In 1994, Catherine Roberts and Margaret Duffy created educational strategies that allowed their students to make real world applications of the math and science they were studying in their classes. These strategies soon became the Chesapeake Challenge, an environmental project that links community service with academic learning, personal growth and civic responsibility.
During the fall of each school year, students study the Chesapeake Bay. They then select projects that are aimed at educating adults, as well as youngsters. The projects include creating posters and bookmarks and distributing them to the public, stenciling storm drains with "Don't Dump" messages, creating educational materials for and teaching mini-lessons to elementary school students and cleaning up a local shore line.
The students use water conservation and anti-pollution themes to design bookmarks and posters. The bookmarks are distributed through bookstores and Learn and Serve displays throughout Virginia and the posters are exhibited in businesses throughout the area. Those students who elect to teach mini lessons receive mentoring from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the US Coast Guard after which they develop and implement lessons to help second grade students understand the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. These lessons often include activities on ecology, pollution and water quality.
Participants of the Shoreline Debris Cleanup Project team up with second graders for the collection and classification of debris. They then record the data on the NOAA debris survey and send it to the Office of Marine Conservation. The students have collected over 70 bags since the program began.
Last spring, the students started their involvement with an oyster restoration project in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They constructed a “Taylor Float,” and by October, the float was filled with seed oysters. The students then placed these oysters in a local creek. Each month the students take a trip to the creek to inspect and monitor the oysters. After ten months the students will stock the oysters on a sanctuary in the Lynhaven River.
The students are currently planning a web page that will educate others about environmental issues, as well as provide project updates to interested readers.