Designated in 1991, CBNERR is one of 28 NERR sites established to promote informed management of the Nation’s estuaries and coastal habitats. The mission of the Reserve is to preserve a network of sites that represent the diversity of coastal ecosystems found within the York River estuary and manage these sites to support local communities through informed management of coastal resources through estuarine research, education, stewardship and advisory service. A critical aspect of this mandate is to enhance public awareness and understanding of estuarine areas and provide suitable opportunities for public education and interpretation. The NERR system is one of only three programs within NOAA in which education is federally mandated.
CBNERR’s General Education program consists of two full time educators and seasonal summer help who conduct a variety of education programs. In order to deliver safe outdoor experiences, educators are trained in First Aid, CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and American Canoe Association canoe basics. Reserve educators have created a recognized education program and are knowledgeable in delivering and implementing meaningful Chesapeake Bay field experiences. The programs offered through CBNERR’s education program include K-12 field-based marine science programs, week-long summer science camps, teacher professional development programs, general public education programs, and special events. Reserve educators have also received certification in climate communication from the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpreters (NNOCCI). The CBNERR facility includes a wet lab with space for up to 32 students including microscopes, dissection supplies, aquaria, laptops, cameras, projection equipment, and other educational materials and supplies. CBNERR’s facility also includes access to scientific water quality equipment, a seining beach located directly behind the wet lab, bathrooms for students to use during field experiences, and access to other VIMS campus facilities and resources.
Student Programs – The Chesapeake 2014 Agreement states that all students must have one meaningful Chesapeake Bay watershed experience (MWEE) in elementary, middle, and high school. The Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia (CBNERR or Reserve), administered by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), is working to achieve this standard through a variety of programs. Two examples of previous and current projects are:
- Chesapeake Studies for Virginia Middle Schools (2005-2013) – The overall objective of Chesapeake Studies was to develop the infrastructure necessary for local counties to provide meaningful Chesapeake Bay field experiences that were integrated into the classroom for all of their students. This program provided MWEEs and classroom instruction for all 7th grade students in Gloucester, Mathews, and York County, Virginia. Chesapeake Studiesfor Virginia Middle Schools also provided interrelated professional development opportunities for all 7th grade life science teachers in the three-county regional area. This program reached over 5,000 students and 13 teachers, with additional teachers reached through associated teacher professional development.
- Climate Education for a Changing Bay (2013-2015) – CBNERR supports the strategic goals of VIMS including VIMS commitment to climate change service to the Commonwealth, by implementing a program entitled Climate Education for a Changing Bay (CECB). The overall objective of CECB is to improve climate literacy within local high schools by advancing the use of locally relevant environmental data and information in classroom curriculum, field experiences and professional teacher training through systemic MWEE implementation. This program provides meaningful watershed educational experiences (MWEEs) that are integrated and systemic into the classroom curriculum for 9th grade students in Gloucester and Mathews County, Virginia; counties that are sensitive to coastal climate change impacts. CECB also provides interrelated professional development opportunities for teachers in the Hampton Roads region as well as participating 9th grade Earth Science teachers. This program will reach a total of 800 students and 10 local teachers, with an additional 13 teachers particiapting in the teacher professional development.
- Short – Students and teachers understand science related to the Bay and how scientists study the Bay.
- Mid – Students become more interested in humans’ impacts to the Bay. Teachers include activities and research into their classroom curriculum.
- Long – Students and teachers become involved and aware citizenry, leading to increase in stewardship and reduced human impact on the Bay. More students study science in college/university.
- Short – The public’s knowledge and understanding of their local environment and the issues it faces will increase. Public’s awareness of CBNERR will increase.
- Mid – Public is more literate in their local environment. The public shares CBNERR events and programs with others.
- Long – Public adopts attitudes and behaviors that help restore and conserve the Bay
Summer Camps – CBNERR hosts five week-long, hands-on, investigative summer camp programs for over 100 students each summer. These summer camp programs are offered to students in rising 1st-8th grade, with each week of the camp focusing on a different theme related to marine science. Themes for the camps include Plants and Animals, Stewardship, Careers in Marine Science, and Marine Science Field Investigations. Campers spend time using microscopes, playing games, doing crafts, exploring the VIMS Teaching Marsh, canoeing, completing dissections, researching, calculating lunch waste, seining, and exploring. Students complete research projects to present to parents and staff on the final day of each camp.
- Short – Students’ and parents’ knowledge and understanding of their local environment and the issues it faces will increase. Public’s awareness of CBNERR will increase.
- Mid – Students’ and parents’ are more literate in their local environment.
- Long – Students’ and parents’ adopt attitudes and behaviors that help restore and conserve the Bay.
Teacher Programs – The NERR system hosts a program entitled “Teachers on the Estuary” (TOTE) for professional development of teachers. This program is a priority and requirement for all NERRS sites starting in FY15. Teacher professional development opportunities provide key development and confidence-building that is a necessity for education programs to continue after funding is complete. TOTE workshops are offered based on teacher needs and interests, specifically using infromation in the
CBNERR K-12 Environmental Education Needs Assessment for the Hampton Roads Region (McGuire, 2012). TOTE workshops have been offered by CBNERR alone, as well as with partners (VA DEQ, NOAA, Virginia Aquarium, and VIMS Marine Advisory Service) on a number of topics such as:
- Estuarine Aquarium Keeping
- Chesapeake Studies
- Climate Education for a Changing Bay
- MWEE Capacity Building
- Climate Communication
- Short - Teachers understand science related to the Bay and resources available to them.
- Mid – Teachers include activities and research into their classroom curriculum.
- Long –Teachers become involved and aware citizenry, leading to increase in stewardship and reduced human impact on the Bay.