Through art, awareness

Program teaches kids about bay and how to protect environment

May 20, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

Ask Diana Garcia and any of her classmates about Annapolis-area lighthouses and they can tick them off one by one: There's Bloody Point, Sandy Point Shoal and Thomas Point Shoal, among others.

Not bad, given that Diana, an Eastport Elementary fourth-grader, had never been out on the Chesapeake Bay until a May 4 boat trip sponsored by the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Because many city youths, like Diana, have not had the opportunity to explore the bay, the museum is reaching out to schools in a pilot program that started in April. In addition to Eastport, Annapolis Elementary School fourth-graders and Wiley H. Bates Middle School eighth-graders have participated.

Part of the museum's mission is to teach the next generation to appreciate the history and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, said Heather Ersts, volunteer and education coordinator for the museum. About 80 percent of the students at the three schools had never been out on the bay before the museum's boat trip, she said.

"We really have a social message," Ersts said. "By protecting yourself and where you live, you become better stewards of the environment."

During the students' visit to the museum at 723 Second St., Ersts asked them to write essays about where they would go if they could sail from Annapolis to anywhere in the world. She showed them the route they would have to take to leave Maryland waters.

"It's that opening up of the doors for children that there's a much bigger world out there, and it's on your doorstep," she said.

The two elementary school classes are scheduled to meet May 29 at Sarles Boatyard & Marina in Eastport to show off maritime-themed murals they created in art class. Students also will trade handmade jigsaw puzzles, small paintings that they cut up into puzzle pieces.

At Eastport, students have spent the last three Wednesdays working on their mural, which incorporates lighthouses and other landmarks and wildlife on the Chesapeake Bay. The maritime museum provided photos for the students to use as guides.

Art teacher Melissa Mathews assigned each student a different image, such as a boat, lighthouse or crab. Students first painted in the water, sky and land. Once those were dry, students painted their images over them.

Malik Hicks, 10, bent close to the mural so that he could paint the brown base of the State House. He followed the teacher's chalk outline and brushed on white paint for the dome. Malik finally pulled over a stool to sit on when his back grew tired.

"You need intelligence and hard work in your artwork," he said.

Malik had gone boating with cousins before the museum trip, but until then didn't know anything about the lighthouses he passed or the bay's once-thriving oyster industry. The museum also invited a local waterman to talk to students about fishing for oysters and crabs in the bay.

Dajon Wallace, 10, learned that fishermen have to wait until oysters mature before they catching them.

"I learned a waterman needs a certain size oyster," he said as he worked on his puzzle painting of two sailboats.

Although not geographically accurate, the mural captures the essence of what the museum wanted the children to learn, Mathews said.

Students got to choose their own subjects for the puzzles. Kaniya Travis painted an egret, paying attention to details such as the bib of white feathers that seemed to puff out from the heron's chest and the black feathers on its head.

Curtis Moulden couldn't resist painting the Bloody Point Lighthouse.

"I liked the name," he said. "It was red, my favorite color."

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