(Annapolis, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is asking Maryland legislators to restore funding for outdoor education programs that Gov. Larry Hogan zeroed out for the second straight year.
For forty years, the state contracted with CBF to ensure more Maryland public school students and teachers can attend outdoor field experiences to learn about Chesapeake Bay science and history. The contract previously helped schools meet Maryland’s requirements for environmental literacy.
CBF most recently received $440,000 from Maryland through the 2020 State Aided Education Institutions Program to supplement CBF's outdoor education programs in Maryland. However, Gov. Hogan cut the funding in his Fiscal 2021 budget last year and kept it at zero again this year. CBF was the only active state-aided institution to have its funding eliminated.
The state funding previously enabled CBF to make the field programs more affordable for Maryland schools to participate in, especially economically disadvantaged schools. Each year, CBF’s Maryland education program serves about 10,000 students in Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Havre de Grace, and at island sites on the Chesapeake Bay. As part of the program, students and teachers get to explore different Bay sites on boats, canoes, and hiking trails to learn firsthand about the history and environment of the largest estuary in the United States. The trips have long been a hallmark of students’ Maryland public school experience.
The General Assembly can give these opportunities back to more Maryland students by restoring the funding. The Senate and House of Delegates are scheduled to discuss state funding for educational organizations for the first time today, Monday, Feb. 22.
Studies have shown that environmental education improves academic performance, increases civic engagement, and instills a belief that individuals can make a difference.
During the pandemic, CBF transformed its in-person education program by creating a virtual program, known as Online Watershed Learning, or OWL for short, that brings CBF educators live into online classrooms to teach lessons on subjects including freshwater ecosystems, forests, healthy habitats, and watersheds. CBF will resume its in-field programs after it’s safe to do so post-pandemic as well as continue its digital learning efforts to reach more students.
CBF’s Vice President of Education Tom Ackerman issued the following statement:
“CBF’s in-person field programs were developed over four decades and offer unique opportunities to Maryland students. The lessons meet learning objectives as part of the state’s curriculum and graduation requirements.
"During these lessons students get to see crabs in their habitats, hold rockfish, paddle canoes, and use state of the art scientific equipment. At our island learning centers, students and teachers can meet working watermen and learn about Maryland history and ecology first-hand. These experiences teach students how the Chesapeake Bay has shaped our state, our communities, and our natural heritage as well as how they can preserve the Bay for future generations. We urge the General Assembly to restore this funding so we can continue to offer our unique education programs to all students in the state.”
“These outdoor education programs couldn’t be more important now. Hundreds of thousands of Maryland students have been learning inside their homes, in front of computers for nearly a year. Digital fatigue is a real problem. By restoring this funding, we’ll be able to provide more Maryland students with opportunities to travel outdoors and see the Bay firsthand as well as understand the issues surrounding our state’s most valuable natural resource.”