Collaborative program by UMCES and ShoreRivers expands environmental education on the Eastern Shore

August 31, 2020

ShoreRivers partnered with University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) to create a five-day professional development summer workshop for 14 teachers, ranging from third grade through high school, from across the Eastern Shore, the start of a yearlong experience aimed at growing environmental education.

Teachers and trainers met virtually during July and August. The Meaningful Watershed Environmental Experience (MWEE) Academy, developed by Horn Point Laboratory faculty, graduate students, and Outdoor Education Specialist, was supported by a grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust and funding from the Fullwood Foundation. This initial week-long teacher engagement experience was designed to lay the foundation for a year-long MWEE Academy supporting teachers integrating Chesapeake Bay-focused issue investigations within existing curriculum following the MWEE framework: outdoor learning where students learn to ask questions, discover the answers, and create solutions to local environmental issues.

Originally scheduled to be a hands-on-experiential, week-long event, Point Laboratory’s Environmental Education Specialist Bryan Gomes and faculty member Judy O’Neil collaborated with ShoreRiver’s Director of Education Suzanne Sullivan and ShoreRivers staff member Rebecca Murphy to produce a virtual workshop.  To foster familiarity and cohesiveness between the 14 participating teachers and the programs leaders, a MWEE Academy Yearbook was created in which each participant shared thei best piece of advice, favorite place to travel, and what “environmentalism” means to them. 

Teachers participated in three days of introduction to the MWEE process to develop skills associated with Environmental Literacy and to learn how to use the Environmental Literacy Model (ELM) to develop inquiry-based investigative learning modules. 

Teachers and trainers met virtually for a five-day professional development summer workshop , the start of a yearlong experience aimed at growing environmental education.

The final two days involved a more in depth-dive into current research on the Chesapeake Bay being carried out by UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory researchers, starting with an overview of research and environmental science education and a virtual introduction to campus. Science presentations were shared by faculty and graduate students included: Microplastic pollution in the environment; sustainability in the Bay: the role of oyster aquaculture; using oysters for engineering breakwaters for erosion control, harmful algal blooms and water quality, investigating effects of low-oxygen zones on plankton, and the use of drone technology for assessing water quality. Presentations included pre-recorded demonstrations by researchers in the field, following CoVID-19 safety protocols, combined with live virtual presentations. 

The next step in this year-long MWEE Academy experience involves teachers working in collaboration with ShoreRivers and UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory to construct their own environmental education modules designed specifically for their class grade level and school community environmental issues. The development of Meaningful Watershed Environmental Experiences for the Chesapeake Bay region will help schools satisfy the state of Maryland mandate for environmental literacy and compliance with environmental literacy (e-lit) standards. The Chesapeake Bay Trust grant also includes funding for the teachers to visit Horn Point Laboratory’s Environmental Education Center for hand-on experience and funds for the teachers to initiate an environmental community action activity at their school, to help share their newly gained knowledge on pressing environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay that would be of concern for their local region.