QUEEN ANNE, Md.- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and former U.S. Congressman Wayne Gilchrest have created a new partnership to create an environmental education and agro-ecology program at Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area in Kent County.
The purpose of the program is to connect Maryland's children with nature and to explore potential models for innovative agricultural activities supporting both local food supply and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The partnership is set to begin in October and will involve developing a range of outdoor experiential education activities for children.
"This partnership presents a great opportunity for Maryland children," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "Through environmental education programs like this one, we are not only setting the standard for exposing kids to the natural world, but also creating the next generation of stewards, who will be charged with continuing and advancing our work, turning around the Bay."
"This is an exciting time for environmental education playing a prominent role in our public schools and I'm excited to be a part of this partnership to help improve our destiny," said Congressman Gilchrest.
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is a regional conservation organization dedicated to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore. This new pilot program will further ESLC's efforts to focus energy on access to land and engaging youth and their families in these activities. ESLC's educational efforts, which will complement and collaborate with the planning for the Sassafras site, will work to ensure that children engage with the Eastern Shore and find ways to explore their rural heritage, via outings, essay/art contests, scholarship contests, youth volunteer opportunities, a soon to be developed ESLC Kids website and a youth newsletter.
"This opportunity could not have come at a better time as we are elevating our programs to connect kids— our future leaders— with our activities. Engaging them in this kind of hands-on educational opportunity will only help us continue to ensure the Eastern Shore's rural legacy and tradition of thriving small towns is maintained for many generations to come." said ESLC's Executive Director Rob Etgen. "We are so excited to open our activities up at such a broad level and are grateful to Congressman Gilchrest and the Department of Natural Resource for this amazing partnership opportunity."
"Supporting the well-being of children, by connecting them with the outdoors and inspiring their love and stewardship of natural places, is central to the mission of the Maryland Park Service. We look forward to working with the ESLC and former Congressman Gilchrest to provide opportunities for children in Kent County and throughout the Eastern Shore to discover and learn about the natural, cultural and agricultural resources of Sassafras Natural Resource Management Area" said Nita Settina, Superintendent of the Maryland Park Service.
To ensure all Maryland young people have the opportunity to connect with their natural world and grow to become informed and responsible stewards, Governor Martin O'Malley established the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature in 2008. Under the initiative, which is now being used as a national model, the Governor created the Maryland Civic Justice Corps, a summer work program for at risk youth; issued the Maryland Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights; and helped shepherd the State Board of Education's approval of environmental education as part of the State's voluntary curriculum requirements for all Maryland Students, as recommended by the partnership.