- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Website aims to aid environmental literacy
By MEGHAN RUSSELLStaff writer
Tom Wisner’s research has gone virtual, and it may soon become a portal to help educators and students meet environmental literacy requirements.
Concetta Laskey, who came to the Calvert Marine Museum in 2011 from the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, has been working for the past several months on documenting the Chestory Archive and preparing a website, “Center for the Chesapeake Story: Chestory Virtual Archive,” to make that archive more accessible to the public.
The Chestory Archive was started in 2011 following the 2010 death of Tom Wisner, a local scientist, teacher, songwriter, artist and waterman who spent a lifetime collecting stories and photos of the Chesapeake Bay, writing poems and songs depicting the lives of those who made their living on the bay’s waters and teaching young people to connect with and respect the bay through an integration of science, social studies, music and visual art. Last year, Wisner’s family and friends partnered with CMM and the Chesapeake Education Arts and Research Society to preserve his work and build the Chestory Archive from his collection.
Laskey picked up the project from there and is still working to catalogue the collection and put it online. Her hope is that educators, students or anyone using materials from the Chestory Archive at CMM will look to the website as a free educational tool.
“Tom wanted to have his life’s work of materials catalogued,” Laskey said. “He worked on educational instruction in biology” for grades kindergarten through 12, and “had all this great scientific, cultural education material, primary resource stuff you really can’t find anywhere. You don’t get a lot of interviews with watermen down here.”
Wisner wanted those resources to be digitized, and using a $900 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Laskey has been working to fulfill that goal. She said the project actually consists of two websites people can access for free. One can be found at www.chesapeake-envliteracy.com/CVA and is the basic educational tool for teachers and students, and the other is found at www.chesapeake-envliteracy.com and encompasses more background and information about workshops to help support CHEARS’s efforts in environmental education.
Laskey also used the grant funding to develop a presentation for educators to explain how to access the collection and demonstrate Wisner’s approach to education, intended to aid teachers who now must meet Maryland’s new environmental literacy standards. Last year, Maryland became the first state to impose an environmental literacy requirement on its students.
In the Southern Maryland and Greenbelt areas, Laskey plans to schedule and facilitate workshops on the website, and Anne Arundel County School District and Arlington Echo educators plan to include the online Chestory Archive in their environmental literacy plans and districtwide curriculum for next year, she said.
Although she has not yet approached Calvert County Public Schools regarding the initiative, Laskey said she hopes to make contact soon and to eventually work with CHESPAX, Calvert’s environmental education program, and CMM Deputy Director Sherrod Sturrock said the museum just submitted a second grant application for continued funding so Laskey can begin working with teachers from Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
Yovonda Kolo, supervisor of science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for CCPS, said she would be open to working with Laskey.
“If there’s any information out there I’m definitely going to research it,” Kolo said. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t be able to work with the museum.”
The website contains more than 1,600 folders at the moment, and “not everything’s there,” Laskey said, such as recordings that could not be made available because of their format, and “thousands and thousands of photographs.” She added that she had three 6-foot-long tables piled with documents from which to work. “I have a feeling we’ll never be finished, ever.”
The site specifically has a “for educators” page, designed to show teachers how they can adapt Wisner’s strategies for classroom use, she said.
“It kind of extracts the information and makes it into a format that is understandable so people don’t have to spend hours and hours finding something,” Laskey said. “It’s a good possibility a lot of teachers never took any classes strictly on teaching environmental learning, and I haven’t encountered a lot of resources that really address the individual teacher as much.”
“Concetta’s done a remarkable job,” Sturrock said. “She had to figure out what’s there, how to categorize it, how to make it useful. It was an absolutely herculean task.”
On May 12, as part of the annual Green Man Festival in Greenbelt, Laskey will present a workshop for teachers and provide ideas and approaches to using it as a classroom resource. The public is welcome to attend. It will start at 2 p.m. in the back room of the New Deal Cafe, and Wisner’s collected artwork will be on display there as part of the Green Man art show for the months of May and June.