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Dunloggin efforts to improve health of Chesapeake Bay gain national recognition

Howard County Board of Education Chair Ellen Flynn Giles takes a photo of oyster spat being raised by Dunloggin Middle School students.
Howard County Board of Education Chair Ellen Flynn Giles takes a photo of oyster spat being raised by Dunloggin Middle School students. (By Blair Ames, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The efforts of Dunloggin Middle School students to help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay have received national recognition.

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council announced Wednesday that Dunloggin's Oyster Gardeners have received one of the 2014 Best of Green Schools awards. 

The award recognizes 10 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country this year. The Dunloggin Oyster Gardeners are being recognized in the Student Leadership category.

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The Dunloggin project began two years ago following a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation where students found only one live oyster while performing a dredge across an oyster reef.

From there, students decided to take action and over the past three years, Dunloggin students have cared for relocated almost 12,000 oyster spat — an aid to filtering bay nutrients — as part of an initiative to help clean the Chesapeake Bay.

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The students have partnered with Kentmorr Marina on the Eastern Shore placing cages in the water off its docks. Every two weeks throughout the year, students and their parents visit the cages to provide care for the baby oysters.

Rachel Gutter, Director of the Center for Green Schools, called Dunloggin's program an "incredible example of a hyperlocal effort that is having an impact, a ripple effect on the entire community and across the entire state."

Gutter added that Dunloggin students are examples of "sustainability natives in action."

"These are students who intuitively make decisions to use what they need, as opposed to what they can," she said. "They're systems thinkers and they're solutions oriented, so they feel empowered to go out in their communities and actually drive change."

Dunloggin Principal Jeffrey Fink lauded his students' recognition, crediting them for their hard work to make a difference on a state level.

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"What they're doing is inspiring," Fink said. "It's incredible to see how empowered these kids are in keeping this project going." 

The recipients of the Best of Green Schools 2014 will receive recognition throughout the year from the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as access to the Green Classroom Professional Certificate Program, a tool to help school staff and educators identify what supports or impedes healthy, resource efficient and environmentally sustainable learning spaces.

Dunloggin is a national Green Ribbon School, a recognition that honors schools' commitments to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of staff and students, and provide environmental education.

In October, the Oyster Gardening Club was highlighted for federal and state officials during the U.S. Department of Education's second annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of Green Ribbon Schools around the country. Dunloggin was one of three Maryland schools on the tour.

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