Loren Anne Barnett joined CBF as Director
of Creative Services in 2007. She grew up
on the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland,
sailing, crabbing, and flying through the air
on rope swings.
Carlos to perform her “fin dance,” a true teaching moment for
remembering fish fins from the dorsal to the caudal.
After lunch on board, the teachers measured water clarity,
pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. The Rappahannock, whose
watershed has a high percentage of agricultural land and
increasing development, has struggled with low water clarity.
Back in Tappahannock, dinner was followed by a presentation
from CBF Senior Educator Bill Portlock, who has helped
run Teachers on the Bay since it began 30 years ago. Full
of knowledge, I retired to the Essex Inn, a comfortable 1851
Greek-Revival bed and breakfast.
The next morning, we crossed the river by bus to visit
Menokin, a 1769 plantation built on 500 acres once inhabited
by the Rappahannock Tribe. We brought our own canoes, but
for those without, Menokin offers kayak rentals and lessons.
Following a Canoe 101, we launched our fleet on Cat Point
Creek, a stunning tributary of the Rappahannock. Norah
gathered us in a shady crook for a minute of silence. We
listened for both man-made and natural sounds, hearing many
more of the latter. We talked again about biodiversity—this
time focusing on underwater grasses and marsh plants. Ready
to identify the flora, we split up, exploring the shoreline and
making marsh bouquets of pickerelweed, arrowhead, and
As we picked our final greenery, Aaron Bunch and Brady
Donovan from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland
Fisheries approached in their research vessel. Two sets of
what looked like giant wire head scratchers hung above the
water off the bow. The unusual equipment is used to stun and
collect fish for tagging and research. We rafted up around the
new boat while Aaron, the department’s Tidal Rivers Project
Leader, introduced us to his latest subjects. All but one was
still kicking. CBF Fox Island Environmental Education Program
Manager Jeff Varnon was able to revive the baby sunfish in
the water next to his canoe and received quiet kudos from
those nearby. Aaron held up a few types of catfish, some of
which are invasive here and in other Bay-area waters, and
a few other species including a yellow perch, which I found
Back at Menokin, docent Alice French gave us a tour of the
18th-century Georgian-style mansion on the property. Wearing
hard hats, our group was able to enter areas of the house,
which is being pieced together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
The following day, the teachers and educators departed for
what I hear was a magical three days at CBF’s Fox Island
Education Center, a re-purposed hunting lodge surrounded by
Virginia’s Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds.
I headed to Lowery’s Seafood Restaurant for a local lunch.
Bartender Dorie served up a crab cake, tomato, and yellow
squash that tasted like summer. She also introduced me to a
local delicacy she learned from her father’s hunting buddy:
corn on the cob with mayo and Old Bay. Don’t knock it until
you try it.
On my drive home, I thought of the teachers and how this
week’s lessons would make their way back to hundreds of
students. My achievement was a little less profound, but still
fulfilling. My driving question: Can you learn and have fun at
the same time? The answer is yes.
CBF Educator Norah Carlos performs the “fin
dance” aboard CBF’s education boat Jenny S.
A biodiverse marsh bouquet hand-picked
from Cat Point Creek.
LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF
Teachers and CBF educators get a tour
of the house at Menokin.
LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF