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Hampton City Schools Oyster Restoration Project wins Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award

The Hampton City Schools Oyster Restoration Project is the recipient of a Governor's Environmental Excellence Award for 2023!  

The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards annually recognize successful and innovative efforts that improve Virginia’s environment in the areas of sustainability programs, greening of government, environmental projects, land conservation, or implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.

Thirteen awards were given out on March 28 at the 33rd Annual Environment Virginia Symposium at VMI. The awards were given to businesses, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and universities from across the state. Descriptions of the winning programs can be found in the award ceremony program. Hampton City Schools was the only K-12 educational group to receive an award. The award was based on the work the school division has done with oyster restoration since 2020. Ashley Ault, who raises oysters with her ecology club at Hampton High School and who is a member of the Hampton Waterways Restoration Project, accepted the award from the directors of the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, as well as the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources on behalf of the Hampton City Schools teachers and students who are making a difference through their involvement with the program. 

Since 2020, the Hampton City Schools Oyster Restoration Program has:

  • provided real-world and engaging experiences to teach the Science Virginia Standards of Learning 
  • provided opportunities for students to become environmental stewards and develop confidence and agency in working toward solutions to environmental problems
  • enabled students to develop skills outlined in the Hampton City Schools Portrait of a Graduate
  • increased the number of schools participating in oyster restoration from 7 to 13 (85.7% increase)
  • increased the number of teachers participating in oyster restoration from 9 to 21 (133% increase)
  • increased the number of students participating in oyster restoration from 450 to 680 (51% increase)
  • added approximately 30,000 oysters to local reefs (historically over 104,000 oysters have been added by HCS students), helping to achieve the goal of placing 10 billion oysters in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025
  • participated in educational outreach to increase community understanding of the importance of oysters and healthy waterways
  • increased teacher and student environmental literacy
  • helped Hampton City Schools meet the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement’s call for having a minimum of one Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) for students in elementary, middle, and high school

Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association, Shored Up, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Hampton Waterways Restoration Project (a subcommittee of the Hampton Clean City Commission), Elizabeth Lake Stewardship Committee, Norfolk State University, Dandy Haven Marina, and the Hampton City School Science Department have made learning about (and with) oysters possible.  


Senator Mark Warner said, “I am pleased to extend my warmest congratulations to…the staff of Hampton City Schools upon receiving the 2023 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. Your commitment to preserving our natural resources has made a lasting impact on the Commonwealth. This award is a testament to Hampton City Schools’ leadership in…protecting the Commonwealth’s natural resources while fostering a love for the environment within…students through the Oyster Restoration Project.”