We are currently staying on a spit of land projecting down from the shoreline of the east coast. Thus flanked on the western side by the Chesapeake Bay; and to the east by barrier islands that mark the last defense against the mighty gray waves of a now-encroaching Atlantic Ocean as climate change and the impact of humanity changes irrevocably the dynamic of previous millennia.
Together bay, ocean and wetland retain a complex commingling of so many elements of a vibrant and unique ecosystem, that to tamper with a fraction of it is to wreak havoc on its totality.
Much like Jamaica Bay back home in New York these wetlands represent a future that these young leaders in our 8th grade must confront. This trip has been developed in close coordination with Ross Wehner, founder of the World Leadership School, who has joined us this week. Ross spoke to all 70 of our students this morning and made it clear that the guiding question we are hoping to carry back: As a member of both my local and global community, what is my role as we seek to build a just and sustainable future?
This is a little known section of America. Delaware, Maryland and Virginia are all close by; old historical .
Overhead a vast sky.
Underfoot, literally, the mud of marshes and the undulating rhythm of embryonic dunes that lead up from the delicate grasses of shoreline into the quiet and aromatic music of a maritime pine forest.
Ghost crabs scuttle shyly sideways.
Chincoteague ponies are espied from a distance on the island we drive across, their coats gleaming brown, dun and khaki, almost lost in the reflective endless autumn light of Virginia's October.
Trucks pass our school bus, stacked high with crates of alive white chickens produced in enormous factories that feature no windows, no open doors and nary a sign of the immigrant labor from Mexico and Central America who toil out of sight to bring chicken tenders to the heedless dinner plate of America.
Yet the toll and the toil of pollution threatens the single most pristine coastline as is left anywhere in our country.
NASA has a sprawling complex for military training and for rocket launches that, among other responsibilities, supplies the space station as we gain a foothold for future interplanetary exploration.
We are literally inundated by the freedom and responsibility of water. Splashing in the ocean, getting richly sunk up to their thighs in a muddy marsh--they have felt it all. Tonight the students are peering into microscopes -- marveling at the brimful, heretofore invisible charm of plankton and other microscopic creatures. Water was the medium for this area to be settled. Water bears the imprint of humanity. What has been clean is not so clean. America's past is here as well as its future. Much more to come as we are only into our second day.
Our eighth graders have been full of pizzazz, good-natured and supportive of each other and of the opportunities provided. The sun has set below the horizon long since. Soon bed beckons and by 11 p.m. the last loud story-telling voices will dwindle into the quiet breathing of restorative sleep.