In the News

B-WET Program Connects Students to the Chesapeake Bay

Originally published in the College of Science magazine Periodic Elements, Fall 2010.

Over the next three years or so, more than 30,000 Northern Virginia sixth-and seventh-grade students will pull on hip waders and sift through the muck along the banks of the Potomac River and nearby streams and ponds to discover what lives in and around the water. Guided by field interpreters — some volunteers, others who are College of Science environmental science interns or graduate students—the youngsters will check how much sediment is in the water, observe the kinds of animals that live in it, and monitor its pH, oxygen, and nitrate levels.

According to Dann Sklarew, associate director of the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) and an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, these students are receiving a “meaningful watershed educational experience” through PEREC’s collaboration with Prince William County and Fairfax County public schools and the Chesapeake Bay B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) program—a partnership that fosters stewardship of the bay through experiential education for middle school students and their teachers.

The Chesapeake Bay B-WET program, now eight years old, is the original of six regional B-WET programs supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Program applicants are eligible to receive as much as $200,000 a year for up to three years to fund a single project.

With additional support from the Alice Ferguson Foundation, National Geographic, and regional parks and refuges, PEREC and its partners are currently delivering two B-WET projects: “Spatially Connecting Kids to the Bay,” a project for more than 13,000 Fairfax County seventh graders, and “From the Mountains to the Estuary, From the Schoolyards to the Bay,” a project for nearly 19,000 Prince William County sixth-grade students. Both programs are currently underway through 2013, and pilot programs that reach high school students also are in the planning stages.

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