About Bay Backpack
Recognizing the value of hands-on environmental education, the governors of the Chesapeake Bay states and the Mayor of Washington, D.C., signed a commitment in 2000 to provide a meaningful watershed experience for every student in the Chesapeake Bay watershed before graduation from high school.
The Chesapeake Bay Program Education Workgroup, a collection of representatives from State Resource Agencies, State Departments of Education and non-profits groups from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, was charged with evaluating and recommending policies related to bay education. To help accomplish the group's goals the Education Workgroup developed the Bay Backpack, a resource designed to help educators provide meaningful watershed educational experiences or MWEEs to their students.
MWEEs enable students to participate in hands-on environmental learning about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Throughout the MWEE process, students develop a sense of environmental ethics and stewardship that are essential to the long-term sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay. This experience will serve as the foundation for a rich, lifelong relationship between students and their Bay. In addition, studies have shown that hands-on environmental education increases the academic performance of students in a variety of subjects.
Bay Backpack content wherever possible aligns with state standards of learning and/or academic standards. Check out the Environmental Education initiatives in your state!
Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences Are:
Investigative or Project-Oriented
Students investigate questions, problems, and issues related to the watershed. Activities include streambank or oyster restoration projects and planting underwater grasses; water quality monitoring; on-site studies of Bay plants and animals; or social studies that deepen a student's understanding of historical, cultural, or economic interests. Projects may also involve interaction with natural resource personnel.
Integrated within the Instructional Program.
A MWEE is not a single field trip; rather, the experience reflects an integrated approach to learning. MWEEs align with jurisdictional learning standards and occur where and when they fit into the existing curriculum. They also are effective tools for teaching many subjects - including science, math, history, reading, and art.
Involve Preparation, Action, and Reflection.
A MWEE is organized into three phases. First, students research and discuss a watershed issue or problem in preparation for the field component. Second, students take action by observing, measuring, or collecting data during their outdoor experience. Third, students return to the classroom, reflect upon and analyze their project, and reach conclusions.
Reveal the Watershed as a System.
MWEEs have an intentional connection to the watershed as a whole. Experiences focus not only on the Bay, rivers, and streams, but also on terrestrial issues such as erosion control, buffer creation, groundwater protection, and pollution prevention.
Students and Teachers Sustain MWEEs throughout the School Year.
In-class preparation and reflection activities are vital to solidify the watershed concept. Thus, an outdoor experience, or extended outdoor project, should be expanded by classroom activities throughout the school year.
For More about Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences read our factsheet.