Your Money at Work
What’s removed more than 1,000 tons of trash from the Bay, engaged 800,000 students and teachers and planted 500,000 trees and plants along the shoreline?
Your Bay license plates and income tax check-offs.
Last year alone, over 400,000 Marylanders chose Treasure the Chesapeake license plates or checked off a donation to the Bay Fund on their state tax return. Contributions amounted to $5.5 million, which helped over 110,000 students, teachers and volunteers complete 330 projects in environmental education and restoration.
In a year, these Bay helpers planted 95,000 native trees and plants, hauled 580 metric tons of trash from streams and restored 70 acres of wetlands, oyster reefs and stream-side buffers.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust redirects “90 cents of every dollar you contribute back to efforts that help the Bay,” says spokeswoman Molly Mullins.
Mini-grants for projects promoting Bay education and community involvement help people see and be a part of real change, according to Kacey Wetzel, who oversees the program.
“Small projects that have a large impact are what we invest in,” she says. From funding class trips to paying for rain barrels to planting gardens, the mini-grant program invests in the community.
Mini Grants: Big Return
Susan Madden, a fourth grade teacher at Davidsonville Elementary School and recipient of the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, is one of those people.
“I like to do real world projects with the students so they can see they have an impact on their community and the world,” Madden says. “It’s something they take with them beyond elementary school.”
Starting 10 years ago, Madden began to take small groups of students to scrub baby oysters — so they can filter water more effectively — then to plant them in a protected oyster reef in spring.
“The oysters that we protect on average are 17 millimeters, so they are very susceptible to disease and predation in the wild. But we keep them clean and in cages to get a better start in life,” Madden says. “I tell the kids it’s like a little nursery and we’re taking care of baby oysters.”
The kids get it.
I was one of the first to help in the cleaning. At the age of eight I became a surrogate mother. Ten years later, I still remember scrubbing oysters and gently placing them with their clean brethren as if I were caring for infants.
Students in Madden’s class study microorganisms and water samples as well as the Bay report cards so they can see how the Bay needs help before they go to neighborhoods like Harbor Hills and West River to clean oysters.
“When I first started,” Madden says, “I asked for mini-grant money to buy equipment to clean the oysters. Now I just ask for a couple hundred dollars to cover half the cost of the field trip and half the cost of a substitute teacher so I can go with my students.”
The kids’ experiences make them advocates.
“Parents ask students questions about what is going on with the oysters,” Madden says. “The students actually educate their parents because their parents understand the connection between the oysters and the Bay and how we’re making an impact.”
The decline of the Bay is directly linked to the loss of oysters. In the days of John Smith and Pocahontas, oysters formed giant reefs that reached to the surface so ships couldn’t sail through parts of the Bay. Oysters kept the water so clean that except in the deepest waters, sunlight penetrated the surface to the bottom.
The Heart of the Matter
Getting back to the days when the Bay was so lively is the Bay Trust’s goal.
“We believe that you’re never going to tackle the Bay’s problems unless you get to the heart of the person who wants to help,” Mullins says.
Dollar by dollar, your money does just that.
“Bay plates plant trees and get kids outdoors and support water quality monitoring,” says Wetzel. “Bay plates do things in your community.”