Spring Kayak Expeditions

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I think we can all agree there is no better time for those interested in the future of our environment to get back to basics to celebrate our natural environment while collaborating on ways to keep our progress intact. Upstream Alliance is hosting three paddling trips this Spring. Join us!

April 21-23, Delaware River, Theme:  Celebrating the Clean Water Act on Earth Day Weekend

This year’s Delaware River trip will celebrate the waterways in and around Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.  These waterways that were worshiped for over 5,000 years by the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans, and then became toxic sewage nightmares, have returned to some of their former glory thanks to the Clean Water Act.   This trip is co-hosted with the Independence Seaport Museum, where we will stay both nights on the historic Olympia. Friday, we put in near the headwaters of Big Timber Creek, whose watershed drains much of Camden County, paddling 11.5 miles to the Delaware River, and another 5 miles upriver to Olympia in the heart of “Old City” Philadelphia.  Saturday, we paddle up the Delaware River and Pennsauken Creek to its headwaters, and back to Olympia, for an 18 mile round trip.  On Sunday, we paddle up the Delaware River to the Cooper River, through the heart of Camden City for a 5.5 mile trip.  Total paddling distance is 31 miles, but with a tide assist, it will feel like 20.

May 5-7, Potomac River, Theme:  Political Leadership, Looking Back and Forward

This trip is in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Commission and hosted by Tayloe Murphy, the longtime environmental leader and political champion for the Chesapeake Bay.  We are inviting policy makers to join the expedition in hopes the experience and discussions can reinforce the political calculus needed for the Bay.  We will camp Friday on Tayloe and Helen Murphy’s farm, with expansive views on the Potomac, appropriate as we look forward to what’s needed, and on Saturday at the mouth of the Yeocomico River, another magic riverfront location.   Friday, we start in the afternoon, paddle 6 miles from Nomini Creek to the Potomac and to the Murphy’s farm.  Saturday, we paddle 15 miles to the Yeocomico River.  Sunday, we paddle 3.5 miles up the Yeocomico River to the Kinsale Museum for the Take Out.  Each night there will be bonfire discussions co-led by Tayloe Murphy and Ann Swanson, Director of the Commission.

June 9-11, Delaware Bay, Theme:  Horseshoe Crabs

This is the expected climax of the horseshoe crab migration and spawn in Delaware Bay, the East Coast’s epicenter, and the trigger to a massive shorebird migration.  This is a world class phenomenon, and if you have not witnessed it, you must.  Friday, we will paddle down the Murderkill River, a narrow marshy creek, 9.5 miles to South Bowers Beach for camping.  Day Two is paddling 13 miles along the Delaware River shoreline to Slaughter Beach. Day Three is paddling 5 miles to the mouth of the Misspillion River, and take out.  Delaware Bay is not paddle friendly when windy, so we will adjust the itinerary as needed.  We are delighted to have a backup beach cottage on Slaughter Beach, in the event mosquitoes, no see ums or flies mandate us to spend the night indoors. Expect to paddle up to 28 miles.

These are not Olympic expeditions.  We adjust the schedule and pace to the group. No prior experience is required.  We can provide kayaks and camping gear if needed. All you need is a thirst for expedition, an interest to be with like-minded educators, advocates, writers, scientists, and artists, and a willingness to consider being part of a network to work towards a healthy environment for the next generation.

Interested? Contact: Erica Baugh, Program Director, Upstream Alliance,

Environmental Education Webinar


Education leaders hosted a webinar on October 27, 2016 to discuss strategies to fully leverage the opportunity for advancing environmental education initiatives in school systems. During the webinar, Congressman Sarbanes noted that this 10 year effort is now coming to fruition and is an enormous opportunity for schools districts and the EE community to work in partnership, preparing the next generation for the 21st century’s challenges and opportunities related to our environment. You can watch the webinar, hosted by the newly minted Superintendent’s EE Collaborative, and presented by:

  • Kevin Maxwell, CEO, Prince George’s County Public schools, MD
  • John Sarbanes, Congressman
  • Monique Chism, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, U.S. Department of Education
  • Anne Campbell, Superintendent, San Mateo County Public Schools, CA
  • Kathy McGlauflin, Director, Project Learning Tree
  • Sarah Bodor, Director of Policy and Affiliate Relations, North American Association for Environmental Education
  • Don Baugh, President, Upstream Alliance
Here is the short version:
  • President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, which included key provisions from the No Child Left Inside Act, providing US Department of Education funding for environmental education
  • Congress is acting on a Continuing Resolution until December 8th.  When a new budget is finalized, we will know the final funding for the two grant programs that include environmental education. 
  • US Department of Education released their guidance language on October 21, 2016 that is favorable for environmental education.
  • States will distribute 95% of the ESSA funding to school districts, based on their plans submitted to the US Department of Education.  EE advocates are encouraged to work at the state level to ensure EE is a priority in these plans.
  • School districts will be eligible for this funding by a competitive grant process or by formula funding.
  • EE partners are ready, willing and able to assist.  Partnerships are a requirement of ESSA.

Funding Guidance Spotlights EE


Schools can receive money specifically for environmental education! On October 21, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on Title IV Part A of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The language included environmental education as an allowable activity and put a spotlight on Project Learning Tree(PLT)’s curriculum and the North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE)’s Guideline for Excellence. This is a huge win for environmental education and a major boost for the Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative. Read some excerpts from the guidance below:

U.S. Department of Education Non-Regulatory Guidance from ESSA issued October 21, 2016


Environmental education (ESEA section 4107(a)(3)(G)). An LEA may use funds for activities in environmental education, which is generally understood as instruction that encourages students to develop knowledge, intellectual skills, attitudes, experiences, and motivation to make and act upon responsible environmental decisions. Environmental education is generally understood to be a multi-disciplinary field that integrates disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography.

