New Grant Funded Environmental Literacy Program Launches in Virginia Beach

Press Release
October 3, 2011

New Grant-Funded Environmental Literacy Program
Launches in Virginia Beach

From the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, CSX, NOAA Chesapeake Bay, and Virginia Beach Public Schools

(VIRGINIA BEACH, VA)���A pioneering environmental education initiative being launched in Virginia Beach could become a model for other school systems in Virginia and around the country.

Called the Virginia Beach Systemic Environmental Literacy Program, the initiative 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 11,500 sixth-grade students, as well as professional development for more than 50 middle and high school biology and oceanography teachers in the Virginia Beach public school district.

It is funded by a $120,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Office and a $55,000 commitment from CSX Transportation to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

'We're excited to be able to support a program that provides meaningful experiences in local waterways for every sixth grader in the Virginia Beach school system,' said Peyton Robertson, Director of NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Office. 'These students will be the next generation of Bay leaders in Hampton Roads, and the skills they learn through these experiences will benefit them and the Bay, regardless of what careers they ultimately pursue.'

A strong coalition of respected outdoor education organizations will partner in the ground-breaking program, including: CBF, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Lynnhaven River NOW, First Landing State Park, the Elizabeth River Project, and Oyster Reefkeepers of Virginia. The partners will implement meaningful field experiences for students, assist with teacher professional development, provide sites for student research, and support and enhance the development of the new field-based curriculum.

'CSX is proud to make this contribution to the new environmental literacy program in Virginia Beach,' said Quintin Kendall, Regional Vice President for CSX.  'This is both a commitment to healthier waterways and an investment in education programs with a proven track record of success. This is the type of educational program that holds real promise because it will foster an appreciation and understanding of the environment in the young people who will become tomorrow's leaders.'

The program is systemic because it will continue through middle and high school. Lead teachers and others trained at each secondary school will develop and design research and service projects that students will undertake each year. Students and teachers will also utilize NOAA's scientific data and education resources, including the Chesapeake Exploration curriculum and FieldScope program co-developed by CBF, NOAA, and National Geographic. CBF and Virginia Beach schools will also work together with partners to integrate environmental literacy components into the curriculum so that the outdoor experiences will continue for students and teachers even after the grant period ends.

Joe Burnsworth, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Virginia Beach schools, said, 'This unique partnership provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for our teachers and administrators to become immersed in this facet of our science curriculum. It is vitally important that we make the education relevant to the lives of our students. Participation in this program will give our staff the skills necessary to provide our students the opportunity to play an active role in restoring and protecting the region's most important natural resource.' 

Burnsworth added that sustainability and global awareness are top priorities outlined in Virginia Beach schools' strategic plan for providing essential 21st century skills. 

In addition to its award-winning on-the-water educational field experiences for students, CBF will provide leadership training in environmental education for 24 principals and administrators in Virginia Beach.

'This partnership represents a long-term and visionary investment in Virginia Beach that will help the next generation turn 21st century challenges into opportunities for jobs and healthy waterways and communities, ' said Don Baugh, CBF's Vice President of Education. 'I'm certain that this initiative will stand as a national model in providing environmental education for ALL students. It will help other school systems looking to make a similar change as part of the national No Child Left Inside movement, led by CBF.'

For more information about the new education initiative in Virginia Beach, visit

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