call home and try your hand at composing some "Peeper Poetry" with our Spring Peepers Investigation.

  • Freshwater Wetlands

    CBF educators Ronnie Anderson and Ben Carver introduce you to natural and manmade freshwater wetlands in the Bay watershed, what lives in them, and how they are threatened. Then dive into our Freshwater Wetlands Investigation.

  • Water Quality Testing

    One of the most important ways scientists track the health of waterways is by performing regular water quality tests. Watch our videos, learn what water quality is and why it’s important from CBF Educator Rick Mittler, then follow along with CBF Educator Claire Cambardella as she performs basic tests to measure the chemical water quality characteristics of her local stream. Afterwards, learn more about what factors affect water quality measurements and how they are used in our Water Quality: Connect the Bay to the Classroom Investigation.

  • 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 in our What Makes A Healthy Stream?"andWhat Lives in Our Freshwater Stream? investigation worksheets.

  • Nutrient Scavenger Hunt

    Join CBF Educators Maya, Ochae, and Nate as they scour their neighborhoods looking for sources of nutrient pollutants and the methods used to reduce them. Then see if you can find sources of nutrients and stormwater management best practices in your own neighborhood in the Nutrients: Too Much of a Good Thing Investigation worksheet.

  • Understanding Water Runoff: Gray vs. Green Filters

    Watch our video on how different gray and green filters make up the landscape and how they affect water quality. Then complete the When Rain Hits the Land Investigation worksheet.

  • The Watershed Journey of A Raindrop

    Follow the journey of Rio the Raindrop as it falls to the land near the Appalachian Mountains and travels through various streams and rivers on its way downhill to the Chesapeake Bay. Along the route, Rio, like other raindrops, is affected by pollution as well as natural filters that make the water cleaner. Then explore facts and features related to the Chesapeake Bay watershed with our How Does the Land Affect the Water? Investigation.

  • Riparian Buffers & Clean Water

    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. Then complete the Riparian Buffer Investigation worksheet.

  • Oyster Filtering Power

    Watch our video on how oysters filter water. Then use our worksheet to figure out how many oysters you’d need to filter the amount of water your family uses.


Nature Journaling

Nature journaling is a way to creatively connect and build a deep, lasting relationship with the natural world. Our blog series offers inspiration and journaling prompts.

  • Summer Sense of Wonder

    June 9, 2020

    Over the summer, amazing natural changes will occur in your own backyard. Changes you can observe, document, and ponder.

  • Looking for Love on the Bay

    June 2, 2020

    June is named for Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Appropriately, June is when many living things look for love. All around you can see, hear, and even smell the various methods different species use to woo their mates.

  • The Process, Not the Product

    May 26, 2020

    Remember, the goal of nature journaling lies in the process of creating and not in the created product.

  • The Bounty of the Bay

    May 19, 2020

    Scientists agree that ecosystems with a greater biodiversity tend to be more stable. Each species strengthens the ecosystem by performing various jobs and services. Here are some ideas for experiencing the watershed’s grand biodiversity from home.

  • Creativity: An Unhurried Adventure

    May 12, 2020

    While the current worldwide pandemic can make us uncertain and anxious, taking time for reflection, especially self-reflection, can help us stay grounded and give us a foundation for creativity.

  • The Color Rush of May

    May 5, 2020

    The rapid changes May brings offer great inspiration for observing, questioning, and nature journaling.

  • Surrounded by Trees: Seeds, Shade, Beams, and Books

    April 28, 2020

    Educator Ronnie Anderson reflects on the wonder and importance of trees. This spring, if you can’t plant a tree, at least try to nourish the ones that already exist. Take some time to examine your life and find where it intersects and intertwines with that of a tree.

  • A Celebration of Earth

    April 21, 2020

    This week we mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Early environmental activists created Earth Day to harness the energy of their growing movement and inspire Americans to protect our planet. Cindy Duncan, a veteran CBF educator who was six years old at the time, shares her recollections.

