Chesapeake Bay Studies

May 20-24, 2024

By using the Chesapeake Bay as a microcosm, Chesapeake Bay Studies (Bay Studies) increases awareness of the Chesapeake Bay and our relationship and responsibility to the natural environment. Students develop a deep sense of history and understanding of economic and social issues.

Bay Studies incorporates all disciplines in its exploration of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. A week long program, Bay Studies draws on both outside agencies such as Outward Bound, Echo Hill Outdoor School, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Sultana Foundation, as well as Gunston's own faculty to explore the various components of life in and around the 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, computer analysis, and lots and lots of fun.


  • Daily bus and van transportation will occur at the normal bus times
  • Transportation is provided for all off-campus and overnight travel. 
  • Carpooling groups may be assigned together to facilitate transportation 


Difficulty rating system

1: Day trips, minimal physical activity
2: Day or short overnight trips, walking/standing for 1-2 hours
3: Overnight trip, standing/walking for 4-5 hours daily
4: Overnight trip, standing/ walking/ climbing/paddling for 5-6 hours daily
5: Overnight backcountry trip with standing/walking/paddling/climbing for 6-8 hours daily

Comfort Rating

1: Day trips
2: Day or short overnight trips, hotel, flush toilets and showers
3: Overnight trip with guest house/motel accommodations 
4: Overnight trip with bunkhouse accommodations,  composting toilets, no showers.
5: Overnight trip with tent/backcountry accommodations & primitive bathroom facilities (or lack thereof)


9th & 10th Grade 

Chesapeake Heritage

Driving Question: How have boats been used to travel and fish the Bay?

In partnership with Echo Hill Outdoors School, live aboard two historic vessels, the skipjack Elsworth and buy boat Annie D while immersed in life on the Chester River. Live along the water while experiencing the Heritage of the Chesapeake Bay. 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 the Chesapeake's natural/human history and culture during a four-night stay aboard the Annie D.  and the Elsworth.

Away Overnight (Sunday - Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 2  | Comfort: 4

Nature Experience with Echo Hill Outdoor School

Driving Question: What kinds of ecosystems can be found along the Chesapeake Bay and how do they function?

During lessons on our adventure/challenge course, in our nature preserve and its freshwater swamp, and around the waterways and fields of rural Kent County, participants will experience a ‘eureka’ moment when their classroom environmental science lessons jump out of the textbook and into real life—the foundation of environmental literacy. This program aims to form a practical understanding of the environment based on hands-on experiences, and through them, to help each student grow their sense of self-reliance, confidence, and independence.

Day Trips (Monday - Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 2  |  Comfort: 2/3

Oysters for the Bay 

Driving Questions: What role do oysters play in restoring the health of the Bay and how are they impacted by climate change?

This program, led in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, takes students to study and stay on Smith Island where students research and experience the Bay first hand. Day trips on Thursday and Friday further explore the role of oysters in restoring the Bay. 

Day trip Monday, Overnight Tuesday - Thursday  |  Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 3

Forests for the Bay 

Driving Question: What role do forests play in the health of the Chesapeake Bay and how are forests being impacted by climate change?

Led in partnership with 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, by getting out on the water and mucking around in the marsh. Day trips on Monday and Friday will introduce students to the parameters by which Bay health is measured and the importance of forest in protecting the Bay. 

Day trip Monday, Overnight Tuesday - Thursday | Difficulty: 3 | Comfort: 3

Patricia Campbell Research Vessel Chesapeake Bay FOundation

Early History and Geology of the Bay

Driving Question(s): 

  1. How have geological processes shaped the Chesapeake Bay region over thousands of years, and what insights do they offer into its environmental history?
  2. What archaeological evidence exists within the Chesapeake Bay area, and how can it help us understand the lives and cultures of early human inhabitants?
  3. How do geology and archaeology enhance our understanding of the dynamic relationship between humans and the environment in the Chesapeake Bay region throughout history?

Embark on a captivating journey through time, delving into the geological and archaeological treasures of the Chesapeake Bay. Dive into hands-on experiences as we uncover the ancient secrets hidden beneath the Bay's waters and shores, exploring how its geological formations and archaeological findings offer insight into early human history and environmental changes.

Day trips (Monday - Thursday) | Difficulty: 2 | Comfort: 1    *Open to 9th, 10th, and 11th

Ecology of the Upper Chesapeake

Driving Question: What is the state of the Chester River watershed?

Led in partnership with Sultana Education Foundation, explore the Delmarva Peninsula and its quiet and scenic waterways by canoe as you paddle key stretches of the Chester River. Students finish the week understanding how the health of the Bay is assessed and experience the Bay firsthand.

Day Trips (Monday - Thursday) | Difficulty 2 | Comfort 2/3

The Ecology of Invasive and Native Species

Driving Question: How do invasive species impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay?

Native and invasive species are an important part of the history, ecology and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay. Join staff in a physically active exploration, deep diving into invasive species and their impact on Bay ecology. You will see how invasives interact  and compete with the native species of the Bay. Every day, you will be hiking, biking, or kayaking in a new location, studying a new species, and making connections along the way. 

Day Trips (Monday - Thursday) | Difficulty 2 | Comfort 2/3


10th & 11th Grade 


Immersion into the Ecology and History of the Chesapeake Bay

Driving Question: What is the history of resource use on the Delmarva peninsula and what are the current and future strategies for sustainable resource use?

Offered in partnership with Sultana Education Foundation, this course will examine past and present ecological practices and investigate further strategies for sustainable resource use. The week offers students who love to fish and explore the opportunity to learn more about the science and history that underlie the nature of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Students will travel all over the Delmarva peninsula to investigate current and past relationships with fisheries, wildlife and land use. Students will camp, kayak, and explore areas near Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and Janes Island State Park. 

