by Kelby Booth ’23
It’s not an overstatement to say that Gunston’s Chesapeake Bay Studies program is one of the most dynamic and unique environmental sustainability education programs you’ll find anywhere. This year’s program involved 233 students, 17 trips, 85 different daily itineraries, 12 rental vehicles, 4 flights, 25 chartered buses, 35 program partners, and the participation of nearly every member of our faculty and staff.”
– Excerpted from “May Community Letter: Reflections on Bay Studies,” by Head of School John Lewis.
Location: Chester River, Maryland
Students embarked on a five-day sailing adventure with Echo Hill to explore the Chester River watershed. Over the course of this trip, students learned about the unique structure of the Eastern Shore and what resources it has to offer.
Mr. D’Antonio’s favorite part was being immersed in nature and “living in the moment everyday.”
Emery Day ’26 said “The highlight of the trip was socializing with classmates while fishing, sailing, and making friendship bracelets.”
Oysters for the Bay
Location: Smith Island, Maryland
Students partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Ferry Cove Shellfish, Choptank Oyster Co., and Harris’to investigate the role oysters play in restoring the Bay near Smith Island. Not only did students participate in water activities, but they also learned about conservation efforts and toured oyster facilities.
Ms. Coner commented “I had a wonderful time learning about the culture and way of life on Smith Island and I love being out on the water.”
Benta Owino ’25 also added "I was so glad I got to go to Smith Island because it will most likely be the first and last time I visit. It is said that in the next couple decades Smith Island could sink, so I am very lucky to have gotten the chance to see it."
Forests for the Bay
Location: Bishop’s Head Island, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland
Mr. Stephenson commented “students learned about the importance of forests for the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
Lucas Watkins ’26 enjoyed “the unique and remote experience at the Karen Noonan Memorial Center and learning hands-on about the different ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay.”
The Bay Report Card
Location: Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Oxford, Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC)
Students participated in several days trips with CBF to different shorelines, trails, and waterways throughout Maryland to examine how clean waterways provide ecological, economical, and cultural benefits to our communities. From counting turtles to seine net fishing, students had plenty of opportunities to explore pristine natural habitats.
Maggie Porciello ’25 commented “My favorite part would have to be hiking on the first day on the Sassafras. There's just something so special about being in nature and just watching it flourish before your eyes. Walking through the bamboo portion of the trail was so surreal, the sunlight would poke through the leaves to enrich the soil. It was very soulful and I'd recommend it to everyone!”
Ecology of the Upper Chesapeake
Location: Various places along the Delmarva Peninsula
Students explored the Delmarva Peninsula with the Sultana Education Foundation (SEF). During the day trips, students explored by foot and paddled through the various waterways to assess the health of the different ecosystems.
Sydney Kim ’26 said the highlight of the trip was when they “went canoeing out to different beaches and islands where we’d fish. We also went hiking and overall had a lot of fun!”
Caroline Thomas ’26 said her favorite part was when they “canoed down Radcliffe Creek and hung out on a beach fishing.”
The Ecology of Invasives
Locations: CBEC, Molly's Place, and Horn Point Laboratory
Students biked, kayaked, and hiked their way through the Eastern Shore to learn more about how invasive species affect the Bay's health. Blackwater Adventures accompanied the students to assist with their investigations.
Mrs. Crandall added “the Invasives trip was a perfect mix of learning, physical activity, and down time.”
Immersion into the Ecology and History of the Chesapeake Bay
Location: Janes Island State Park in Crisfield, Maryland and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland
Students traveled with the SEF to learn about sustainable ecological practices. Students had the opportunity to camp, kayak, and explore the wilderness.
Margaret Randolph ’25 commented "We were given a lot of freedom on our trip, which helped us to learn in a more tailored way and helped each of us come away with a unique take away from Bay Studies."
African American History
Locations: Annapolis & Cambridge, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Students took day trips to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C, The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge, and various historical places throughout Annapolis. Over the week, students learned about the importance of local African American history.
Dr. Wilson's highlight was the "The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy '' exhibit at the Banneker Douglass Museum in Annapolis.
Louise Mulock’s ’25 favorite part was “visiting the African American History Museum in D.C. and the Banneker-Douglass Museum in downtown Annapolis. The amount of Black history that is integrated into just this region of America is truly remarkable.”
From Colonization to Globalization
Locations: Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Naval Station Norfolk and the Nauticus Museum, Pamplin Historical Park, James Madison's Montpelier, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Over the course of five days, students explored historical sites throughout the Chesapeake region to learn more about the political, economic, military, agricultural, environmental, and social development on the North American continent and beyond.
Mr. Lewis added "We had a fantastic five-day journey, visiting some of the most consequential historical sites in the United States that are located squarely in the Chesapeake Watershed—all these places made an impact on our world today, and connecting them together was the goal of the trip."
Iron Chef, Chesapeake
Locations: Gunston, Modern Stone Age Kitchen, Wye Mills, and Lockbriar Farms, Maryland
Students focused on what farm-to-table truly means while visiting farms and fields across the Eastern Shore. Students had the opportunity to visit Modern Stone Age Kitchen to make pizza! “Students transformed flour into long, wild fermented sourdough pizza dough, milk into pizza cheese and ricotta, Langenfelder Pork into Italian Sausage (and, yes! They even stuffed the sausage they made into natural casings), and fresh tomatoes into pizza sauce,” Dr. Bill Schindler explained in a blog post.
