TU partnership benefits Baltimore City students, Inner Harbor

By Sean Welsh on November 11, 2018

Towson University students are involved in a program that will teach Baltimore City middle schoolers about what lives in the Inner Harbor.

Every middle school student in Baltimore City will have the opportunity for a transformative learning experience that takes them out of the classroom and teaches them the importance of the Inner Harbor’s health.

The “What Lives in the Harbor” program is the culmination of a series of partnerships. Towson University is playing a supporting role.

As part of the BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore priority, student support in the form of interns, as well as funding, will go toward the program, which enables Baltimore city school students to explore the environment of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Inner Harbor through hands-on experience at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

“It’s a partnership with Towson University and several other agencies,” Towson University Biology Chair Laura Gough said. “And it is a wonderful opportunity to get every middle schooler in Baltimore City Public Schools to see what lives in the Inner Harbor and understand the ecosystem of our city.”

TU’s involvement is supported through the BTU priority, which seeks to create positive impacts in the communities TU serves.

“BTU is really creating a foundation and a platform to build out our relationships and our community engagement partnerships with our surrounding neighbors,” said Ardys Russakis, Executive Director, Policy and Strategic Initiatives. “It’s enabling our campus to put out resources to support the community, and in this instance, Baltimore City students.”

The “What Lives in the Harbor” program launched with a kickoff event Thursday outside the National Aquarium building, along the city’s waterfront. A number of public officials were in attendance, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Speaking to the students who attended from William Pinderhughes Elementary School, Pugh gave the students the message that they could help the harbor ecosystem simply by urging neighbors to stop littering. She encouraged students to share the message, “Don’t drop that trash!” with their community.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings grew up in Baltimore, and said it is imperative that leaders take the approach that “children are the living message to the future we will never see.”

He cited Thursday’s event as an opportunity to share a message with the children outside the classroom.

“It will create a memory,” Cummings said. “It is different. They know this is important. They will find out what is in this water. That is significant.”

Congressman Chris Van Hollen told students, “You are going to be the researchers, scientists and stewards of the Chesapeake Bay going forward.”

Congressman Ben Cardin added, “If we are to protect the Chesapeake Bay, we need environmental literacy. It doesn’t happen by itself. This is truly a team effort.”

TU is playing its part in helping Maryland become the first state in the nation mandating environmental literacy for public school students.

TU’s support of the “What Lives in the Harbor” program includes providing transportation to and from the aquarium for middle school students. It also allow 18 TU students to serve as interns for the program. They travel to the aquarium and provide weekly instruction to the middle school students while gaining real world experience they can take to the classroom as future teachers.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.