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  • St. Martin’s-in-the-Field students enjoyed a day on the bay with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and planted 2,432 oysters at Fort Carroll.
    Tom Barrett
    St. Martin’s-in-the-Field students enjoyed a day on the bay with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and planted 2,432 oysters at Fort Carroll.

Pasadena Organizations Team Up With Students To Plant Oysters In The Patapsco

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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May 18, 2017

As summer approaches, Marylanders shed winter coats and flock to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. But when it comes to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, some small creatures play a vital role that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Pasadena-based organization Restore Rock Creek and the Maryland Yacht Club (MYC), along with the Annapolis-based Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), worked with the sixth-grade students from St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal School in Severna Park to plant 2,432 oysters at Fort Carroll in the Patapsco River near Baltimore. St. Martin’s-in-the-Field parent Carl Treff is a member at the MYC and facilitated the project.

Restore Rock Creek has an oyster gardening program called Oysters Rock that approximately 70 families from around Rock Creek participate in. The program arranges volunteers, distributes oysters that participants cover with spat (baby oysters) in the fall and ensures the volunteers collect the oysters to take them to local reefs by June, after the spat have grown. Oysters Rock is a part of the greater Marylanders Grow Oysters program funded by the Department of Natural Resources and the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

“It creates habitats for other creatures — lots of nooks and crannies for little minnows and feeder fish to get in there, and that attracts bigger fish, which in turn is even bigger fish,” Treff said. “It’s like the start of the food chain down below on the bottom. Once they get to be adult sized, the filtering aspect [provided by the oysters] is very good for the clarity of the water right around the reef.”

Treff arranged for the students to hang their oyster cages from one of the docks at the MYC, and various groups of St. Martin’s students checked on them periodically. Maintenance for the oyster gardening primarily includes sloshing the oysters in the water to clean them. During this time, students looked at the critters living in the oyster shells: crabs, minnows, eels, fish and worms.

On the day of the oyster planting, a Chesapeake Bay Foundation workboat picked up the students from the MYC and took them to Fort Carroll, a reef that has been in existence for centuries, to plant the oysters.

Cam Bowden, a middle school English teacher at St. Martin’s, participated in the project with his homeroom students. He enjoyed the hands-on learning opportunity provided through the field trip.

“They take out living oysters, put them in a bucket of water and watch the oysters filter water right in front of their eyes,” Bowden said. “They start to do the math and realize that one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, and they see how many oysters we just put back into the water. I think it’s kind of awe-inspiring for them.”

Each homeroom at St. Martin’s chooses a service learning project, and Bowden’s sixth-grade class chose to study oysters. During homeroom, they studied the history of the area and why oysters are suffering. Sixth-grade students also study earth science, which covers the environmental impact of factors like runoff.

“It is a great learning experience for the kids to see how they can have an impact on their environment and, moreso, even a positive impact,” Bowden said. “They can observe how people have had an impact on the environment over time by consuming the oysters and polluting the water, but they also get to see how they can have a positive impact, which is pretty neat.”

For more information on ways to care for the Chesapeake Bay, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website at www.cbf.org or Restore Rock Creek’s website at www.restorerockcreek.org.

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