  • Nature on the Mind

    April 14, 2020

    According to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” To experience the benefits of mindfulness in nature you simply need to go outside, breathe deeply, and consciously recognize the world around you. Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of nature. Simply exist—and notice.

  • Tune in to April

    April 7, 2020

    April is when our world reawakens from its winter slumber. The Romans named the month after their word meaning “to open or blossom.” April is the first full month of spring, a time of rapid rebirth and growth, when the days grow longer and the nights get shorter.

  • Becoming a Naturalist

    March 31, 2020

    Nature is everywhere you are. Finding it is easy, especially if you are curious about clouds, trees, weather, stars, rocks, birds, ants, or anything else outside. True magic lies in your curiosity about these everyday things.

  • Why Nature Journal?

    March 25, 2020

    Nature journaling is a way to creatively connect and build a deep, lasting relationship with the natural world.


Ask An Expert Video Series

How does the Chesapeake Bay's amazing natural system work? And how can we restore and protect it? Explore the answers with our CBF experts in this bite-sized video series.

  • Ask an Expert: How are Federal Rollbacks Impacting Wetlands?

    How are streams and wetlands impacted by federal rollbacks, like the rollback of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule?

  • Ask an Expert: What Is a Fish Kill?

    Why do dozens, hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of fish wash ashore dead? What types of environmental factors can cause these mass die-offs? How can we prevent them from happening?

  • Ask an Expert: What's the Buzz About Bee Balm?

    What native plant is medicinal, can be used as a tasty tea, is good for the environment, and has beautiful flowers that attract bees and butterflies? Find out why bee balm could be a great addition to your garden with CBF's Jay Ford.

  • Ask an Expert: What are Mummichogs (and Why are They Amazing)?

    Believe it or not, mummichogs were the first fish sent into space. This "mud minnow," common in brackish marshes, lives an amazing secret life serving science, wildlife, and fishermen. Learn more from Chris Moore, CBF's Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist.

  • Ask an Expert: What's the Bay's Shad and Herring Migration?

    Where do shad and herring lay their eggs after migrating from the ocean? Chris Moore, CBF's Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist, explores the remarkable spring shad and herring migration.

  • Ask an Expert: Why are Trees VIPs (Very Important Plants)?

    How do trees battle climate change? Can trees reduce flooding? And how do trees lead to healthier rivers and streams? Join Harry Campbell, CBF's Science Policy and Advocacy Director in Pennsylvania, as he explores why trees are VIPs (Very Important Plants).

  • Ask an Expert: Why Do Ospreys and Eagles Come to the Bay?

    Why do ospreys return to the Bay and its rivers every spring? How do they use aerodynamics while fishing? Can you tell a juvenile bald eagle from an adult? Retired Senior Naturalist John Page Williams explores the habits of these wonderful watershed birds.

  • Ask an Expert: What's Regenerative Agriculture?

    We've heard about growing sustainable food, but what if farmers could go beyond preserving the environment and actually improve it? CBF's Director of Science and Agricultural Policy Beth McGee explores the pollution-reducing, carbon-capturing promise of regenerative agriculture—from her own backyard—and shares how you can help.

  • Ask an Expert: What's Blue Carbon?

    Why do marshes sometimes smell like rotten eggs? How do they migrate as sea levels rise? And what does it all mean for the Bay in a changing climate? CBF Maryland Senior Scientist Doug Myers digs into the muck to explain the mysteries of 'blue carbon.'

  • Ask an Expert: Why are Freshwater Mussels so Cool?

    How do freshwater mussels trick fish into helping them out? Why are they good for streams and rivers? How many species of freshwater mussels are there in the Bay watershed? CBF's Virginia Senior Scientist Joe Wood shares why he loves these amazing mollusks–and why you should too.

  • Ask an Expert: Why are Oysters Important for the Chesapeake Bay?

    Why is an oyster hard to shuck? How do young oysters choose their homes? What happens when an oyster filters water? CBF’s Maryland Fisheries Scientist Allison Colden gets up close and personal with the Bay’s famous bivalve.

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