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Students examine their oyster catch.

Highland View Academy recently received a $4,789 grant from Chesapeake Bay Trust for the project, “Enriching STEM Classes with Chesapeake Bay Watershed Experiences and Stewardship Practices.” According to Ophelia Barizo, project director and grant writer, the grant will partially fund four outdoor field trips with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and landscaping with native trees and perennials (BayScaping). It will also fund water testing kits for field studies.

Students in two classes under Colleen Lay, have already been on field trips. The first was an Honors Biology trip on the scientific work boat, Snow Goose, on the Baltimore Harbor. Students studied the effects of the industries and commerce on the water quality of the Harbor. They studied various kinds of maps; learned how to interpret a satellite map showing areas of sedimentation after a rain storm; how to use a navigational map which showed water depths or different areas on the Chesapeake Bay; and learned the history and geography of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. They also dredged for oysters, studied oyster anatomy, and learned how important oysters are to the ecology and health of the Bay. They conducted various water quality tests, such as nitrate, phosphate, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, and pH to determine the health of the Bay. Students pulled a plankton net and looked at various types of plankton under the microscope, and also pulled a trawl net and caught various kinds of fish, blue crabs, and other creatures. They used field guides to identify the fish that they caught and learned about their adaptations to their environment.

Students sein for fish and other macro-invertebrates on Black Walnut Creek.

The second trip was an Integrated STEM class trip to the Phillip Merrill Environmental Center, CBF’s headquarters, which is on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The CBF building was one of the first “green” buildings in the United States, and has won several awards for energy conservation and for being environmentally friendly. Students went on a scavenger hunt and interviewed employees on the energy saving features of the building. Of particular interest was the clivus, an environmentally friendly toilet that does not use water to flush. A handful of sawdust is dropped into the toilet, and waste is composted for future use as fertilizer. The bathrooms utilized rain water for washing hands. Other features of the building include green roofs, solar panels, and other passive solar features. After touring the building, students went canoeing on Black Walnut Creek. They noted ways that the creek water is impacted by homes on the banks and by civilization as a whole. After the canoe trip, students seined for macro-invertebrates, fish, and other aquatic organisms and used field guides to identify the organisms.

Two more field trips are planned for the spring, a sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay, and a visit to Arthur Sherwood Environmental Center.

“There is nothing more valuable than hands-on learning, especially when learning about our environment,” says Barizo. “HVA thanks Chesapeake Bay Trust for funding this worthy project and for giving our students opportunities to learn about and appreciate our environment, and to impress on them the importance of environmental stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.”

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