Currently, the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center campus in Tilghman, Maryland is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not sure when we will reopen to the public, but we want to assure you that we are keeping busy adapting to the new way of educating our community.
A large part of why we are closed is because of the changing nature of education right now. Maryland’s public schools were closed in mid-March and remained closed for the rest of the school year. It is still unclear what measures will be implemented for the 2020/2021 school year, but it is unlikely that there will be any field trips. Social distancing measures will likely limit the number of students allowed to travel on a single bus, thus increasing costs for schools to send students to field trip sites. In addition, as a way to limit the potential for outsiders to bring COVID-19 into schools, schools will likely regulate who can and cannot be on campus, meaning organizations like Phillips Wharf will be unable to bring our physical programming to students. In addition, it will likely be some time before we see the type of large events to which we normally bring our traveling aquarium, the Fishmobile.
For this reason, we are working on a variety of alternative programs. First, we hope to develop interactive video based curriculum for classrooms. Having recently put together a Virtual Fishmobile program that was utilized by every 4th grade class in the Talbot County Public School system, we are learning how to develop and improve virtual programming. Depending on the technology available, our virtual programs may involve students being guided virtually by a staff member via video conferencing as they dissect oysters in their classroom with tools, worksheets, and oysters being dropped off at the school by Phillips Wharf staff. Alternatively, it may be that pre-recorded lessons work best, so students will watch as a Phillips Wharf educator takes them on a tour of an oyster farm or underwater seagrass bed with post-activities led by the teacher in the classroom. We intend to work closely with teachers and their school systems to develop programs that will fit their needs.
Second, we plan to offer our science expertise for parents who will be homeschooling their children for the foreseeable future. Parents and homeschool groups will be able to schedule science based lesson plans with our staff, allowing those who don’t have a strong science background to still provide quality learning opportunities to their children.
And while our campus is closed this summer, we still want to encourage summer fun and learning. To this end, we are releasing a themed activity book and optional companion box to help keep your younger students entertained this summer. Our first activity book, focusing on turtles, will be available mid-June and is designed for children ages 6 to 10. This box will include our Terrapin Trouble activity that gets your child running around outside, an association based turtle scavenger hunt to get your child thinking about how different things are related to turtles, several art activities, activity sheets, a postcard, and a kid-friendly turtle ID guide for species found around the Chesapeake Bay, which you can take with you on your next outdoor excursion. The optional companion box will include all the supplies needed to complete the activities in a convenient kit if you don't feel like searching for the materials on your own.
Our goal is to help you and your families keep learning and celebrating the Chesapeake Bay, even as we navigate keeping each other safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are always working to develop new ideas, so if you want to share your thoughts on what type of virtual programming or distance activities you’d like to see, please email [email protected]
________ Dr. Kristen Lycett PhD
Phillips Wharf Fishmobile Coordinator
Phillips Wharf’s newest staff member and marine estuarine scientist Dr. Kristen Lycett fills the role of Fishmobile Coordinator. She is currently on loan to us from Americorps until August when we hope to secure her full time. Lycett received her Ph.D. from the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where she studied the parasite Hematodinium perezi, which infects blue crabs and other crustaceans.