Projects Promoting Environmental Protection

Reducing Ecological Footprints

Allegany County Public Schools, 2023

Students in grades seven and eight at Mount Savage Middle School completed a service-learning advocacy project during their English classes involving ways to protect the planet and making a donation to Stand for Trees

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
Students took an active role in this service-learning experience to not only raise awareness, but to positively affect the world we live in and make the world a better place for future generations.

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration. 
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. 
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. 
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories). 

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
Students worked diligently conducting research, reading various texts and answering questions. Students reflected on their findings, creating solid plans on how each of them could positively change their habits going forward. They assimilated their new knowledge on sustainability and worked through an ecological footprint calculator to determine their own ecological footprints and its impact for the Earth. Students also compared ecological footprints for people from other nations evaluating how geographical location, culture, and economy affect the footprint. 

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
Students were actively engaged in researching and responding to information on sustainability and ecological footprints. A multimedia approach was utilized in researching and presenting information and students were given the opportunity to utilize technology to create a global footprint for themselves. Students worked cooperatively to read and gather information to present to their peers while analyzing global footprints. Students made connections regarding what humans are doing to the planet Earth and the differences in sustainability in different nations. By researching and assimilating knowledge on the concepts of ecological footprints and sustainability, students gained a broad world view on the importance of taking care of their environment and being proactive in making positive changes not only for themselves and their nation but also the world. Students actively participated in collecting funds for Stand For Trees as part of their own endeavors to improve the environment and help to save the planet Earth.

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships
Students broadened their world view on the environment and what humans are doing to the planet Earth through the many varied activities. The project culminated with students promoting their reduced global footprint on the school level while partnering with a national nonprofit organization Stand for Trees. 

Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
To accomplish this project, reputable organizations were researched in order to choose Stand for Trees as the recipient of collected funds. Information about environmentalism was gathered, and student groupings were planned based on Lexile levels and interest.  

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Students were individually accountable for their own learning with the support of the teacher and in collaboration with peers. Throughout the lessons, students gained an awareness of environmentalism and raised concerns regarding what is currently being done and how they can help.

Green Week to promote environmental awareness and service

Carroll County Public Schools, 2023

During their annual Green Week celebration, students in grades 9 through 12 at South Carroll High School participated in a variety of outdoor service-learning projects  during their advisory time.

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
Green Week service activities included tree and native species planting, weeding, mulching, and trash collection on the South Carroll High School campus and nearby Mayeski Park. 

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning
Students promoted environmental awareness through the completion of a Schoolyard Environmental Report Card, upcycling, and a stream evaluation. 

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
Students reflected on the environmental health of their school campus.

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
Students were given freedom to move freely about the school campus to complete their service projects for Service Day. South Carroll agricultural students brought in farm animals and presented agricultural demonstrations for the AG Day portion of Green Week. 

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships
Gina Felter, Carroll County Public Schools Outdoor School principal, gave a Raptor and Reptile presentation to students. 

Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
Green Team members coordinated events, publicized the activities, and set up materials needed for each activity. Students and teachers signed up for daily events and each advisory class chose a service project to complete.

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Students were given any necessary instructions for their tasks in their advisory classes and applied environmental knowledge they have learned in academic classes.

Raising Awareness to Protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Charles County Public Schools, 2023

Seventh graders at the Matthew Henson Middle School completed a three–part science service-learning project that involved advocacy, indirect action, and direct action to protect the Chesapeake Bay.  

  1. Instruction was designed to help students better understand the region of the Chesapeake Watershed and its impact on the environment of the mid-Atlantic. Students used this information to produce and publish public service announcements and brochures encouraging environmentally friendly practices within the school and local community. 
  2. Students studied the watershed needs in relation to the school community and grounds. They chose a particular sustainable practice project to clean-up or enhance the environment of the school grounds such as garbage collection, plant and garden maintenance, and recycling. 
  3. Students researched the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education programs and actively participated in clean-up and maintenance efforts at specific sites within the county.

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
Through public service announcements, brochures, and video programs, students were able to raise awareness of the need to protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. They created and maintained environmentally sustainable practices within their own school community through recycling, garden planting and maintenance, trail development (when appropriate), trash collection and disposal, etc. Students also helped the greater community efforts to maintain and clean the Chesapeake Bay through their participation in the Nanjemoy Creek and Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts. 

