CENTREVILLE — The Chesapeake Watershed Semester at the Gunston School officially kicked off its third semester on Sunday, Aug. 29, after a brief hiatus in 2020. Twelve students departed on their orientation expedition to the headwaters of the Susquehanna River in Cooperstown, N.Y.

This fall’s cohort includes 11th and 12th graders from Gunston as well as Queen Anne’s High School and a student from Pennsylvania currently staying with a host family, prompting Head of School John Lewis to enthusiastically announce the term “pilot” has been officially removed from the program’s name.

The group set off from Gunston’s campus on Aug. 30 — stopping in Ashley, Pa., to tour abandoned mine sites and learn how they impact water quality through acid mine drainage — before setting up their first campsite in the Pinchot State Forest. The following day, the group packed up and continued the drive north, stopping for a hike, to explore waterfalls, and investigate aquatic entomology, which is the study of insects that live in the water during all or part of their lives. Many flying insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, caddisflies spend their larval youth in a stream, where they are the primary prey of fish.

“I think the high point for the group was standing in the very headwaters of the Susquehanna River, perched on Council Rock,” said CWS Teacher Ronnie Vesnaver, who, along with fellow instructor Zack Hoisington, traveled with the students and applauded them on their teamwork and upbeat attitudes as persistent rain from Ida made for a damp end to the expedition.

The Chesapeake Watershed Semester is a semester-long immersive learning experience for students in grades 11 and 12 to study the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed through the dual lenses of science and public policy. Through hands-on and immersive learning experiences, students develop leadership skills, connect with stakeholders, and travel the watershed in five different learning expeditions.

CWS is currently taking applications for the 2022 spring semester at chesapeakewatershedsemester.org, on a rolling basis. The program is open to qualifying 11th and 12th-grade students from Gunston and surrounding areas (within commuting distance from Gunston).

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