On a recent cold, winter day, the pre-kindergarten classrooms at Georgetown Elementary were buzzing with the warmth of summer, as students learned about the environment and animals of the Chesapeake Bay. In three separate classrooms, each with 25 children and an instructor, students eagerly raised their hands in the air, ready to answer the next question about the animals on the flashcards.
After answering the last question in the warm-up exercise, the children quickly moved to tables throughout the classroom to touch and see the animals first hand. It was then that the real fun began, as the children excitedly laughed and talked to each other as they took turns touching green goby fish, feathered blenny fish, mud crab, grass shrimp, and polychaete worms. While the children felt and studied the animals in plastic containers, the instructor reminded the students where these animals live in the Chesapeake Bay. “What I love about this program is that it is a hands-on experience for the children” stated Rachel Ogan, pre-kindergarten teacher at Georgetown Elementary
“PNC recognizes the role kindergarten readiness plays in the wellbeing of local children, their families and ultimately, our economy,” said Jeffrey Glynn, PNC senior vice president and regional manager. “By preparing our youngest citizens for educational success, we help build a solid foundation for the future of Annapolis.”
Known as the “Little Skipjacks” program and administered by the Education Center at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, the program exposes pre-kindergarten students to the environment and animals that make their home on the local oyster reefs. Enabled in part by PNC Financial Services Group’s “Grow up Great” grant, the program currently reaches over 500 pre-K students in the city of Annapolis through
hour-long classroom instruction periods. PNC’s Grow up Great Program has a special emphasis and dedication to early childhood education for pre-school aged children. Accordingly, this program support’s PNC philosophy that a focus on the years from birth to age five helps reap dividends for society and the economy; even better it’s an investment to feed the passions and curiosity of all those young minds.
Sarah Krizek, Education Director at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, highlighted the importance of early education programs such as Little Skipjacks. “When Maryland recently became the first state to require students to be environmentally literate in order to graduate, we knew that process must begin early for our children. Programs like this ensure area students receive high-quality and meaningful environmental experiences at the beginning stages of their education,” said Krizek.
The program is titled “Little Skipjacks” after the traditional fishing boats used on Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging and serves primarily Title 1 students. In addition to the hands-on activities that involve touching the animals, the pre-kindergarten children explore in detail the shell of an oyster, sort and count animal pictures, play an oyster habitat game, and sing silly songs about oysters. In the end, the Little Skipjacks program teaches the youngest students in our local school the importance of the local environment.
Marty Cox, pre-kindergarten teacher at Georgetown Elementary, discussed how this initial exposure to environmental literacy is so important, “Exposure from this program sets the groundwork for everything they will do in later grades.”
The Annapolis Maritime Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students and adults on the area’s rich maritime heritage and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. The Museum partners with community groups, government entities, and other like-minded organizations to deliver high-quality educational initiatives and programs on subjects ranging from history and culture to the environment and good stewardship practices.
To learn more about Little Skipjacks and education programs offered by the Annapolis Maritime Museum, visit www.amaritime.org.