New School Initiative Promotes Outdoors

SNOW HILL — Educators in Worcester County are approaching a new state requirement in a unique way.

“Every Child Every Year” (ECEY) is a Maryland initiative designed to focus on promoting environmental awareness through outdoor experiences amongst public school students. The Board of Education learned this week how grades 1-9 took part in various environmental promotion classes, academies and field trips last year and learned what the plan will be for this year. The focus of all of these programs, explained Coordinator of Science Instruction Marlyn Barrett, is to not just fulfill the state requirement but to actively engage students’ interest in nature.

She noted a number of the specific programs that each grade completes, including some that are relatively unique. For example, third graders met their ECEY requirement by studying wolves, which Barrett explained were once found in Maryland but are now gone.

Students read about wolves, observed them at a zoo and finally experienced a box full of visual learning aids representing wolves directly in the classroom.

“And then we brought in the wolf trunk, which was the hit for most of the students,” said Barrett.

The trunk held a variety of objects including a wolf pelt, other pelts from animals that a wolf would have hunted, and various other items meant to represent how a wolf lived. Students took to the lesson immediately, revealed Barrett.

“Every kid wanted to touch everything,” she said. “They wanted to ask questions.”

With help from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Barrett added that the materials for the trunk were easy to find.

Eighth grade students this year will be going with a more aquatic focus. They will take a boat trip around Ocean City, visit the town’s Lifesaving Museum, and observe a barrier island.

Younger students in grades 1-5 took part in a GREENS Academy at Salisbury University (SU). Barrett revealed that 35 teachers from Worcester took part in the academy. For grades 4-8, teachers were invited to a special environmental science and environmental literacy workshop, also at SU. Thirteen participated in that activity.

Sixth grade students spent time at Assateague State Park. Last year they conducted a two-day workshop, which will be expanded to a three-day event this year.

In every grade level, Barrett told the board that students and educators are going out and about on the Eastern Shore. BoE member Douglas Dryden noted that students in Worcester County are very lucky to have so many unique and rich natural resources to visit and experience locally.

“We live in a beautiful county with a lot of beautiful natural resources,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John Gaddis added that students have been responding positively to all of the programs.

“This is really reaching out to them and has been a phenomenal experience,” he told the board, adding that Worcester’s ECEY efforts are a “prime example” of how to make a state educational mandate positive.

For future years, Barrett said that grant funding and teacher development are the two main focuses for Worcester’s ECEY programs.

“We need to make sure that we have professional development for the teachers that are going to be teaching these students,” she said, “and we need to make sure that we have included elementary, middle and high school students in the programs.”

The four main grants the county hopes to pursue are from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Be Wet NOAA Grant, Governor’s Initiative Grant, and the Math and Science Partnership State Grant.