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Afloat with the CBF

This week, a group of Suffolk Public Schools teachers has been learning about agriculture and the health of local waterways.

Through the course of the week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has taught participants about different agricultural practices and how they affect the James and Nansemond rivers. The teachers also have talked and worked with local farmers and studied their practices.

“Teachers learn so much,” said Alexandra Khalaf, one of the program’s teacher mentors. “It’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm and desire to learn.”

Shelley Barlow, owner of Cotton Plains Farm in Chuckatuck, shows one of her cotton plants to teachers participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s agriculture program.

Shelley Barlow, owner of Cotton Plains Farm in Chuckatuck, shows one of her cotton plants to teachers participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s agriculture program.

The main objective of the program is for teachers to take back what they learned and to create their own vegetable gardens at their respective schools.

“We equip teachers with the tools to take back to the classroom and inspire their students,” said Kate Wilson, the foundation’s state director of principal and major giving.

On Tuesday, the group met at Cotton Plains Farm, owned by Shelley Barlow, and received a tour of the grounds. Barlow spoke about her crops and the agriculture industry.

From there, the group gathered at the Ruritan Club on Eclipse Drive and spent most of the afternoon traveling by boat along the Nansemond River.

The group made periodic stops to catch and study fish and to test the water quality. During the activities, Yancey Powell, the foundation’s education manager, challenged the group with questions about the river based on the material covered in class on Monday.

Jenny Owens, who was in the program last year and also teaches at Booker T. Washington Elementary, has taken what she has learned from the program in stride. She plans to be a teacher mentor for the foundation’s program in the next few years.

Within the last year, with the help of a $6,000 grant, Owens helped renovate the existing school garden. Members of the community and students helped plant and donate fruits and vegetables. It is one of the larger school gardens in the area.

“She has done an amazing job,” Powell said.

Owens attributes her knowledge of garden maintenance to the foundation’s program. This has also left a lasting impact in her students.

“The students absolutely love the garden,” Owens said. “They can’t wait to get out there and work on it.”

The foundation also hosts boat rides along the Nansemond River for students during the school year. The demand for the program has grown significantly within the last three years. To date, the foundation has accommodated more than 3,000 students and teachers in the Hampton Roads area.

“Kids will remember this more than reading from a textbook,” said Tara Moore, principal at Northern Shores Elementary.