Learning about the urban bay
Some students from Washington College visited Fort McHenry last week. But it wasn't your ordinary history field trip.
The youngsters from the Eastern Shore campus were visiting Baltimore as part of an interdisciplinary study of the Chesapeake Bay -- its history, ecology and culture.
The class of 11 got a close-up view of urban environmental issues, hiking through the small restored wetland beside the fort, and seining on the postage-stamp sandy beach there.
"There's a lot of trash here," Liz Shandor, a junior from Annapolis, said as she surveyed the debris floating in the water and lining the beach. Indeed, the students' biggest "catch" in the net was a submerged, mud-filled plastic toolcase.
The day before, the class had visited Masonville cove to learn about efforts to restore a stretch of degraded industrial waterfront. Then they spent some time at the National Aquarium. Earlier this fall, the class did a circuit of the bay, from the Virginia capes to Jamestown and Williamsburg, Richmond, St. Mary's City and Annapolis.
As a longtime Marylander, Shandor said she'd been to many of the spots the class visited before, but this was a new perspective.
"I never really appreciated the Bay until I'd been in this class," the junior said. "I feel like I'd never really known my backyard before." An anthropology major, she said she'd like to delve deeper into the declining culture of the bay's watermen.
Anthropology Associate Professor John Seidel, director of the Chesapeake Semester, said the program tries to broaden students' appreciation of the bay and its woes.
"The problem with the bay is not a lack of science," he said. "It's a human problem, a social problem."
For more on the college's Chesapeake Semester, go here.
(Photo by Michael Hardesty, Chesapeake Semester program manager)