Instructors Assemble To Save Elms Environmental Education Center Amid Closure Concerns

Instructors Assemble To Save Elms Environmental Education Center Amid Closure Concerns
Credit: Elms Envrionmental Center

LEONARDTOWN, Md. – Several Elms Environmental Education Center Instructors made statements on the program’s importance to students, over looming concerns of program termination at the St. Mary’s County Public Schools Board of Education meeting on June 12. 

Kelly Rossi claimed on April 16 instructors were told by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to immediately cease using one of the instructional buildings at the Elms with no further explanation. The Elms staff have yet to receive an explanation on why the building is seemingly permanently closed.

“The lack of information along with the recent school system budgetary concerns, has led to speculation throughout the community that the Elms program is in jeopardy,” Rossi said. 

Rossi explained students would be losing a vital educational experience if the Elms program is partially or completely terminated.

“I am requesting that the Board uphold its key responsibilities by involving the community and the life of the school system and by maintaining open and honest communication,” Rossi said. 

In 1980 the Elms was created as a living laboratory and over the past 44 years, the program has become “a multi-generational shared family experience” for the community, according to Rossi.

Former students often return as parent chaperones as they recount their fond memories from old Elms trips.

“The Elms provides a unique educational experience to all of the students who attend schools in St. Mary’s County,” Rossi said. “Each unique program at the Elms allows students to meet the standard outside of the classroom walls, with hands-on living science.”

“Students get off buses thrilled to learn and unplug from electronics to build on valuable skills including teamwork, problem-solving, expanding curiosity, and sharing prior knowledge,” Rossi said. 

Krystina “Tina” Riley also expressed her frustration with the lack of forewarning or explanation on the closed building. She recollected the excitement of students as they learned hands-on nature during class exploration. 

“It’s so much easier to reach the students when they’ve been removed from their classroom settings and are fully immersed in the experience,” Riley said. “When you only bring the materials to the classroom it ends up being more like show and tell.”

Riley is concerned about what’s going to happen if students are no longer introduced to “wonders outside their own neighborhood.” She concluded by requesting to give the community a chance to have input before any drastic changes.

Richard Delwiche also vouched for data-based and research-based teaching that is utilized by the Elms. 

Delwiche believes it is unfair for kids growing up in an increasingly technological world to deprive them of the opportunities that previous generations took for granted; experiencing nature, enjoying the benefits of fresh air, sun, and rain, and getting to know the living things on land and in water. 

“Guided experiences in nature are so strongly associated with positive academic outcomes,” Delwiche stated in an email. “This is not the time to be cutting outdoor education, we should be continuing to expand the opportunities for our most at-risk students.”

To watch the full meeting, click here.

Contact our news desk at

Source link