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Hampton City Schools teachers participate in Oyster Gardener Training

Eight new Hampton City School teachers joined the ranks of veteran oyster gardeners as they participated in the Oyster Gardening for Educators Training held August 1. Teachers Loranda Jenifer and Rita Corbett (fifth grade - Mary T. Christian Elementary School), Shannon Pohlman (HCS FLEx Program), Marcia Lewis (first grade - Phenix), Alyssa Dowling and Adriane Peterson (fifth grade – Cooper Elementary Magnet School for Technology), Julia Brockman (second grade – Langley Elementry School) and Karen Change (Kecoughtan High School) learned how to care for the Eastern oyster spat and spat on shell they received; were introduced to activities, resources, and literature they could use in the classroom with their students; and prepared their oyster floats prior to placing their new babies in the water.

Shored Up, LLC, a local eco-tourism company provided an engaging downtown Hampton walking tour for the training participants. In addition to sharing a wealth of information about oysters, Shored Up wove a rich story of the integral role oysters have played in Hampton’s history. Further, teachers learned about the range, life cycle, history, and benefits of the Eastern oyster. Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association (TOGA) member Vic Spain opened sample wild and aquaculture oysters showing teachers as he explained their differences. Spain and fellow TOGA members Brian Ingram and Kent Eanes then assisted teachers in readying their oyster floats by adding a two-liter bottle to assist with tumbling the oysters. The materials for the floats were donated by TOGA and the floats constructed by students in Hampton High School’s Maritime Academy under the direction of CTE teacher Connor Dunn. The spat for teachers raising oysters with the HCS Oyster Restoration project was purchased by the HCS science department. Judy Ambrose of Oystermama’s Bay-bies grew and cared for the spat at no additional cost to HCS. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also donated spat on shell oysters and cages to the teachers. The excited teachers and new oyster moms placed their cages in the water at Dandy Haven Marina with wishes for continued growth and good health.

In addition to the new teachers, veteran oyster gardeners Mallary Reynolds (Aberdeen), Tameka Brown (Armstrong School for the Arts), Lora Thompson (Eaton Fundamental Middle School), Ashley Ault (Hampton), Sheryl McLaughlin and Sabrina Burbanck (Jones Magnet Middle School), Sally Lewis, Margie Ware, and Kristen Coolbear (Kecoughtan High School); and Michele Ferrel (Kilgore Gifted Center) participated in the activity. Teachers will bring their oysters in at least three times during the year as they teach about Virginia history, scientific sampling techniques, measurement, ecosystems, water quality, and adaptations.

The Hampton City Schools Oyster Restoration Project is grateful to our external partners such as Dandy Haven Marina, Oystermama’s Bay-bies, Shored Up, and TOGA as well as internal partners such as the Maritime Academy for making relevant and engaging experiences possible for HCS teachers and students.  

Many of the photos accompanying this article are courtesy of TOGA member Kent Eanes.