By Taylor Patterson
Elm Staff Writer
Being environmentally conscious is one thing that Washington College has always prided itself on, and those efforts have been commended. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has recognized the College’s commitment to educating its students about the environment with an award.
President Kurt Landgraf accepted the Conservationist of the Year Award at the D.C. on the Half Shell Gala on Monday, Feb. 26. This award is given to an organization or an individual in Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania for contributions or efforts made to save the Chesapeake Bay.
Leslie Sherman, W. Alton Jones associate professor of chemistry, said, “I was delighted to learn of the award from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation given to WC in recognition of our environmental education. We’ve had a thriving environmental studies major for almost 20 years and have recently added an exciting environmental science major, in response to student requests. With the Chesapeake Bay watershed as our natural outdoor laboratory, we have so much to offer our students.”
The College’s location on the Chester River allows its students access to hands-on experiences. The environmental sciences and studies department takes advantage of this, even for students who are not majors in the department. Even the lower level ecology classes are taken out on the river to run labs and assess the state of the river.
“The department of environmental science and studies is so pleased to be part of this award,” said Brian Scott, the chair of the environmental science and studies department. “Our students seem to thrive on our many hands-on field oriented labs and classes. Our interdisciplinary curriculum spans from environmental economics, to environmental chemistry, and addresses environmental challenges from the different lenses of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.”
Student involvement in the sciences extends outside of the classroom. The Student Environmental Alliance is currently running a competition to see which class can collect the most plastic lids in order to make a bench from the recycled materials. Faculty and the local community members are also invited to take part.
“The faculty in the Environmental Science and Studies Department are dedicated to challenging our students through experiential learning throughout their four years, through classes and research opportunities, to develop an in-depth interdisciplinary understanding of and to critically analyze the world’s most pressing environmental issues,” Sherman said.
In her role as a professor, she said that seeing the College graduates become “the next generation of environmental leaders” is amazing.
“We are grateful to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for the recognition of our work with our students,” she said.
CBF praised the College for its continued emphasis on the importance of environmental education.
Recently, the College has announced several major expansions to its environmental programs, including the introduction of the 4,700-acre River and Field campus. This new addition is only a few minutes from campus and is the largest conservation easement in Maryland, encompassing two-and-a-half miles of the Chester River waterfront, forests, grasslands, marshes, and riverine habitat. The River and Field Campus provides students with another opportunity to learn about the environment first hand and gain skills and experience so that they may become global environmental leaders.