NOAA BWET Press Release

Phillips Wharf receives 3 year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

EASTON – The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, now located inside Easton Point Park in Easton, MD, has received an $88,000 Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This grant money will be spread out over 3 years and will go towards the creation and implementation of an oyster based Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) for all 4th grade students in the Talbot County Public School (TCPS) system.

“We are thrilled to have been selected for this grant funding,” said Dr. Kristen Lycett, Phillips Wharf’s Executive Director. “Because we are still recovering from the long term effects of a two year closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this funding is really important in that it will help us re-start our field-based program in our new location. We are excited to bring students to our new space so that we can provide them with hands-on learning opportunities.”

The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, previously located in Tilghman, Maryland, has been providing hands-on educational programming since it was founded in 2005 by Executive Director Emerita, Mrs. Kelley Phillips Cox. After becoming a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2007, Phillips Wharf began expanding their programming, including adding the traveling aquarium known as the Fishmobile. Schools and other groups also traveled to the Center in Tilghman to learn about a variety of Chesapeake Bay topics. In 2016, they began an oyster based education program that brought in 4th graders from TCPS.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of the nonprofit and put an end to the oyster program. After selling their holdings in Tilghman in order to survive the shutdown, the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center eventually found a home in Easton Point Park. 

Currently, the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is planning to renovate their new location and turn it into a thriving center for education on environmental topics. “We look forward to having a welcoming space that invites guests in to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and the animals that live here. With our new location in Easton Point Park, guests will also be able to visit the living shoreline once it is completed and learn about restoration projects, launch their boat or kayak and experience the Chesapeake for themselves, or walk along the Easton Rails to Trails and enjoy the fresh air. We’ll also be able to host students from Talbot County and beyond for a variety of field-based programs.”

“Especially exciting is that this grant is providing funding for us to turn our previous oyster program into a full fledged Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE). This type of program allows students to deeply explore a particular topic, including investigating issues, completing a field experience, synthesizing information to develop conclusions, and coming up with a student-led action project to make positive change,” says Dr. Lycett. “This type of program perfectly aligns with our mission to encourage, educate, and engage Chesapeake Bay stewards of all ages. By allowing students to take action, we are supporting their stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay early in their education and the hope is that they’ll continue this work throughout their lives.”

“This NOAA Chesapeake B-WET grant will enable Phillips Wharf to provide MWEEs to all fourth-grade students in Talbot County Public Schools. Phillips Wharf will help Talbot County students learn about the importance of healthy oyster reefs and take actions to support them, which is fitting given that so much oyster restoration work is going on locally in the Tred Avon and Choptank rivers,” said Kevin Schabow, acting director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, which administers Chesapeake B-WET grants. “It’s exciting to see Phillips Wharf reinvigorate their efforts, which will actively engage students in hands-on, student-centered learning experiences that focus on oysters.”

“Everything is covered by the grant, including professional development for the teachers, bus transportation, and in class and in field programs. There’s even some funding to help students bring their action projects to life,” says Dr. Lycett.

“The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement recommends that students participate in at least one MWEE at the elementary school level, one at the middle school level, and one at the high school level. Unfortunately, many schools across the state fall short of that recommendation,” explains Barbara Boyd, Vice President of the Phillips Wharf Board of Directors. “By bringing back this program as a MWEE, we are helping more schools achieve the state Environmental Literacy requirements and continuing Kelley’s legacy of educating local students.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration helps shape policy on oceans, fisheries, climate, space and weather on both a national and international level. They provide reliable environmental data, monitor global weather and climate, and predict and respond to environmental challenges that affect human health, global economies, and the availability of natural resources. The NOAA B-WET program offers funding and resources for environmental education that promotes place based experiential learning throughout the United States. NOAA’s Chesapeake B-WET program, which was established as the first B-WET program in the nation 20 years ago, is managed by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.

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