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Making connections with oysters

Seventh grade students from St. Clare Walker Middle School sort fish they trawled from the Rappahannock River during a trip onboard the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “Bea Hayman Clark.” (Photo by Kim Olsen)

by Bethany Smith and Kim Olsen,
Urbanna Marine Science
Legacy Program Coordinators

We have welcomed fall in Middlesex County with an abundance of wind and rain, but that hasn’t dampened our spirits or our excitement for the upcoming Urbanna Oyster Festival.

In fact, despite the wind and rain, local 4th grade, 7th grade, and high school students have been busy exploring Urbanna Creek and the Rappahannock River aboard the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s deadrise “Bea Hayman Clark.”

These field experiences are organized by the Marine Science Legacy Program of the Urbanna Oyster Festival, in combination with a “license plate” grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. These trips enhance classroom curriculum by immersing students in hands-on learning about the creeks and rivers that border many of their homes. 

But, the learning doesn’t stop with a single day on the water. The 4th grade students spent classroom time learning about oysters as a supplement to their participation in not just boat trips, but also to prepare them for Oyster Festival Education Day, and Oyster Festival. 

The Urbanna Oyster Festival is to many a time to reconnect with old friends, and relish oysters raw, fried, and Rockefeller. It is also a time to connect learning and discovery. The Marine Science Legacy Program (MSLP), the branch of the Oyster Festival Foundation charged with providing educational opportunities and resources for local students and the general public, has been hard at work recruiting volunteers from local businesses, schools, local and state government organizations, and environmental non-profit groups to exhibit at the Urbanna Town Marina during Oyster Festival Education Day on Thursday, October 31, and on Friday and Saturday, November 1-2, of Oyster Festival. 

This year more than 250 local students and teachers will gather for Education Day at the Urbanna Waterfront for hands-on mini lessons that focus on local history, ecology, fisheries and restoration efforts. This year, the MSLP will feature “Buyboats: Hauling the Bay’s Harvest”—the “F.D. Crockett” from the Deltaville Maritime Museum, “Peggy” of New Point from the Mathews Maritime Foundation, buyboats “Thomas J” and “Nellie Crockett,” and the modern workboat “Pyxis” from the Oyster Company of Virginia will be docked at the waterfront. 

The fun does not end after Education Day. Many Education Day exhibitors stay for the weekend and new ones arrive as well. This year’s waterfront exhibitors include Oyster Company of Virginia/Oysters for Life, Ready Reef Inc., Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program, Tidewater Soil, Water, and Natural Resources Conservation District, Friends of the Rappahannock, Tidewater Oyster Gardener’s Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Middlesex Elementary School, Christchurch School, Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, Virginia Tech Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Shores & Ruark/Middlesex Museum, Yorktown Watermen’s Museum/Captain John Smith National Historic Water Trail, Virginia Marine Resources Commission-Fisheries Management Division, The Mariner’s Museum, Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 62, Seaworthy Small Ships, Nellie Crockett, and Propwash. 

The F.D. Crockett, Peggy, Pyxis, Nellie Crockett, Thomas J, and Propwash will be open for public tours on Friday and Saturday of Oyster Festival. 

You too can help support the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund by purchasing your own “Friend of the Chesapeake” license plate.

posted 10.30.2013

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