I was asked to be a guest blogger by www.baybackpack.com (which is an excellent resource for teachers for learning resources about the Chesapeake Bay area). The article below is what you will find at http://blog.baybackpack.com/
There’s no where I’d rather be than where I am—teaching third grade at Eagle Cove School (formerly Gibson Island Country School) in Pasadena, Maryland. Not only do I have an fabulous view of the Magothy River out of my classroom window (where on clear days I can even see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge), but I know that I’m in an amazing school dedicated to the environment. As a Maryland Green School since 2006, Eagle Cove School provides so many opportunities to our preK to 5th grade students.
At Eagle Cove School, we recycle everything Anne Arundel County does, with bins in every class room right next to near-empty waste baskets. As a school community we also recycle batteries, cell phones, printer cartridges, and burnt-out compact-fluorescent light bulbs for our parent body. On campus have rain barrels painted in art class as well as bird houses and fish observation tanks built in science class. Students have hiked our nature trail, seined the river, and built rain gardens and a geodesic dome greenhouse. We raise oysters, eels, terrapins, and bay grasses to be returned to the Chesapeake Bay. We watch butterfly eggs turn to caterpillars, then chrysalises, then to monarchs in our butterfly garden. It is hard to be in this setting, building these habits and having these experiences, and not be active toward our environment.
The world truly is our oyster in 3rd grade. After a-half-dozen years of being affiliated with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Gardening Program, it has been our third grade tradition to help raise oysters and return these natural filters to the Bay. All year long, students raise oyster spat, weekly checking the water’s temperature, salinity, and clarity while also measuring, monitoring, and charting the spat’s growth. Donning life jackets, students trek down to the dock each week to tend to this routine chore—but hardly a chore it is seen to be!
To culminate this year long activity of nurturing our oyster babies, we go on a full-day field trip in the spring which begins at our school dock. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s captain and first mate onboard-educators pick us up by boat and take us out on the Magothy River. Once on the water, our guides have us navigating maps, searching for signs of diversified wildlife, and finding all the right oyster-loving conditions—all the while sea spray hits us as we go.
The pinnacle of the trip is using our water condition data that we collect as we go to drop anchor and release our ready oysters out to sea. It’s an exuberant “oysters be free” moment of thrusting the oysters overboard by the handful. In my 18 years of teaching, it is by far the best, most exhilarating field trip I have ever attended!
For this year’s third graders it will be especially meaningful in that the first Friday of our school year, the entire school body united with the Magothy River Association to take part in the “Marylanders Grow Oysters” Program through the Department of Natural Resources and the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Our school was one of the pickup points for Marylanders to get their own oyster spat. Of course, to be a pick up point, we had to first get the 320 cages off trucks, down to the dock, and placed on pallets in the river for 2 weeks until the pickup date. Amazing how quickly that can take place when you have a whole community of school children (even the youngest 3 and 4 year olds) ready to step right up and do their part!
As we soak up nature from the campus that surrounds us at Eagle Cove, we learn both as students and as teachers. The world is our oyster, and we take advantage of it every day! No doubt, the planet will benefit from the budding citizens that make up our Eagle Cove’s student body.