By Maya Pottiger
Chesapeake High School students were offered a new club this year: the Conservation Club.
“We realized that there’s a club for sports, and there’s a club for band and music, but there wasn’t something for people who like to be outdoors and do stuff for conservation issues,” said Stephanie Owens, the academic adviser for the Conservation Club and a teacher at Chesapeake High School.
Owens worked with Melissa Bajadek, the director of the Signature program, to create the Conservation Club at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
“We’re trying to gear it toward kids who have an interest in our area — the Chesapeake Bay area — because they really don’t understand all the resources we have near us,” Owens said.
The Conservation Club meets during a free block on Fridays. Students are not required to attend, but many do. The club has grown from eight students to 32 members since September.
“Everybody feels like they can put their input in on how to help,” said CHS sophomore Savannah Davis. “It definitely will help the environment if we all put our hands in and work together. I think the club will make a change in our environment.”
The Conservation Club connects students to real-world opportunities. The Friday meetings have featured several guest speakers: an officer from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; someone from the Baltimore Zoo to discuss conservation issues and endangered turtles; and, coming up, a veterinarian from Huffard Animal Hospital will talk to the students who are interested in becoming veterinarians.
“One of the reasons for me to join this was to get more ideas of what I could do with [my interest] because I do know I want to major in something around the topic,” said CHS junior Morgan Gray. “With the guest speakers explaining their jobs and stuff, it helps me see what they actually do.”
In addition to guest speakers, the Conservation Club also takes field trips. On one trip, students went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. to learn about the coral reef systems.
The most popular activity was through the Coastal Conservation Association. Students made reef balls out of concrete and learned about how the reef balls benefit the bay.
“They got to do it from the beginning where they set it all up, they mixed the concrete, they got to see the final product,” Owens said. “They realized it’s a habitat for all creatures in the bay. They got really excited once they realized, ‘Oh, I did that?’”
The project was so popular that students are visiting the oyster hatchery in Cambridge in April.
Another upcoming project is researching and cleaning up the local bog.
“[Conservation Club] is a place where they fit in with others that have the same passions as them,” Owens said. “I have a lot of great kids in here that have a lot of imagination and drive, and they have goals. They’re going somewhere, I promise.”