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning
Students had multiple opportunities to prepare, discuss, engage, and reflect on the standards for science and STEM with other students, staff, and the local community through the implementation of this project. These standards included the following objectives. 

The students will: identify a given problem involving biodiversity and/or ecosystem services that is being solved by the given design solutions, including information about why biodiversity and/or ecosystem services are necessary to maintaining a healthy ecosystem;  identify and describe the additional evidence (in the form of data, information, or other appropriate forms) that is relevant to the problem, design solutions, and evaluation of the solutions;  use scientific evidence to compare the ability of each of the competing design solutions to maintain ecosystem stability and biodiversity;  assess possible side effects of the given design solutions on other aspects of the ecosystem, including the possibility that a small change in one component of an ecosystem can produce a large change in another component of the ecosystem.

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
Individually and in collaborative groups, students completed research reports on the biodiversity and endangered species that are part of the Chesapeake Watershed system. Part of these reports involved students’ assessments and reflections on the condition of the watershed. These reflections were used to create the public service announcements, brochures, etc. Students were also required to complete activity journals,  which contained important action steps taken in the school-based and community projects, as well as reflections on what was learned and how the project and learning contribute to the community.

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
Students were given the primary responsibility of determining the nature of the service-learning project at the school level, and what resources (human, capital, and otherwise) were necessary to complete the project. With teacher guidance, students held the primary responsibility for identifying the needs, completing the preparation processes and the action component of the project, and initiating communication regarding all parts of the project, including those with agency partners that contributed to the program.

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships

  • Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center – The NCEEC provides staff that visits the school and provides background information on the environmental issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay region. They also use their own instructional resources to train teachers and students how to implement lessons that help students do initial research, as well as template documents that provide students guidance in the action and reflection portions of the project. The program coordinators and staff also assist with the communication and distribution of public service announcements and brochures. 
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation – The CBF Save the Bay program is an essential third component of this service-learning project. The web based instructional resources are used to provide additional instructional activities and resources for the preparation portion of the project. 
  • Alice Ferguson Foundation (Bridging the Watershed) Program – Instructional resources and  activities are used by this agency that add to the research for this project.

Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
Students took the lead in inviting speakers from the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center, communicated with administration about each component of the project and obtained approvals, and contacted other participating agencies such as the CBF and the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s “Bridging the Watershed” program. Student research and planning was a vital feature to the entire project. Resources to assist with the planning were available through the agency unit/lesson materials including Exploring the State of the Bay student’s investigation, Backyard Report Card Activity, Water Quality Testing, Schoolyard Report Card, Reducing Sediment in Streams Resources, and others.

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Research was conducted using instructional resources on the CBF and Alice Ferguson Foundation web pages. Lessons embedded in the 7th grade curriculum that encourage Science and STEM initiatives and standards were also part of the preparation, action, and reflection components. The students were able to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they acquired throughout the project to participate fully in its completion. Through this service-learning project, students developed an awareness of the need to recycle, prevent littering, the importance of “going green,” and the essential role that the Chesapeake Watershed has for the region. The research they conducted and the information they gathered through their interaction with the public service and outreach programs were important to their greater understanding and appreciation of their own role in protecting and preserving natural resources.

Watershed Walk Advocacy Project for the Chesapeake Bay

Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, 2023

Fourth graders at Church Hill Elementary School (CHES) in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools (QACPS)  were involved in various learning activities related to the Chesapeake Bay and the Watershed.  They learned from Maryland Environmental Services, Sultana Education Foundation, our science and reading books, and other supplementary resources.  At the end of the school year, 4th graders chose an area of expertise, put together a presentation, and shared the presentation with each of the four younger grades in the school as part of a guided "Watershed Walk" around the school.

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
Fourth grade students taught younger students about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay.

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning

The student will investigate and analyze environmental issues ranging from local to global perspectives and develop and implement a local action project that protects, sustains, or enhances the natural environment. 

Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
At the beginning of the program, students reflected on the importance of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and shared prior knowledge of the Bay. Throughout the year, students participated in discussions to check their understanding of how the watershed has changed and why. They identified threats to the bay and reflected on the role they play. After each lesson in the “Changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” students participated in discussions, notes, and exit slips, to check their understanding. After the plan of action was completed, each student wrote a personal reflection to share what they accomplished and how they helped the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
Students took ownership of their learning and were responsible for each component through exit slips, reflection notes, and participation in class discussions. In the planning and delivery of the presentations, students chose what they wanted to do to make the project a success. Students determined their actions based on their personal strengths - speaking, writing, creating, etc. In this way, students felt more invested in the success of the event, which included a nature walk. For the culminating Watershed Walk project, students were able to choose their area of expertise and worked in groups to plan a presentation for the younger grades.  

