In recent years, Kent School administrators and teachers have made intentional efforts to expand the Chesapeake Bay Studies curriculum across all grade levels. Students from Preschool through Grade Eight have several meaningful watershed field experiences. Strong relationships and community partnerships cultivated by Deringer make these intentional advances possible.
There is no doubt the fourth grade cross-curricular study of Maryland history and Chesapeake Bay Studies accounts for the immersion learning opportunities that put Kent School’s Chesapeake Bay Studies curriculum “on the map.” Pam Deringer and fourth grade students work with Sultana Education Foundation, The National Aquarium in Baltimore, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Center for Environment and Society at Washington College. Experiences with these outside entities enhance their learning. The culmination of the year-long study is the three-day and two-night trip to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation property where they put their knowledge of water testing, Bay biology and the interaction of land, water and animal life in action.
Nancy Mugele, Head of School at Kent School said, “The programs and opportunities in fourth grade are unique and incredibly impressive. I knew there was an opportunity to offer additional Chesapeake Bay Studies opportunities across all grade levels and fortunately we have teachers who wholeheartedly agree.” Mugele continued, “We were immediately able to offer additional outdoor learning opportunities for students in Little and Lower School. In Middle School, we strategically adjusted our science curriculum to include Chesapeake Bay Studies reference points in earth, life and physical science.
Examples of the evolution of Chesapeake Bay Studies at Kent School are detailed below.
· Two Trips to Sultana Education Foundation to enhance learning about the animals around us and their special traits and abilities.
· Participation in Nature Buddies, a Chesapeake Bay Studies-based Explorations class that pairs Little School students with Middle School students for age-appropriate nature-based discovery activities.
· Coming in the 2018-2019 academic year, Little School students will have a weekly science class in the Lower School multi-purpose room with the Lower School Science teacher.
· (K-2) Echo Hill Outdoor School - This field experience encourages exploration using senses to observe details in nature.
· (3rd Grade) Eastern Neck Island – This trip reinforces a year of exploring the Earth through the concept of the “Geosphere.”
· (4th Grade) Poplar Island – Through historical study of Poplar Island students begin to understand the natural cycle of erosion and man’s impact through land use on the island.
· (4th Grade) A partnership with the National Aquarium has given the students an opportunity to be part of a research project that is studying the population dynamics of the diamondback terrapins that are re-populating the Poplar Island. We raise and release the two terrapins hatchlings that we over-winter through the Terrapin Connection program.
· (4th Grade) Smith Island - This 3-day 2-night immersion experience takes place at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Island Study Center on Smith Island. A culmination of our year-long study of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this trip is ideally suited to extend our classroom study.
· Middle School All School Read this academic year is Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings - a terrific place-based story using the Chesapeake Bay as its setting. Through the Kudner Leyon Visitng Writer Program students were able to meet the author and discuss the book.
· Each Friday, students have a Chesapeake Bay Studies class in which they examine water quality, natural filtration systems, keystone species, bay history, environmental issues, and ecology.
· 5th grade students study freshwater systems, different watersheds, and grow/study bluegills.
· 6th grade students study swamp and marsh ecosystems, tributaries, and native flora and fauna.
· 7th grade students focus on biology during science and will complete a tour of the kingdoms of living organisms. In addition, they are in charge of growing and monitoring oysters in the local tributaries.
· 8th grade students are certified by the Shore Rivers Association to be Chester Testers. Each month, they help to collect water samples, record data, and test turbidity, pH, ammonia, phosphorous, and nitrogen. In addition, they examine global environmental problems and discuss/debate solutions that relate to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.