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Commentary Education

Opinion: Teachers Know the Value of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Environmental Education

Alicia Pimental/Chesapeake Bay Program, reprinted with permission.

As Maryland teachers, it’s hard for us to understand why Gov. Larry Hogan has chosen to eliminate state funding for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland outdoor education program for the second straight year.

For years, we’ve had the opportunity to bring our students to the Bay’s tidal marshes, tributary rivers and open waters to learn about the state’s most valuable natural resource thanks to CBF’s program.

When our students enter these natural areas, the environment where they live becomes part of their learning experience and in the process, they learn how to help the Bay’s future. CBF uses its resources — boats, canoes and trained environmental educators — to provide our kids with experiences that even a well-funded school couldn’t provide on its own.

These programs have an incredible impact on our students. Imagine a child from Baltimore pulling up oysters from the Bay’s bottom, or a Frederick County farm kid learning about how the stream on his property affects the Bay, or a child from Crisfield understanding how the fish she just caught is part of a much larger ecosystem. These are the lessons CBF is providing to our students.

For many of our students, these experiences are the first time they’ve been on the Bay or had the chance to paddle a canoe on a slow-moving stream. During the lessons, they grasp how the scientific concepts being taught in the classroom can be applied to the environment around them. We can’t replicate the Bay or a river in a classroom or provide that kind of experience by watching a video.

As teachers, we understand that sometimes budgets are tight and cuts must be made. But could there be a more inopportune time to reduce CBF’s ability to provide these experiences than when we’re beginning to emerge from a global pandemic that has kept children indoors and learning behind screens for more than a year?

For our students, the pandemic has only grown their desire to be outside and protect the environment. CBF’s programs provide a perfect outlet to satisfy their desire in a fun, safe and educational way.

The programs with CBF educators are not just field trips, but experiences that we center week- or month-long lessons around with our students. In advance of the trips, many of us teach about watersheds, Bay animals, estuary science and how the things we do on land can impact water quality. Bringing students on the Bay with CBF brings these lessons home — and helps us keep students engaged during the run-up to the field experience.

Our experiences with CBF have been overwhelmingly positive. CBF educators teach our students about the science of sea level rise, temperature and salinity changes, biodiversity and threatened habitats. They bring our students to meet watermen on Smith Island or other remote locations and in the process help kids understand how life and economics depend on the environment.

Failing to support restoring CBF’s state funding for the Maryland outdoor education program will take away opportunities from students that we can’t replace. It will take away memories that could last our students’ lifetimes.

We ask that Maryland legislators restore this funding.

LAURA GREENLEE, Severna Park High School, Anne Arundel County

PAUL BAYNE, The Key School, Anne Arundel County

CAROLE BLAKE, Perry Hall High School, Baltimore County

JOCELYN TUTTLE, Perry Hall High School, Baltimore County

KATE DINATALE, North Bend Elementary School, Harford County

LINN GRIFFITHS, C. Milton Wright High School, Harford County

MIKAELA LIDGARD, Burleigh Manor Middle School, Howard County

LAURA DINERMAN, Sherwood High School, Montgomery County

LIZ DONELSON, Sandy Springs Friends School, Montgomery County

SHRI YESNICK, John Poole Middle School, Montgomery County

BETH NOVICK, Kenmoor Middle School, Prince George’s County

WENDY ROGUET, Kenmoor Middle School, Prince George’s County

EMILY BECK, Gunston School, Queen Anne’s County

JOHN LEWIS, Gunston School, Queen Anne’s County