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Over $200K for Outdoor Education for VA Beach Students

October 4, 2011

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Thousands of Virginia Beach middle-school students will soon take the classroom outdoors, thanks to a new public-private partnership launched this week.

The pioneering program allows students to get a hands-on educational experience by visiting local waterways, thanks in part to a $120,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay office, where Peyton Robertson is the director.

"The NOAA Chesapeake Bay office has been a big supporter of environmental education in the Chesapeake Bay region for a number of years and, as we are talking about here, trying to ensure that we're really creating the next generation of stewards."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) will train school teachers and administrators starting next summer. They in turn will help design and teach the learning experiences for more than 11,000 students in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Another major contributor to the program is the East Coast freight railroad CSX Transportation, which contributed $55,000, says Quinton Kendall, its regional vice president for state government affairs.

"With this particular initiative, you're not just making a difference one day, in one site. You're essentially helping over 10,000 young people learn about the importance of the bay."

The new program is a good match, says Joe Burnsworth, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, because sustainability and global awareness are top learning priorities for the schools.

"Allowing our students to investigate ways to help preserve the Chesapeake Bay really fits right in with that 21st-century skill that we're imbedding naturally within our curriculum."

It won't only be young students who visit the waterways. CBF will provide leadership and training for teachers, principals and administrators so they can help create the lessons, according to Don Baugh, the foundation's vice president for education.

"All of which to make sure that these students have an incredible opportunity to connect the outside learning to the inside classroom."

CBF hopes the project will serve as a model for other school systems in Virginia and around the nation.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA