Seventh-grade teacher Consie Javor yesterday pretended to be a seal in distress.
Wrapped in a plastic fishing net, Mrs. Javor took on the role of an entangled seal while attending a workshop for Baltimore area teachers.
Called the Chesapeake Bay Urban Teacher Training Series on Pollution Prevention, the seminar was designed to heighten teachers' awareness of environmental problems.
Area teachers were the first to participate in the session, which will be held elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed later this year and next. The other workshops are planned in Washington; Harrisburg, Pa.; and in Richmond and Norfolk, Va.
The effort is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program and organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
About 150 teachers attended yesterday's workshop, mostly from middle and high school science programs. It was held at the Baltimore City Schools Professional Development Center.
"The most useful parts were the motivational tactics that I can take back to the classroom," said Mrs. Javor, who teaches science at Deep Creek Middle School in Baltimore County. She said exercises like her stint as a seal "get students' attention, which you have to do before you can teach them."
Mrs. Javor played her role with the help of seminar leader Jill Zilligen of the Washington-based Center for Marine Conservation. Mrs. Javor got on the floor, crossed her ankles, put her hands in her pockets and allowed Ms. Zilligen to wrap her in a plastic fishing net very much like those frequently found ++ in the bay. Mrs. Javor twisted and kicked and gyrated to free herself before her time limit was up.
"Fifteen seconds!" Ms. Zilligen warned. "Fifteen seconds before you run out of air and die!"
Mrs. Javor didn't make it.
"It was scary," said Mrs. Javor. "It was a frightening feeling imagining how these animals must feel."
Thousands of animals die each year in the tons of plastic debris that find their way into the world's bodies of water, including the bay, Ms. Zilligen said. Plastic six-pack rings strangle thousands of fish, seals, pelicans and other birds each year, she said. Lost fishing nets kill many others.
"There are a lot of things the general public can do, and teachers are a fantastic channel to the general public," Ms. Zilligen said. "They take the material to their students, and their students take it home and teach their families and friends."
Ms. Zilligen's organization sponsors beach clean-up projects, with some 140,000 volunteers nationwide, 1,600 in Maryland.
"You don't have to go to the bay to make a difference," Ms. Zilligen told teachers. "You can do this on any water body -- or even a parking lot or field."
Besides lessons on how to combat pollution, participants were also taught how to look for grants that would aid in their own bay clean-up strategies. The Chesapeake Bay Program encouraged teachers to apply for the mini-grants it had set up for conference participants -- up to $1,000 for a class project that encourages the active participation of students.
"We're always looking for new sources of information on how to get funds for teachers' projects," said Carolyn Lipscomb of the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center, which promotes environmental education in Harford County public schools.