Helping the Bay [Editorial]

Sometimes lost in the back and forth over budgets, teacher salaries, students misbehaving and such, is the interesting work being done all the time by Harford County Public Schools students.

Another case in point is a recent Chesapeake Bay conservation project done by seventh graders at Southampton Middle School. The students, led by Joy John, their science teacher, embarked on an effort to do what they can to help restore the oyster population, joining other students around the region who have done similar projects.

John invited representatives from the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland to come to the middle school and lead the students in making oyster reef balls. The Southampton group made 18.

The concept is simple: Concrete is mixed, poured into forms, left to harden before it’s then prepped for putting in the bay.

When the reef balls are ready, they are taken to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation facility in Anne Arundel County, where they will be placed into a 3,000-gallon tank. Oyster larvae are put in the tank and within a week it attaches to the reef balls. Once that’s done, the oyster reef balls are taken to a man-made reef off of Tilghman Island, where 210 such oyster reef balls have been placed.

“They [CCA volunteers] explain the process of creating the balls to the kids, we make them, and afterwards we will learn even more about oysters, their anatomy, their importance, and history of the oyster in the Chesapeake Bay,” John, the science teacher, said.

That’s the classroom curriculum. The other lesson in this teaching moment is the big picture and how, at least in one project, students are being taught to look out for their environment.

As time hurtles forward, projects like the oyster reef balls will be standard fare as the next generation leads our plant back to some semblance of better health.

Science is always evolving and those who today deride climate change as a man-made phenomenon will be one day be relegated to the ranks of doctors who touted cigarette smoking as good for smokers, medicine men who prescribed leaches and blood-letting to heal the sick and cartographers who believed the earth was as flat as the maps they could spread over a table.

When that time arrives, it will be important to have more trained, scientific minds to lead our world into a future where global warming caused by human behavior is established science, and not a political football kicked around by partisan ideologues.

Projects such as the oyster reef balls made recently at Southampton Middle School are examples of the kind of science education all of our kids need.

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