Chesapeake Bay Studies

Bay Studies 2023

May 22-26, 2023

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

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 stay on board the Annie D. and the skipjack Elsworth.
Driving Question: How have boats been used to travel and fish the Bay?
Away Overnight (Monday-Friday)  |  Difficulty: 2  | Comfort: 4

Oysters for the Bay 

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 Monday and Friday further explore the role of oysters in restoring the Bay. 
Driving questions: What role do oysters play in restoring the health of the Bay and how are they impacted by climate change?
Away overnight (Monday - Wednesday) Thursday & Friday day trips  |  Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 3

Forests for the Bay 

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. Day trips on Thursday and Friday will introduce students to the parameters by which Bay health is measured and the importance of forest in protecting the Bay. 
Driving questions: What role do forests play in the health of the Chesapeake Bay and how are forests being impacted by climate change?
Away overnight (Tuesday-Thursday) Monday & Friday Day Trips |  Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 3

The Bay Report Card 

Students will explore the Eastern Shore to understand this unique part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Through a series of day trips, students will investigate how clean waterways provide ecological, economical, and cultural benefits to our communities. Students will visit pristine natural places and the areas in our communities being restored through living shorelines, habitat restoration, and pollution reducing projects. Students will engage with a variety of professionals doing the work to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Driving questions: What are the issues impacting our Eastern Shore communities and what are the solutions to restoring water quality and habitat in our region?
Day Trips (Monday - Friday)  |  Difficulty: 2  |  Comfort: 1

Ecology of the Upper Chesapeake

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.
Driving Question: What is the state of the Chester River watershed? 
Day Trips (Monday - Friday) | Difficulty 2 | Comfort 2/3

The Ecology of Invasives

Invasive species are an important part of the history, ecology and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay. Join staff in physically active exploration, deep diving into invasive species and their impact on Bay ecology. Every day, you will be hiking, biking, or kayaking in a new location, studying a new species, and making connections along the way.
Driving Question: How do invasive species impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay?
Day Trips (Monday - Friday) | Difficulty 2 | Comfort 2/3


10th & 11th Grade 


Immersion into the Ecology and History of the Chesapeake Bay

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. 
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?
Away overnight (Monday-Friday)  | Difficulty: 3    Comfort: 5       

Harriet Tubman Museum

African American History 

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. 
Driving Question: Who’s history is the history of the Chesapeake Bay? 
Day Trips (Monday - Friday)  | Difficulty: 1    Comfort: 1


From Colonization to Globalization

Over the past 400 years, the Chesapeake Bay region has been central to the major forces of political, economic, military, agricultural, environmental and 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, Naval Station Norfolk & the Nauticus Museum, Pamplin Historical Park (called "the new crown jewel of Civil War sites in America" by Pulitzer prize-winning historian James M. McPherson of Princeton University), James Madison's Montpelier, and Washington D.C. 
Driving Question: Why is the Chesapeake Bay region so important to contemporary global history?
Away overnight Sunday - Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 3

Iron Chef Bay Studies 2021

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.
Driving Question: How is food grown, produced, and served in our region?
Day trips (Monday - Friday) |  Difficulty: 1/2  |  Comfort: 1

Book Binding

Book Binding and the Bay

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.
Driving Question: How can the written word convey a sense of place?
Day trips |  Difficulty: 1  |  Comfort: 1

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 and philosophize on the transcendental wisdom waiting to be discovered in the nature surrounding us.
Driving Question: What are the connections between literature and wilderness?
Away Overnight (Monday-Thursday) |  Difficulty: 5  |  Comfort: 5


11th & 12th Grade 
Eastern Shore agriculture

Climate Change in Agriculture

Investigating 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. 
Driving Question: How are climate change and agricultural practices connection?
Day Trips (Monday - Friday) |  Difficulty: 2-3  |  Comfort: 1-2

Islands Out of Time

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 use digital mapping software to understand the impact of sea-level change.
Driving Question: How are the Bay's islands impacted by climate change?
Away overnight (Monday - Wednesday) Day Trips (Thursday & Friday) Difficulty: 3  |  Comfort: 4

Eastern Shore of Virginia

Eastern Shore of Virginia

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.    
Driving Question: 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?
Away overnight (Monday- Friday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 3

Schoodic and Blue Hill, Maine - 1 SPOT AVAILABLE

Students who join the Maine trip will spend the first half of the week at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, Maine and the second half of the week with the famed Everdells in Blue Hill, 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, fisheries, and even add to an invasive crab survey. Through this exploration, the group will consistently see the parallels, but also the differences, between Maine and the Bay.
Driving Question: How is the Gulf of Maine being impacted climate change and what measures are being taken to combat it?
Away overnight (Sunday- Friday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 3

Grand Isle LA

Grand Isle, Louisiana - NO SPOTS AVAILABLE

Students who join this 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 U.S. 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

Driving Question: How if the Gulf of Mexico being impacted by climate change and what measures are being taken to combat it?
Away overnight (Sunday- Thursday)  |  Difficulty: 3-4  |  Comfort: 3