G-A middle school named Chesapeake Bay Champion

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Greencastle-Antrim Middle School has become a Pennsylvania Chesapeake Champion school under the National Geographic Society’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education Scale-Up Initiative, an innovative project that uses 21st-century geospatial technology to engage students in investigations of watershed concepts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded National Geographic a nearly $1 million grant to support the program. The watershed education initiative was designed to provide professional development for 400 teachers across eight states in the Bay Watershed, enabling them to incorporate effective lesson plans on watershed conservation into their curricula.

The leader of the project in Pennsylvania is Dr. Janet S. Smith, a professor in the Geography-Earth Science department at Shippensburg University and coordinator for the PA Alliance for Geographic Education.

“This grant provided an opportunity for many terrific Pennsylvania teachers to come together, discuss issues related to Chesapeake Bay education, and learn about some new approaches to engage their students to think critically about our local and historical connections to the Chesapeake Bay,” Smith said.  

“Even though the Bay seems geographically removed from us, Pennsylvania actually plays a critical role in the health of the Chesapeake. The Pennsylvania teachers involved in this project have inspired over 1,000 students to care more about daily decisions which have long-term environmental consequences,” she said.

In partnership with Shippensburg University, Waynesboro’s Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies was selected as a local partner to help implement the multi-state education initiative in Pennsylvania.

“Renfrew Institute has a long track record with watershed education for all ages. The institute also is headquarters and training center for Antietam Watershed Association’s citizen stream monitoring program. This Bay watershed education project is a perfect fit for our mission, so we are very excited and honored to be involved,” said Melodie Anderson-Smith, executive director of Renfrew Institute.

Kerri Barnes, director of environmental studies and lead teacher for the G-A team, said, “The professional development really helped us to enrich our understanding and expand the curriculum we teach.  It was a rewarding experience collaborating with other teachers, learning how to help our Chesapeake Bay, and sharing this knowledge with our students. Furthermore, our students had fun during their field experience and were more than eager to help clean up our local stream in an effort to help improve the quality of our watershed and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. 

We are confident they now understand that we all live ‘downstream’."

Other teachers on the G-AMS Chesapeake Champions team were Ashley Martin and Stacie Shaner.

Overall, the initiative will provide as many as 20,000 students within the Bay Watershed with a dynamic, geographic learning experience that combines classroom learning with outdoor field experiences backed up by the latest in collaborative online mapping technologies.

“The grant from NOAA enables National Geographic and our alliances in the Chesapeake Bay area to equip hundreds of teachers to effectively educate their students about the importance of conserving their watershed,” said Danny Edelson, Vice President of Education Programs, National Geographic Society. “Through this grant, NOAA is helping National Geographic support our mission to inspire people to care about the planet, and ensuring that those we inspire are our next generation of thinkers and leaders.”