With shouts of “heave-ho,” eleven Montgomery County Public Schools teachers helped hoist the sails of the Chesapeake Bay skipjack Stanley Norman and set out to study the waters of the northern Bay, between Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The teachers, from seven different high schools and one elementary school, were on the last day of their weeklong Chesapeake Classrooms study, “Science and Policy: Teaching about the Chesapeake Bay,” sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the Bay.
“It’s been pretty tiring, long days, [but] I loved it,” said Paul Foelber, a physical education teacher from Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg. “I wanted to learn about the health of the Bay.”
The teachers spent the first three days and nights of the week at Port Isobel Environmental Education Center, a 250-acre island east of Tangier Island, Va., where they studied underwater grass beds, marshes and how land use in Montgomery County can affect the Bay’s ecosystems.
Reflecting on those days as the Stanley Norman sailed away from its Annapolis mooring, Kelly Gallo from Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville said she enjoyed being in an environmentally sensitive place, learning to be careful with the use of resources.
Dan Savino from Poolesville High School said he liked learning more about the connection between land use and bay use.
“The stars, it was just amazing. I could see the Milky Way,” said Jill Coutts from Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring.
Thursday was spent at the Foundation’s Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, where the teachers discussed eating habits, and other choices that affect the Bay.
Friday’s study compared data collected from the waters near Port Isobel in the southern Bay with that collected near the Bay Bridge.
It also included a look at marine life netted off the boat and the results of dredging the bottom for oysters.
Found among the catch was an old plastic cup that had become the home of a baby crab.
“The three biggest problems in the Bay are nutrients from nitrogen and other fertilizers, sediment and toxins such as motor oil and things that immediately kill oxygen,” Foelber said.
Most surprising to him was that trash, while not something we want to see in the water, was not really having the negative impact of the other things, he said.
Teachers in the program are required to submit plans for three lessons specifically related to what they learned that they will use in their classrooms in the coming year. They receive three graduate credits or four in-service credits from the Maryland State Department of Education.
“If we can get Bay issues into the classroom that will have a much more lasting effect than bringing small groups on field trips,” said Dave Gelenter, captain of the Stanley Norman and Chesapeake Bay Foundation educator.