(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is calling on Governor Hogan and state legislative leaders to restore state education funding to take Maryland students and teachers on outdoor field experiences to teach them about Chesapeake Bay science and history.
This year, the state’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget eliminated the funding for CBF’s state education contract, without providing any explanation as to why.
For forty years, the state has maintained the contract for CBF’s outdoor education program through the State Aided Educational Institutions Program to help students study the Chesapeake. CBF received about $440,000 in funds through the program in the fiscal 2020 state budget. CBF matched that investment with an additional $813,000 from private donors to support the Maryland education program, which costs CBF about $1.2 million per year. CBF has provided these critical programs at the request of the state since 1979. The state funds are only used for CBF’s Maryland education program and do not cover expenditures related to CBF’s environmental advocacy, litigation, or other operations.
Each year, CBF’s Maryland education program serves about 10,000 students and teachers at education sites in Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington DC, Havre de Grace, and at island sites on the Chesapeake Bay. School districts from all around the state participate in the program. The state funding enables CBF to make the field programs more affordable for Maryland schools to participate in meaningful watershed education experiences, especially economically disadvantaged schools.
During the field experiences, students have the opportunity to canoe Chesapeake Bay tributaries, or embark on a traditional Chesapeake workboat to learn about fish, crabs, oysters, and other species that inhabit the Bay. They measure and report data on indicators of water quality and develop firsthand knowledge of the latest estuary science. CBF also provides professional learning courses for teachers and school administrators during the summer for immersive multi-day experiences to help them craft curricula based on the Bay’s ecology.
The state funding CBF receives has been critically important for providing these field-based environmental education experiences for students and teachers.
Multiple studies of outdoor educational programs prove they have a significant benefit for children. A review of several studies published last year in Frontiers in Psychology concluded that students learn “perseverance, self-efficacy, resilience, social skills, leadership, and communication skills” through outdoor education experiences. In Maryland, students are required to investigate and analyze environmental issues as part of the state’s Environmental Literacy graduation requirement. CBF helps students meet these requirements through its outdoor education experiences, which tie classroom lessons to real world situations.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2017 Project Green Classrooms Executive Order called on the state to promote and support outdoor education in Maryland. A restoration of funding for CBF’s environmental educational program would further that goal.
CBF first developed its outdoor education program in the 1970s and for 44 years has safely provided fun and informative environmental education experiences to more than 500,000 Maryland students. Several of them, such as the teachers and students who had the opportunity to stay at Fox Island before CBF’s education center closed last year, talked about the memories they said they’ll cherish throughout their lifetime.
In response to the proposed elimination of CBF’s education funding, CBF’s Vice President of Education Tom Ackerman issued the following statement:
“The research is clear—outdoor education programs help students learn and connect with the natural world. For more than 40 years, the state has valued and supported CBF’s partnership to take thousands of students from all around Maryland out on the water to learn about Chesapeake Bay science and history. The Governor has stated that environment and education are high on his priorities for the state. We ask the Governor and legislative leadership to work together to restore this important funding that helps students and teachers learn first-hand about Maryland’s most important natural resource.”