Educators Paddle Length Of Chesapeake Bay To Raise Awareness

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Last year, Chris Hopkinson and Bryan Kent Gomes braved all weather and water conditions and traveled the entire 215-mile length of the Chesapeake Bay to raise money for the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Inspired by their journey, Broadneck High School educator Stacy Roth coordinated a team of educators from the Broadneck peninsula to embark on their own relay paddle.

Over the span of eight days, with the help of Kent Gomes and Hopkinson, 34 educators split into teams and traveled six to nine miles each to raise awareness and funds for the Chesapeake Bay.

“It's a lot of moving parts to figure out how to get 34 teachers down the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay over eight different days,” said Roth.

Over the summer, the educators trained on their own or in small groups to prepare for the trip. Their levels of experience range from seasoned kayakers to people who are excited to try something new.

“I've never done anything like this, so I want to start getting into more of that,” said Ross Focca, a teacher at Windsor Farm Elementary School. “Like trying to save the bay.”

The waters were unpredictable, especially with Hurricane Ida making its way to Maryland during paddle, so Roth stressed that the educators would not have to do anything that made them uncomfortable. The first group of paddlers left from Havre de Grace, Maryland, at the top of the Chesapeake Bay on August 27, and the final group ended the journey on September 3 at the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Charles, Virginia. On Wednesday, September 1, the remnants of Hurricane Ida kept one group out of the water due to safety concerns, but the paddle was back on the next day.

The team raised more than $14,000, which will be split equally between the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

“This is a cool opportunity to raise money and have fun and enjoy the sights of the bay as a team,” said Diane Casey from Broadneck High School. “I hope the kids see that they don't have to do the traditional soup kitchen; they don't have to do a GoFundMe. I hope It kind of makes them start thinking inside the box.”

Roth stressed four important lessons that she hopes the community and students take away from this paddle: mental preparedness and wellness, physical preparedness and preparing for the elements, the importance of environmental stewardship and the importance of community service. All of the educators agree that alongside raising awareness and money to benefit the Chesapeake Bay, bringing these lessons back to their classrooms and inspiring their students is the goal.

“It's an intimidating process and it seems like a really cool connection for them to learn about it,” said Erin Gosman of Belvedere Elementary. “We can inspire them to not be afraid to sign up for activities that are on the water, and to improve the health of that water.”

The team is excited to talk to their students about their experience. As residents of the Broadneck peninsula, these waterways are all around them, so they want the students to know the importance of protecting it.

“Experiencing something for yourself is the best way for students to have that real-life connection to something that's so important,” said Nik Jones from Belvedere Elementary. “We can tell them we've been in the bay, and this is why it's important that we keep it healthy.”

Anyone who is interested in meeting the educators who braved these waters to raise awareness and teach their students the importance of environmental stewardship is welcome to stop by The Point Crab House and Grill on September 13. The educators will share stories from the paddle and talk more about the missions of the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Chesapeake Conservancy. A portion of the sales from the night will benefit the team fundraiser. To follow along with more events and updates from the teacher team, check out the “Broadneck Peninsula Paddler” public Facebook group. To learn more about the Bay Paddle, visit www.baypaddle.org.

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