Away overnight (Sunday - Thursday) | Difficulty: 3 | Comfort: 5       

Harriet Tubman Museum

African American History 

Driving Question: Whose history is the history of the Chesapeake Bay? 

African Americans have played a vital role in the history and development of the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore. Through visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C, The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, and various historical places in Annapolis, students will come to a closer understanding of the importance of African Americans in the development of the region and the struggles they faced. A culminating project will focus on local African American history. 

Day Trips (Monday - Thursday) | Difficulty: 1 | Comfort: 1


From Colonization to Globalization

Driving Question: Why is the Chesapeake Bay region so important to contemporary global history?

Over the past 400 years, the Chesapeake Bay region has been central to the major forces of political, economic, military, agricultural, environmental & climate, and social development on the North American continent and beyond. This trip seeks to explore how the Chesapeake region transitioned from its Native American roots to becoming a ‘global superpower’ by visiting Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Norfolk & the Nauticus Museum, Charlottesville (home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello) and Washington, DC. 

Away overnight (Sunday - Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 3 *open to 10th, 11th & 12th

Iron Chef Bay Studies 2021

Iron Chef, Chesapeake

Driving Question: How is food grown, produced, and served in our region?

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 trips (Monday - Thursday) |  Difficulty: 1  |  Comfort: 1

Book Binding

Book Binding and the Bay

Driving Question: How can the written word convey a sense of place?

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 maker spaces and have the opportunity to explore bookbinding, printmaking, and the written word while completing an innovative portfolio including but not limited to watercolor, sketching, and poetry.

Day trips (Monday - Thursday) |  Difficulty: 1  |  Comfort: 1

Philosophy of Nature

Driving Question: What are the connections between literature and wilderness?

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 and philosophize on the transcendental wisdom waiting to be discovered in the nature surrounding us.

Away Overnight (Monday - Thursday) |  Difficulty: 5  |  Comfort: 5


11th & 12th Grade 

Climate Innovations: Solutions and Adaptations

Driving Questions: How is climate change impacting the Bay? What are the solutions and adaptations in place to help create more resilient communities? 

Explore the ways that climate change will impact the Bay and the ways that various groups and individuals are planning, mitigating, and adapting to the issues. The trip will include more local explorations of Kent Island and Blackwater to learn about how sea-level rise, flooding, and storm surges are impacting our direct communities. But, this trip will likely include a visit to Ocean City to learn about how a major city on the ocean is planning and designing for flooding and natural disasters. The group will also make site visits to learn about green architecture, design, and engineering. 

Day Trips (Monday - Thursday) |  Difficulty: 2-3  |  Comfort: 1-2

Islands Out of Time

Driving Questions: How are the Bay’s islands impacted by climate change?

Offered in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and based on Tangier, 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.  

Day trip Monday, Overnight Tuesday-Thursday | Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 4

Climate Change and Agriculture

Driving Question: How are climate change and agricultural practices connected?

Investigate how climate change is impacting  agriculture in this hands-on course. Agriculture is one of the leading industries on the Eastern Shore and as such is a leading contributor of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, agricultural practices and engaging with farmers needs to be part of the solution. Students will visit farms, talk with stakeholders, and make connections between climate science and farming. 

Day trips Monday, -Thursday | Difficulty: 2-3  |  Comfort: 1-2

Eastern Shore of Virginia

Eastern Shore of Virginia

Driving Questions: How is the Eastern Shore of Virginia being impacted by climate change and what social and environmental factors exist to make the region more resilient? 

Students who join this trip will explore the very southern reaches of the Delmarva peninsula. This region provides students the opportunity to compare and contrast the Chesapeake Bay with the nearby ocean and barrier island environment. Students will experience paddles, scientific collection, barrier island visits, and historical studies in order to understand the relative level of resilience these areas have against climate change.

Away overnight (Sunday- Friday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 3

The Ecology School, Saco, Maine - SPOTS AVAILABLE

Driving Question: How is the Gulf of Maine being impacted by climate change and what measures are being taken to combat it?

Students who join the Maine trip will spend the week at The Ecology School in Saco, Maine. The group will have the opportunity to explore the ecosystem, culture, and economy of the communities lining the Gulf of Maine, a body of water that is facing extreme rates of warming. Students will get out in the field daily to explore topics of climate science, forest and marine ecology, and fisheries. They will paddle on the Saco River, play in the tidepools, and wander the woods. The group will make a site visit to the marine lab at the University of New England and spend a whole day in Portland.  Through these explorations, the group will consistently see the parallels, but also the differences, between Maine the Bay. 

Away overnight (Sunday- Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 4

Grand Isle, Louisiana - NO SPOTS AVAILABLE

Driving Question: How if the Gulf of Mexico being impacted by climate change and what measures are being taken to combat it?

Students who join the Louisiana trip will spend the week on Grand Isle with Dr. Asprion, a native of New Orleans. Dr. Asprion spent the weekends and summers in Grand Isle at his family home, aka ‘the Camp’, since he was born. This tiny, 8-mile island in the Gulf of Mexico, has endured some of the biggest natural disasters to hit the US gulf coast: Hurricane Katrina (2005), the BP Oil Spill (2010), and most recently Hurricane Ida (2021). The group will explore the topics of climate change and coastal resilience by learning about the oyster industry on the Gulf, coastal erosion, natural disasters, and sea level rise. There are truly few other better places to explore these topics than Grand Isle. 

Away overnight (Sunday - Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 3