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The Bay Grasses in Classes Program Wraps Up Ninth Season!

The Department of Natural Resources, (DNR) in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), has completed its ninth season of the Bay Grasses in Classes (BGIC) program. Since its inception in 1998, over 1,404 classes and 36,050 students have been involved in the Bay Grasses in Classes program. During this time students have planted over 2.75 acres of bottom surface in the Bay with the 475,000 plants grown in their classrooms.

Interested teachers from across the State of Maryland were trained by DNR and CBF staff in January. Teachers used the curriculum materials and online resources provided to educate their classes on the importance of bay grasses. Teachers were provided with materials necessary to construct growth chambers in their classrooms including aquarium equipment, sediment, and seeds or adult plants to propagate.
Teachers then actively engaged 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, they monitored the growth of the seeds or cuttings, collected water quality data, and entered these data into the on-line data entry system. Through this on-line database, students could look at graphs that depicted the growth rates and water quality trends in their classrooms and compare them to other schools in the program.

After 12-16 weeks of caring for their bay grasses, the students disassembled their systems and transported the grasses to one of three restoration sites throughout the state. There they took part in planting the grasses, as well as seining and water quality activities designed to reinforce their knowledge of bay grasses. By studying the ecological importance of bay grasses and actively participating in restoration, students also gained a sense of stewardship of the Bay.

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In 2006, 135 schools with almost 4050 students participated in one or all phases of this project. Ninety three classes attended a field trip at the end of the program to plant their classroom-raised grasses at a restoration site in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Students planted more than 610 square meters of plants this year, bringing the total for the project to 3,070. The overall survival of the grasses planted this year was approximately 50%.

Bay grasses, also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV, are the fundamental nursery habitats for multiple species throughout the Chesapeake Bay including fish and crabs. Current bay grass populations are less than 25 percent of historic levels, due to multiple human and wildlife impacts including excessive nutrient pollution and the destruction caused by the mute swan population.

BGIC receives funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Go to the Bay Grasses in Classes website to learn more about the program and view pictures.

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