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships
Sultana Education Foundation - students went on field trips to learn about oysters, Chesapeake Bay history and its watershed, and the Chester River ecology.
Maryland Environmental Services TERP program - Maryland Environmental Services educators visited CHES to teach about Poplar Island and Diamondback Terrapins.

Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
CHES followed the QACPS Environmental Science Curriculum Guide with the unit  “Changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed”. This unit has pieces that are taught throughout the year. We also organized successful field trips to Sultana and Poplar Island to immerse students in the full experience.

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Students practiced their reading, writing, and speaking skills as they completed each phase of the learning. As a result of this project, students also learned how to ask meaningful questions of subject matter experts and community partners. By learning how to interact effectively with a community partner. In future service projects, students will be able to utilize the skill of interacting effectively with a community partner by asking pertinent questions, recording information, summarizing the information, and retelling it. Learning how to effectively find out more information on a topic through dialogue, and then being able to deliver that information to another audience, is a skill that students will need as they support other causes in the future.

The Importance of Land Use Management and Native Plants 

St. Mary’s County Public Schools, 2023

Seventh and tenth grade Social Studies and Science students at Margaret Brent Middle School, Leonardtown Middle School, Esperanza Middle School, Spring Ridge Middle School, and Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County completed a direct and advocacy service-learning experience to address local environmental concerns. Students examined land use management practices at the federal, state, and local governmental levels. They learned about efforts to minimize nonpoint source pollutants that are impairing water quality and wetlands and to address the growing concern of invasive plants. Students also advocated to the public about the benefits of using native plants rather than invasive plants and about ways to manage urban runoff.

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
The land use management and planting native plants service-learning project addresses a need to restore the natural habitats within St. Mary’s County and reduce the nonpoint source pollution that adversely affects the local waterways and wetlands.  Several factors contribute to increased nonpoint pollutants, such as increased population growth, development, and impervious surfaces.  For instance, in St. Mary’s County, the population increased by 8,626 people from 2010 to 2020 based on data compiled by the Census Bureau.  The influx of people residing in this county has increased the development of housing communities and local infrastructures, which requires clearing forests and converting farmland to residential lots.  The results of these various factors have led to water quality hardships, causing harmful effects on household water supplies, fisheries, and wildlife.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency summarized this growing concern in an article stating, “runoff from urban areas is the leading source of impairments for estuaries” and the third leading cause of adverse effects on waterways.  

Additionally, this service-learning project recognizes the concern of invasive plants that are rooted and growing in Southern Maryland. The invasive plants are causing harm to the region. Once invasive plants occupy an area, the plants can crowd the native plants and diminish the food supply for animals. Thus, native plants disrupt the food web and native ecosystem. 

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning
The students examined the theme of human-environmental interaction using a case study model. Students also examined social, economic, political, and environmental factors contributing to nonpoint source pollutants and land use management.  Additionally, tenth-grade students also investigated and analyzed federal, state, and local initiatives dealing with water quality and development, such as the Clean Water Act, Maryland’s SMART Growth program, and local zoning ordinances. 

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
Students engaged in group discussion, brainstorms, and debates on the issue of water quality and urban sprawl.  Students also maintained a journal throughout the experience and created a final reflection on the service-learning project, whether written or displayed in some other manner.  Displays included scrapbooks, posters, collages, poems, cubes, PowerPoint presentations, or brochures.

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
This service-learning project extends from middle school to high school, allowing students to learn responsibility and take ownership of the project. First,students conducted a biological survey that requires them to determine if the area is a wetland area. After collecting the data from their observations, students assessed if the area was a wetland.  The seventh graders were also responsible for identifying and classifying native plants as wetlands and non-wetland.  These experiences allowed students to conduct an area assessment in order to propose what native plants needed to be added to the wetland area to reduce nonpoint source pollutants.

Another essential component of the service-learning experience was removing invasive plants. Students investigated different types of invasive plants that reside in Southern Maryland. They reviewed the Department of Natural Resources’ Statewide Eyes website. Throughout this investigation, students took on the responsibility of informing others about why it is important to plant native plants and discussed the importance of using native plants to reduce nonpoint source pollutants. These discussions also provided an additional reflection opportunity for students and an opportunity for them to advocate for limiting urban runoff and increasing awareness to improve water quality. In addition, students analyzed the federal, state, and local governments’ land use management policies and compared policies to previous government administrations.

