Chesapeake Bay Studies

The objectives of the program are to increase an awareness of the Chesapeake Bay and increase an awareness of man's relationship with and responsibility to the natural environment. Students also develop a sense of history and an understanding of economic and social issues. By using the Chesapeake Bay as a microcosm, students are able to explore a wide range of activities, all of which bring greater awareness of the complex nature of man and his environment.
The Chesapeake Bay Studies Program incorporates all disciplines in its exploration of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. A week long activity, Bay Studies draws on both outside agencies such as Outward Bound, Echo Hill Outdoor School, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Sultana, as well as on Gunston's own faculty to explore the various components of life in and around the Chesapeake Bay including environmental studies, history, and social and cultural influences. Primarily experiential, Bay Studies incorporates field trips, analysis of primary sources, in depth study of specific topics, discussion, journal writing, lab work, and computer analysis.


First and second year students begin with foundational learning experiences that provide direct contact with the Chesapeake Bay. Students then progress into immersive experiences with a specific curriculum focus. Third and fourth year students participate in seminar-style programs that reach beyond the Bay and connect with professional disciplines.

Foundation Trips-First & Second Year Students

CBF's Fox Island

CBF's Fox Island—This program, led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, takes students to study and stay in a restored hunting lodge, perched on the marsh. Students research and experience the Bay first hand. Day trips on Monday and Tuesday introduce students to the parameters by which Bay health is measured.

Away overnight Tuesday - ThursdayDifficulty: 3Comfort: 3

Echo Hill

Echo Hill—How have boats been used to travel and fish the Bay? What is the state of the Chester River watershed? With the past as perspective, students will explore Chesapeake’s natural/human history and culture during a four night overnight stay on board the Annie D. and the skipjack Elsworth.

Away overnight Monday -Friday

Difficulty: 2Comfort: 4

Ecology of the Bay

Ecology of the Bay—Learn and experience the Chesapeake Bay through a variety of day trips in the region. Students will sail on CBF’s skipjack, paddle with Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, and complete a service project on the Eastern Shore. Students finish the week understanding how the health of the Bay is assessed.

Day trips Monday-Friday

Difficulty: 2Comfort: 1

Sultana Projects

Sultana Projects—Get excited about this mixed days and overnights kayaking trip through several scenic, undeveloped tidal tributaries of our Chesapeake region. Students finish the week understanding how the health of the Bay is assessed and experience the Bay firsthand on the three-day, two night camping trip at the end of the week.

Away overnight Wednesday-Friday

Difficulty: 3Comfort: 4/5

CBF’s Karen Noonan

CBF’s Karen Noonan—Led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, this program will take students to Bishops Head in Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to learn about the natural history and ecology of this remote area. Students research and experience the Bay first hand. Day trips on Wednesday and Thursday introduce students to the parameters by which Bay health is measured and the importance of forest in protecting the Bay.

Away overnight Sunday-Tuesday

Difficulty: 3Comfort: 3

Investigative Trips-Second & Third Year Students

Iron Chef, Chesapeake

Iron Chef, Chesapeake—Food production and farming are critical parts of our local environment. This year’s focus is on the culinary side of the farm to table trend. Be ready to tromp through fields and carry the harvest to the kitchen! Through this experience, students will learn basic cooking skills, cook on a daily basis, and focus on local farms and restaurants around the Chesapeake.

Day TripsDifficulty: 1/2Comfort: 1

Mission to Chesapeake Bay

Mission to Chesapeake Bay—Explore the Chesapeake Bay from above and from below. Students will design, build, and launch rockets with cameras to explore our environment from the sky. They will also have an opportunity to build ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) with sensors to explore the underwater environment. Together, these two projects introduce the students to studying the Chesapeake Bay environment using remote sensing device.

Day TripsDifficulty: 1Comfort: 1

Williamsburg & Jamestown

Williamsburg and Jamestown—Calling all history buffs! The Chesapeake Bay is rich in history stretching from pre-European settlements to current events. Students will travel Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia to explore the initial European settlements, a perfect match to US History classes.

Away overnight Tuesday-ThursdayDifficulty: 2/3Comfort: 2/3

Fish Biology of Chesapeake Bay Tributaries

Fish Biology of Chesapeake Bay Tributaries—Head up the Bay for a week of tent camping, canoeing, and fishing. Students research and experience the Bay first hand. Students finish the week understanding the variables that affect the diversity and abundance of fish in freshwater rivers.

Away overnight Monday-Friday

Difficulty: 4Comfort: 5

Make/Do the Hipster Artisan Revival

Make/Do the Hipster Artisan Revival—The Eastern Shore is home to a thriving artisan community that is deeply connected to the Chesapeake Bay. During this week students will visit several makerspaces and have the opportunity to work with clay, metal, wood, and paper, completing an innovative portfolio.

Day TripsDifficulty: 1Comfort: 1

Advanced Program Offerings-Third & Fourth Year Students

Environmental Cinematography

Environmental Cinematography—Calling all filmmakers and photographers who have an interest in the environment, natural history and the outdoors. Learn how to use cinematography to tell a compelling story with a strong environmental theme. You will work with professional photographers to hone your eye and produce a portfolio of work.

Day TripsDifficulty: 2Comfort: 1

Islands Out of Time with CBF

Islands Out of Time with CBF—Offered in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and based from Tangier or Smith Island, students will investigate the threat of sea level rise tied to climate change. From glacial rebound to the impact of a meteor strike millions of years ago to melting glaciers, factors affecting water levels in the Chesapeake Bay are complex and dynamic. Students will engage in hands-on investigations, real world simulations, and utilize digital mapping software to understand the impact of sea level change.

Away overnight Sunday-Tuesday, ends on Thursday

Difficulty: 3Comfort: 4

Philosophy of Nature

Philosophy of Nature—American literary greats were inspired by their time in nature and created the transcendentalist movement. Spend three days immersed in nature as you backpack along the Appalachian Trail and go spelunking in the Chesapeake watershed karst region.

Away overnight Monday-Thursday

Difficulty: 5Comfort: 5

Comparative Watershed Trips

5 seats available: Narragansett Bay—The Narragansett Bay shares our “Save the Bay” slogan but what else does it share? Students will compare and contrast the issues facing this analogous system during the weeklong trip to Rhode Island. Students will stay on Prudence Island at the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and have the opportunity to visit Brown University.

Away overnight Sunday-Friday

Difficulty: 3Comfort: 4

Trip is fully enrolled: Everglades—A river of grass flows across the southern tip of Florida and creates a unique and rich ecosystem. Students will kayak and camp in the mangroves that form the boundary between land and sea before traveling to Miami to work with the Miami Riverkeeper to understand the threats to Biscayne Bay and see how Miami and Miami Beach are grappling with sea level rise.

Away overnight Sunday-SaturdayDifficulty: 5Comfort: 4/5

Difficulty Rating


Day trips, minimal physical activity

Day or short overnight trips, walking/standing for 1-2 hours

Overnight trip, standing/walking for 4-5 hours daily

Overnight trip, standing/walking/climbing/paddling for 5-6 hours daily

Overnight backcountry trip with standing/walking/paddling/climbing for 6-8 hours daily

Comfort Rating

1 2 3 4 5
Day Trips Day or short overnight trips, hotel, flush toilets and showers Overnight trip with guest house/motel accommodations Overnight trip with bunkhouse accommodations, composting toilets, no showers.

Overnight trip with tent/backcountry accommodations & primitive bathroom facilities (or lack thereof)