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Bay Grasses in Classes Kicks Off Eleventh Season With
Teacher Trainings in January

a photo of classroom grown grasses that have been plantedJanuary, 2008 - The Bay Grasses in Classes (BGIC) project is a joint partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Since 1998, over 1,568 classes and 40,970 students have been involved with Bay Grasses in Classes. During this time students have planted over 3.0 acres of bottom surface in the Bay with the 500,000 plants grown in their classrooms. In 2004, for the first time, annual aerial surveys taken by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) have mapped healthy grass beds planted by students in the program.

Eighty returning teachers as well as 20 new teachers from across the State of Maryland participated in training sessions in January. During training, teachers were provided with the curriculum materials and introduced to online resources necessary to educate their classes on the importance of bay grasses. In addition, materials necessary to construct bay grass growth chambers in their classrooms including: aquarium equipment, sediment, and seeds or adult plants were distributed.

Over the course of the next few months, teachers will actively engage students in each phase of growing bay grasses: mixing the soil, setting up the aquaria, and planting seeds or vegetative material from adult plants. Each week, teachers will lead students through monitoring growth of plants, collecting water quality data, and entering data into an on-line data entry system housed on the Bay Grasses in Classes Website.

Later this spring, students will transport the grasses to a predetermined restoration site throughout the state to plant the grasses. As part of the planting field trip, students will also take part in educational activities including seining and water quality activities designed to reinforce their knowledge of bay grasses and other aspects of Chesapeake Bay health. By studying the ecological importance of bay grasses and actively participating in restoration, students also will gain a sense of stewardship of the Bay.

Bay grasses (also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV) are critical to a healthy Chesapeake Bay. They provide important habitats for fish and crabs, serve as food for waterfowl, help protect shorelines from erosion, keep water clear by trapping sediments, consume excess nutrients, and add oxygen to the water. Current bay grass populations are less than 25 percent of historic levels, mainly due to excessive nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment pollution resulting from human activities clouding the water and preventing sufficient sunlight from reaching the plants.

For more information contact Mark Lewandowski at (410) 260-8634 or e-mail mlewandowski@dnr.state.md.us.

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