Our youngest students begin their exploration of the natural world by encountering the Chesapeake Bay's most famous crustacean -- the Atlantic Blue Crab.
Kindergarten students investigate the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. Here they discover the many different types of creatures that live in shells.
First grade students study temperature and the ways animals adapt to the changing seasons.
In the second grade students explore plant/insect relationships -- focusing on the monarch butterfly and its unique tie to plants in the milkweed family. They look at human/plant relationships and discover the many ways people have used herbs through the centuries. The role of trees in providing habitat and human uses is studied, and students learn how to estimate a tree's age without cutting it down and counting the rings.
Third grade students explore the richness and value of wetlands through the investigation of two animals that depend on them: birds and salamanders. After being introduced to birdwatching, students engage in a detailed study of vernal pool habitats.
Fourth Grade students learn to use compasses as they explore the Chesapeake bay Watershed. They discover first-hand the role of salinity in determining habitat by dip-netting in brackish and freshwater marshes.
Fifth grade students learn the essentials of water safety and how to paddle a canoe. In middle and high school they will use canoes to investigate places not easily reached by land.
The seventh grade program has historically been a system wide service learning opportunity. In 2011 we transitioned from working on Oyster restoration, after the Piney Point Aquaculture Center temporarily went offline, and started a native plant nursery at the Elms. Today seventh graders serve the community based nursery, helping to grow plants that are made freely available to non-profits, schools, scouts and master gardeners. Public plant sales for private homeowners are held once a year.
The day has three formal lessons and one long work session. The lessons are:
1) Water quality testing to monitor potential nutrient runoff from our nursery operation.
2) An introduction to the value of native plants to our local ecosystem.
3) An introduction to identifying plants, specifically trees -- an essential skill in collecting seed and growing natives.
The work varies with seasonal needs. The bulk of the work is seeding, transplanting, weeding and infrastructure installation and repair. The work session doubles as a hands-on lesson in ecologically sound horticultural practices.