A great program for the bay

Published 9:41 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2016

While many of their colleagues were working on lesson plans, preparing art for their classrooms or doing any number of other things teachers do in the last weeks of summer to prepare for the new school year, one group of teachers from Suffolk Public Schools spent a day on the river this week.

Aside from a passing rainstorm, it’s likely the teachers had a good time on the water, but they weren’t there for recreation. This trip was sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and it was the capstone to a week of intensive agricultural and environmental education.

“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.”

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By the end of the program, the teachers would have a significant new understanding about the pressures affecting water quality in Suffolk’s waterways and a recognition of how that water quality affects the bay. They will also have the knowledge necessary to go back to their schools and help start vegetable gardens there, an activity that will extend the very successful Healthy Gardens initiative started in Suffolk a few years ago.

Building on conversations and interactions with local farmers, the teachers will be able to teach their students the importance of local agriculture to the community’s economy and to the health and fitness of people who live in Suffolk.

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.

The bay foundation’s programs for teachers and students in Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads are a great example of how to use hands-on education to help change attitudes about pollution. We’re pleased these programs have been so successful.