Maryland students hands on at Horn Point

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CAMBRIDGE — 73 Maryland students were learning how to improve the Chesapeake Bay’s health this month, while attending a hands-on learning experience at the Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education program at the Horn Point Environmental Laboratory in Cambridge.
The Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education (HIEE) started in 2010 and is coordinated through the Maryland State Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented Summer Center. The program uses the Investigating and Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions (IEEIA) method, which operates on the belief that students learn best by choosing subjects of interest and fully immersing themselves into that subject matter. The Honeywell program is a week of on-site field work, with local students and teachers who work alongside Horn Point scientists to see firsthand the Honeywell approach to local environment and sustainability education.
Honeywell’s goal is to increase students’ awareness in environmental issues in ways that will inspire them to contribute to environmental changes in their community, work with local scientists, influence local politicians and pursue careers in environmental science, math, technology and engineering (STEM) education. The program is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a national benchmark for STEM.
“I participated in Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems in 2013 and it was at that moment that I realized I had the power to change my environment,” said 12 year-old Sincere Chandler, an HIEE alumnus from Dorchester County. “It was here working with scientists that I realized that I want to do this as a career.”
The program trains teachers on how to use the successful IEEIA method in their classrooms to engage students and jump-start their interest in environmental issues. They also learn how to identify gifted and talented students in their classrooms. “This is a one-of-a-kind professional development program,” said Lisa Antunes, a science teacher from Deep Creek Middle School in Baltimore County. “I plan to reinvent my teaching to become more student-driven, bring students outdoors to investigate their world and make connections that will inspire them to solve environmental problems in the future.
The student group consisted of Maryland Gifted and Talented students, entering grades 6 – 10. Over a two week period, the students had the chance to live and work on the 850-acre campus of Horn Point Environmental Laboratory, where they did research on submerged aquatic vegetation, rockfish, the Maryland blue crab, the Maryland oyster, and man’s impact on the Chesapeake Bay.
A variety of activities were offered to the students, with the total 73 attendees breaking up into two groups of 36-37, each spending a week at Horn Point. During the program, the kids took part in a busy schedule of field trips, lab work and lectures, in an intense program far beyond what a normal school week could cover. The hands-on approach raised the interest level higher than what they normally get at school.
“I’m working with invasive species and get to do a lot of field work looking at plants,” said student Rachael Frampton. “There’s no opportunity to work in labs and get to look at these species of animals in school. I like when we go out and do field work and look at all the plants, and see all the animals.”
The Honeywell program, coordinated through the Maryland State Department of Education, provides Maryland’s diverse gifted and talented student population with advanced, rigorous, experiential learning opportunities that nurture these students’ talents and abilities within the unique learning environment offered by the Horn Point Environmental Laboratory. Field trips to Adkins Arboretum and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge were also part of the program, as well as canoeing and seine netting the shoreline for samples.

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More than just science, though, the kids also got to experience the beautiful 850-acre campus of Horn point Environmental Laboratory, nestled in the woodlands and marshes of the shores of the Choptank River. Horn Point is only a few miles away from the bustle of Cambridge, but the students think of it as another world altogether.
“It’s very…nice. It’s a very educational but fun program,” said 12 year old Sincere Chandler. “It’s a very calming place. There’s not kids running around all over the place screaming (like at school)!”
The Students worked on collecting and analyzing real world data to determine the effects of physical, chemical, biological, and human influences on the Chesapeake Bay. Using the IEEIA model of instruction, students chose an environmental area to study, and conduct research and experiments.
After completion of the issue analysis, the students were tasked with designing a presentation that was shared with family and other attendees at the end of center celebration. The work was rigorous, but obviously a lot of fun for the students.
“We get to go canoeing—you can’t canoe at school!” Chandler said. “We get to hike around and feel the calmness of being outside. Not a lot of kids go outside anymore!”
When you talk to the kids, there is no doubt the program is having an impact on their education and their future. “I’m studying environmental science, which is the science of nature,” Sincere told us. “I’m looking forward to being a botanist, which is a plant researcher. I want to be able to inform people about nature and why we need to protect it. Some people just don’t care about nature.”
“This partnership with Honeywell allows our scientists to work side-by-side with students and teachers,” said Dr. Michael Roman, director of the Horn Point Laboratory. “Together, the scientists, teachers and students gain a lot out of this program, which is a win-win for all”.
Since 2010, 382 gifted and talented students and 89 teachers from Maryland have participated in the program.

 

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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