Through a unique public/private partnership, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system has a new 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. The program includes public, private, and non-profit partners. It provides hands-on Chesapeake Bay field experiences and classroom activities for all 11,500 sixth-grade students, as well as professional development for more than 50 middle and high school biology and oceanography teachers.
During the 2012 summer season, CBF worked with three different groups of 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!
Any class is encouraged to join CBF on the water for field experiences with their students. The systemic environmental literacy program is designed to integrate environmental concepts with a multi-disciplinary approach so that all students find out more about taking action to save the Bay.
The partnership is funded by a $120,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office, a $55,000 commitment from CSX Transportation, and a $12,700 grant from the Junior Virginia Beach Garden Club. 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.