Stu­dents com­plete oys­ter ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram at CBEC

Record Observer - - Arts & Entertainment - By JACK SHAUM jshaum@kibay­times.com

GRA­SONVILLE — Fourth-graders at Gra­sonville El­e­men­tary School have be­gun their sum­mer va­ca­tion with the knowl­edge that they now have a good un­der­stand­ing of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay oys­ters and the need to re­store the fisher y.

Those stu­dents have com­pleted a year-long oys­ter restora­tion and ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram that took them to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter in Gra­sonville, the Horn Point Oys­ter Hatch­ery near Cam­bridge and an oys­ter reef on the Chop­tank River. CBEC’s Court­ney Leigh do­nated her time to visit the school on a monthly ba­sis and present an hour-long les­son on var­i­ous top­ics re­lated to the restora­tion of the oys­ter fish­ery.

“It’s been amaz­ing,” Leigh said. “It’s had a huge im­pact and it’s been lots of fun for the stu­dents to study liv­ing things in their own back­yard.” “They get it,” she said. Dur­ing her vis­its to the school, she met with 80 stu­dents and they not only stud­ied oys­ters, they grew oys­ter spat and planted them in a trib­u­tary of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

“We mea­sured baby spat in the be­gin­ning of the year and con­tin­ued to mon­i­tor their growth through­out the year,” said teacher Kathy Bar­letta. “She taught the stu­dents about wa­ter qual­ity and this was mea­sured through­out the year. The stu­dents learned about the his­tory of the oys­ter fish­ery and the de­cline of the oys­ter pop­u­la­tion.”

Bar­letta called the pro­gram “awe­some.”

The young­sters dis­sected oys­ters to learn about their life functions, how they fil­ter wa­ter, and how they are har­vested. They also learned about the food chain of the oys­ter and dis­sected fish as part of that ac­tiv­ity.

“The cul­mi­nat­ing ac­tiv­ity was a field trip to CBEC to re­lease our baby spat on an oys­ter reef where they will con­tinue to grow and fil­ter the wa­ter,” Bar­letta said. In June, not long be­fore the school year ended, the stu­dents vis­ited the Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence’s Horn Point oys­ter hatch­ery, which pro­duces a va­ri­ety of oys­ter lar­vae for use in oys­ter re­search, oys­ter restora­tion, and ed­u­ca­tional projects.

To wrap it all up, Leigh said the stu­dents trav­eled to the Bill Bur­ton Fish­ing Pier on the Chop­tank River where there is an ex­ist­ing oys­ter reef, and it was there that they planted their re­main­ing oys­ter spat.

As­sis­tance in mak­ing the pro­gram — which is now in its third year — a re­al­ity, came from the Mid­shore River­keep­ers Conser vancy, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Trust, Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, CBEC, and GRA­CIE, the Gra­sonville El­e­men­tary School En­vi­ron­men­tal Club, Bar­letta said.

PHOTO BY COURT­NEY LEIGH

Fourth graders from Gra­sonville El­e­men­tary School atop a pile of oys­ter shells dur­ing their visit to the Horn Point oys­ter hatch­ery near Cam­bridge. The stu­dents were in­volved in a year-long oys­ter restora­tion and ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

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