Dr. Goodall added “When I think of the word sustainability, I cannot think of a better example to show and physically experience with students first hand than what we did for our Iron Chef Bay Studies trip this year. We visited several local farms in Maryland to source local ingredients such as making our own flour from locally grown organic wheat at Old Wye Mill in Wye Mill, pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg, and hand picking produce from Lockbriar Farms in Chestertown. It's worth noting that all of these are located in Maryland and we visited each on the same day. There is something incredibly special about sourcing ingredients locally. ”
Book Binding and the Bay
Location: Gunston and Washington College, Maryland
Students were able to learn about book binding and its relationship to the local environment at Washington College. Students also went to the Chester River Field Research Station, where students observed bird banding and journaled about the beautiful scenery.
Annabelle Sinatra ’24 commented “This year’s Bay studies was incredibly fun—I never thought I would be able to make my own book to sketch and write in. The trips we went on were fun and highlighted the importance of being involved in your local environment. Bird banding was especially unique and I really enjoyed it!”
Madi Lutz ’25 added “We learned to make books and we were able to journal about our week, where we went on nature walks and bird-watched! We went to a bird-banding station in Chestertown and saw about thirteen different species of birds and talked to Meredith Hadaway about eco-poetry which was my favorite part!”
Philosophy of Nature
Location: Appalachian Trail, Maryland
The Philosophy of Nature trip allowed students to spend three days completely immersed in nature on the Appalachian Trail. During this backpacking adventure, students pushed their physical limits, learned about the Transcendentalist movement, and explored caves.
Allie Fitzgerald ’24 commented, “This Bay Studies has been my favorite, from backpacking up mountains to eating lunch at Harper’s Ferry to scaling rock formations in an underground cave. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”
Mr. Weimer commented “Since our return, Gunston's Appalachian Trail Adventurers (aka The Hill Hoppers) have been buzzing and spirits are high, reminiscing on all of the memories discovered on the trail and of all of the wonderful reasons to be stewards of the environment in their backyard!”
Ms. Larrimore added “Our adventures through the Appalachian Trail, accompanied by perfect weather, were an opportunity for students to build bonds rooted in trust and comfort. A challenging experience for everyone, the group persevered with the most positive of mindsets and learned a lot about both themselves and each other.”
Climate Change in Agriculture
Locations: Various farms on the Eastern Shore
Students took day trips to different nearby farms to learn about their impacts on the Bay and the soil. On the farms, students tested soil, talked to farmers about their practices, and interacted with many animals.
Ms. Grantham added “We even got to see the beginning of the birth of a baby alpaca at one of the farms!”
Islands Out of Time
Location: Tangier Island, Maryland
Students traveled to Tangier Island with staff from the CBF and Adkins Arboretum to investigate the effect of rising sea levels on barrier islands and their communities. During the day, students traveled via boat to the main island to explore and discuss with residents about their life on an eroding island. Students also went fishing, crabbing, and shared stories around the campfire.
Mrs. Coffey commented “It felt special to have the opportunity to visit a place that is quickly disappearing.”
Zach Mozher ’23 added “I loved going to Tangier Island because it allowed me to learn about the consequences of climate change from a new angle.”
Eastern Shore of Virginia
Location: Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia
Students spend the five day trip kayaking, hiking, and learning about barrier islands at the Barrier Island Center. Students not only visited and studied the Bay, but also the ocean. This allowed students to compare the two watersheds.
Angie Lin ’23 commented “I found myself with lots of time to explore the state park we were staying at, seeing lots of birds, deer, bees, and wildflowers. As well as cooking with everyone!”
Damian Rene ‘23 added "Having the opportunity to learn more about the Eastern Shore of Virginia was an experience of a lifetime. My favorite part of the trip was being able to learn more about the barrier islands and how they contribute to life on the Bay."
Location: Schoodic and Blue Hill, Maine
Students explored different ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine to see firsthand how global warming is affecting water quality, levels, and marine ecosystems. Students were also given the opportunity to explore waterways, forests, and fisheries to compare and contrast the Chesapeake Bay.
Ms. Haber added “Taking a great group of students to Maine and meeting long-time Gunston faculty members Tony and Sarah Everdell along with alumnae Kate Kana Parker and Alyssa Nye was the highlight of the trip. The students were enthusiastic learners and enjoyed all of the hands-on activities as we explored the ecosystem of coastal Maine.”
Kate Porter ‘24 commented “I loved Maine because we were able to explore the beautiful scenery but my favorite part was definitely the boat simulator.”
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Location: Grand Isle, LA
Students spent five days in the Gulf of Mexico on Grand Isle, a barrier island in Louisiana. This island has endured some of the biggest natural disasters, which makes it a great place to study coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and natural disasters. This trip was so special because Dr. Asprion is native to Grand Isle.
Dr. Asprion commented "Since before I was born, my family always had a home there. Sharing the culture, historical significance, and lived experience with the students meant so much to me!"
Calla McCluskey ‘23 added “I’d never been down to Louisiana before and was extremely excited! The trip was even better than I had anticipated, the amount of wildlife down there is so different to what we’re used to seeing in Maryland. Everyday we saw groups of dolphins and were even lucky to see some alligators!”