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships
Club organizations and local government agencies, including St. Mary’s County Master Garden Club and the St. Mary’s County Public Schools Elms Environmental Education Center, were partners in this service-learning experience. 

Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
To prepare for their advocacy work, students examined the causes of nonpoint source pollutants and described wetland characteristics. This investigative section considered the benefits of using native plants and identifying approaches to curb pollutants to improve water quality for the watershed and surrounding habitat. 
Students also examined the development of legislation as well as the environmental movement. This allowed students to analyze the different interest groups that lobby for better water quality and advocate for SMART Growth.  Students took on the role of legislatures as they decided to support a housing project and shopping center along the Potomac River. During this instructional exercise, they learned about opportunity costs and addressed their constituents' needs. 
From these experiences and processes, students successfully devised a functional plan that met the goals established by the class to plant native plants and increase awareness about the related issues. 

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Students learned about their community and land use management issues as they explored nonpoint source pollutants and environmental legislation. In addition, students gained insight into native plants and preserving the wetlands. Students also practiced using literacy skills to acquire information from text and visual sources and practiced public speaking skills. Through these experiences, students became knowledgeable about urban runoff and its effect on people and communities. They learned how active citizens can affect the community and promote change.

Increasing Biodiversity

Talbot County Public Schools, 2023

Seventh grade science students at the Easton Middle School partnered with the Pickering Creek Audubon Center throughout the school year on a project to increase biodiversity in Talbot County. Classroom teachers and Pickering Creek Audubon Center educators worked throughout the year to teach a series of lessons in each classroom. Students attended a field trip to the wildlife sanctuary in the spring, and they also participated in a local walking field trip. The 10 in-depth lessons included with this project taught seventh graders about issues that affect the local watershed and how to develop a claim, a goal, and strategies to make a difference. 

This year, students chose a stream restoration project at Papermill Branch. The project aimed to restore habitat health by removing invasive plants, reforesting the area, and reshaping the stream channel. The students then build Wood Duck boxes to help support the habitat health of the Wood Duck species. 

Best Practice 1: Meet a Recognized Need in the Community
Students worked to create a sustainable environment, allowing the Bay to become a better ecosystem and habitat through the restoration of a local stream channel and building Wood Duck boxes to support their habitat health. 

Best Practice 2: Achieve Curricular Objectives through Service-Learning
NGSS Standards:
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience
LS2.D: Biodiversity and Humans
LS4.B Natural Selection
LS4.C: Adaptation
ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Best Practice 3: Reflect throughout the Service-Learning Experience
The students completed organizers throughout many steps of the year-long projects. These included a course of action plan, action plan organizer, project goals, strategy statement, and a claim, evidence, and reasoning action form.

Best Practice 4: Develop Student Responsibility
For the main project, students formed groups to determine the projects that they felt would be the most important to help increase biodiversity in Talbot County. Research was completed in groups. Students then made a determination on a project and completed a more in-depth research project related to the problem. 

Best Practice 5: Establish Community Partnerships
Pickering Creek Audubon Center Volunteers, Residents of Candle Light Cove (Senior Living Community), Project Manager for the Town of Easton assigned to the Papermill Branch Stream Restoration Project, and Easton Middle School administrators were partners in this service-learning experience.

Protecting the Environment, Talbot County students
Best Practice 6: Plan Ahead for Service-Learning
This project took a large amount of planning on the part of Pickering Creek Audubon Center and TCPS. It involved professional development sessions for TCPS teachers prior to the school year and prior to lessons to be taught.

  • 2 field trips were planned: a local walking trip, and an Audubon Center trip
  • School beautification project: involved clearance from school officials and a detailed plan of action presented for approval
  • Community project: Involved clearance by school officials for students to participate first, followed by clearance by all stakeholders involved

Best Practice 7: Equip students with Knowledge & Skills needed for Service
Students learned about biodiversity through research, videos, powerpoint presentations, articles, and hands-on experiences.


Lauren McKinley, M.Ed.
Service-Learning Specialist, Youth Development Branch
Office: (410) 767-0357

Reginald Burke, M.S.
Director, Youth Development Branch
Office: (410) 767-0313