Chesapeake Bay Foundation Launches CBF OWL, a Live Online Environmental Education Program

This month the Chesapeake Bay Foundation launched CBF Online Watershed Learning (CBF OWL)—a new education program designed to bring CBF’s expert environmental educators live into online classrooms.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring, CBF’s educators have been working to transform the lessons they typically deliver to students on boats, canoes, and hiking trails for students learning remotely.

CBF OWL does this by providing schools with a team of educators who lead an online and interactive 45-minute lesson about a Chesapeake Bay environmental subject. Teachers and administrators can choose from topics such as Chesapeake Bay ecosystems, connections between land and water, forests, and oysters. The first live OWL lessons begin in classrooms throughout the Bay watershed Oct. 5.

“We’re excited to bring our educators’ passion for Chesapeake Bay science and restoration into online classrooms,” said Tom Ackerman, CBF’s Vice President of Education. “This new program gives us the ability to continue to educate students during the pandemic and we think it has greater potential as well. We hope to reach new classrooms and schools we haven’t been able to welcome into the field in the past, using technology and resources we’ve developed over the past year. This program will provide schools with a new avenue to access CBF’s experience and knowledge about the watershed.”

When a teacher signs up for an OWL class, a CBF educator will review the lesson in advance with the teacher and introduce them to CBF's Learn Outside, Learn at Home online resources. Learn Outside, Learn at Home is a new, free library of online videos and investigations created by CBF to encourage students to examine environmental issues in their neighborhood and throughout the Bay’s watershed.

CBF Educator Kellie Fiala said she is looking forward to bringing a similar interactive education experience to students learning from home as the one she typically delivers in-person at the Merrill Center in Annapolis.

“We have always emphasized the importance of hands-on learning in our field programs,” Fiala said. “While we won’t be physically leading students into a marsh, helping them paddle a canoe, or passing out binoculars on the boat, we still plan to engage students in a way that’s similar to how we interact in the field. This new program will allow us to, quite literally, meet students where they are, which allows us to use artifacts, demonstrations, data, living organisms, and relevant discussions to connect students to their local environment.”

Teachers or administrators interested in bringing a CBF educator live into their online classrooms can reserve a date and time on CBF’s website. The program costs $50 per reservation and fee waivers are available for schools that qualify, which includes Title 1 or FARM schools. CBF uses the registration fees to support the organization’s education program.

More information about the CBF OWL program can be found at the CBF OWL website or in this Q&A with several CBF educators—Back to School with CBF Owl.

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A.J. Metcalf

Former Maryland Media & Communications Coordinator, CBF

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