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Teaching students about environmental awareness in Maryland

ConservationNatural ResourcesEnergy ResourcesNatural Resource Industry

Since 1998, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has taught more than 32,000 students in 1,200 classroom programs about the Chesapeake Bay, coastal and bay marine life, as well as the state's streams through its Teaching Environmental Awareness in Maryland (TEAM) program.

DNR officials are looking for volunteers who want to learn about the program and then teach it to children in third through eighth grades in the state. Volunteers must be 18 years old and be able to provide their own transportation.

The first 2013 TEAM training will be held in the DNR Tawes Building at 580 Taylor Avenue in Annapolis from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 and 26, as well as on March 7 in the Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center at 5110 Meadowside Lane in Rockville.

The Baltimore Sun recently spoke to DNR about the TEAM program.

How has the program grown since it began?

It's bigger, we've added more counties. We started as a pilot program in Anne Arundel County and now it's all over the state. We're looking for volunteers for all counties, but primarily we're looking for more in Montgomery and Howard.

Is it still the same program that began in Anne Arundel County or has it changed over the years? Is anything new being added this year?

We've added new programs over the years. We started with one or two, and now we have five programs — Chesapeake Bay watershed, indoor and outdoor streams, oysters and oyster reefs, horseshoe crabs and Chesapeake watermen. It's very popular. They're free outdoors programs. Some schools call it an indoor field trip.

Do the people who generally volunteer have experience teaching or prior knowledge about the material they will be teaching?

They come from a wide variety of backgrounds. You don't need any prior teaching experience. They all have kinds of environment ethic, they care about the Bay and natural resources. We give them self-contained kits and train them.

Is there a large turnover in the volunteer staff or do you have many who come back year after year?

We kind of have both. Sometimes the hardest part is matching the volunteer with where their requests are. We might have people who really want to be active, but we don't have a lot of schools in that area. We have a lot of real dedicated people.

To register for a workshop, volunteers are asked to contact Chris Hintz at 410-260-8809 or chintz@dnr.state.md.us. Schools interested in hosting a program and requesting a TEAM teacher can get more information at dnr.maryland.gov/education/teamdnr.

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