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Watermen in the Classroom

Commercial crabber and NAPS member Ida Hall presented a "Watermen in the Classroom" seminar to a group of 35-40 6th- and 7th-graders at Lancaster Middle School, along with science teacher Damien Chrissy on March 12, 2018. The 70-minute class introduced the students to commercial crabbing, the crab life cycle, water quality, environmental stewardship, and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The students were most interested in the "hands on" experiences. They tried on waterman's oilskins and gloves. They examined crab and peeler pots, measuring sticks, and bushel baskets. Students had the opportunity to hold peelers, inspect a partially-shed soft crab, learn to identify male and female crabs, and learn about crab sheds and seahorses. Hall provided a dirty crab pot to show students what the pots look like after remaining in the water an entire season. She also showed the students a photo demonstrating the different colors of the sponge crab egg sack. One student asked, "That crab has a sponge in it?" Hall replied, "The sponge-like mass are fertilized crab eggs. The darkest color indicates that the crab will soon release its millions of eggs into the water."

Hall showed the students a 1987 Landsat photo showing brown water running from the tributaries into the Bay, and compared it to a 2015 satellite photo showed no brown water. Chrissy and Hall then asked several students to take a cup of water and pour part of it down a bare board and the other half down a board covered with vegetation. The water ran slower down the vegetated board than the bare board. This was to demonstrate the importance of vegetated buffers reducing runoff into the Bay and demonstrating that what we do on the land impacts the water quality. Several students mentioned they had planted trees to help control runoff, and some said they raise oysters. Oysters can also help water quality since they constantly filter the water.

Hall showed the students a bag of trash, mostly plastic bags and bottles found on the shoreline near her residence. She emphasized the importance of using less plastic so that less ends up in the watershed. Students received reusable shopping bags donated by Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship (NAPS). The bags also contained information on water quality from VIMS, stewardship tips from the Chesapeake Bay Program and its Bay Barometer, brochures from NAPS and The Wetlands Project, and issues of Virginia's Coastal Zone Management.

Students were quizzed briefly on what they had learned and awarded prizes for correct answers. The most popular prize was a 2018 waterman calendar done by 12-year-old Northumberland student, Sarah Haynie.

The "Watermen in the Classroom" educational experience was well-received by the students and teachers. Hopefully more funding will be available and more schools and watermen will be able to participate. If interested in getting involved, contact your local school or contact Paula Jasinski,

During February and March of this year, the Waterman Heritage Ecotourism Program expanded into the classroom. Paula Jasinski, co-owner of Green Fin Studio, helps coordinate the Waterman Ecotourism Program and received limited funding to bring four watermen into four classrooms to educate 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students about the waterman's lifestyle, environmental stewardship, and the Chesapeake Bay.

The four watermen were selected on a first-come first-serve basis from those who have participated in an ecotourism training program offered at Rappahannock Community College. Those chosen were: J.C. Hudgins (VA Waterman's Association president), Lee Deihl, Joey Williams, and Ida Hall. The four schools participating were from Gloucester, Mathews, Lancaster, and Richmond counties.

The curriculum guidelines were based on the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement Environmental Literacy Goal to "Enable every student in the region to graduate with the knowledge and skills to act responsibly to protect and restore their local watershed." It further states that "the well-being of the Chesapeake Bay watershed will soon rest in the hands of its youngest citizens – the more than three million students in kindergarten through twelfth grade." The proposed target hopes to provide "at least one meaningful watershed educational experience (MWEE) in elementary, middle, and high school." The curriculum also included waterman's input and science SOL goals related to natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems and understanding the location of Virginia's watershed systems.

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