SPOTLIGHT: Many schools across the nation provide environmental education classes for students. Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is one example of an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. PLT provides educators with supplementary curriculum materials, professional development, and resources to integrate environmental education into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas and to use the outdoors to engage students in learning about the world around them. GreenSchools, PLT’s service-learning program, inspires students to apply STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to create greener and healthier schools by reducing energy and water use, improving their school site, recycling, and other projects that also save schools money. Program evaluations demonstrate that PLT’s Green Schools program contributes positively to important outcomes in student learning and engagement including students’ presentation, writing, planning, problem solving, technology, leadership and teamwork skills.

Resources and Tools: Well-Rounded Educational Opportunities

Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence: K-12 Learning (2010) ( 8/excellence-in-environmental-education-guidelines-for-learning), a guide published by the North American Association for Environmental Education, offers a vision of environmental education and promotes progress toward sustaining a healthy environment and quality of life. The guidelines provide learners, parents, educators, home schoolers, administrators, policy makers, and the public a set of common, voluntary guidelines for environmental education.

Passing the Torch

Dr. Brown helping Alex tape up and support her wrist

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn”-Benjamin Franklin

Education focuses on kids. But, what about big kids? What happens after 12th grade or college? Should they stop learning? How are they suppose to educate themselves and who will be their teachers? I have found that young professionals in their jobs are very qualified and very eager. But, they need to keep educating themselves. Do they understand their field? Do they have connections with colleagues? Do they know how the game gets played?

I wanted to help.

Since I became a big kid, I have organized outdoor trips for friends and colleagues. We have grown up together. We have been the leaders of the Chesapeake Bay’s environmental movement. Together, with these strong connections, we have helped move Bay restoration as a world class restoration effort. We would have never succeeded without each other. I would have never learned so much without them.

Two years ago, I retired after 38 years of running the nation’s largest environmental education program to aggressively champion a critical need in our environmental future. As my generation readies themselves for retirement, we often talk about how to pass on the torch. As we settle into retirement, we want to help these big kids settle into their jobs. These emerging leaders are the new leaders of the environmental movement. They will dictate what happens in the next 30 years to our environment. They will have all the power. Never has there been more of a need for strong leadership. It is our job to bolster their skills to take on these insurmountable tasks.

I started Upstream Alliance in hopes to pass on the torch. We are passing on knowledge. We are passing on skills. We are passing on passion. We are connecting people to people. We are connecting people to nature. Hopefully, these brilliant big kids will accept the torch and take it further than we ever did. We need them to.

And you know what, I have already learned a very profound lesson–the mentors learn more from those they are mentoring. The opportunity to work with such brilliant, passionate individuals should give us all hope as the baton is passed.

-Don Baugh

One year ago we returned from UA’s inaugural launch, the Delmarva Circumnavigation! Watch a video created by Sandy Cannon-Brown on emerging leaders during the circumnavigation and nominate an emerging leader by emailing with their name and contact information.

Press Release: Superintendents’ Collaborative Launched

For Immediate Release: September 27, 2016 PR Newswire

Environmental leaders launch Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative to increase academic performance, create real-world learning experiences & prepare students for 21st century workforce

Annapolis, MD – Unprecedented federal funding available through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to build school system-wide support for environmental education (EE) has spurred environmental leaders to launch a national Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative. The Collaborative will be co-chaired by Dr. Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland and Anne Campbell, superintendent of San Mateo County Schools in California. This effort is supported by Upstream Alliance, North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and Project Learning Tree.

“This is an historic opportunity to facilitate an ongoing conversation between superintendents and environmental partners and to leverage ESSA funding to help environmental literacy efforts,” said Dr. Maxwell. “The Collaborative will seek to create robust, real-world learning experiences that bolster STEM learning, civic engagement, and prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century workforce.”

Congress is expected to appropriate funding in early 2017 for new EE opportunities in school districts nationwide. The Collaborative, using conference calls, meetings and webinars, will share information regarding ESSA grant opportunities, best practices for creating EE models, and successful implementation stories.

“Hands-on environmental education is a proven way to deeply engage young students and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who successfully worked to include a provision in last year’s K-12 education bill that expanded grant-making opportunities for environmental education. “Thanks to efforts like the Collaborative, more school systems will take advantage of this opportunity and more students will learn outdoors and become better connected to our natural world.”

“Environmental education provides important opportunities for students to become engaged in real world issues that transcend classroom walls. They can see the relevance of their classroom studies to the complex environmental issues confronting our planet and they can acquire the skills they’ll need to be creative problems solvers and powerful advocates,” said Ms. Campbell.

“This is innovative and unprecedented – to have federal funding and cooperation among superintendents across the nation,” said Don Baugh, president of Upstream Alliance and a pioneer in the environmental education movement.

“More than 30 states have completed environmental literacy plans, which establish a strong foundation to assist superintendents in leveraging partnerships and existing resources to create model programs,” said Sarah Bodor, policy director for NAAEE.

“Curriculum and teacher professional development that has been tested and proven over many years already exists. That combined with an extensive professional network that offers local resources and on-the-ground support means school districts across the country can easily connect classrooms to their local environment to provide students with a well-rounded education,” said Kathy McGlauflin, national director of Project Learning Tree.

The Collaborative will participate in the annual Superintendents’ Conference to be held next year on March 2-4 in New Orleans, La. They will host a session on environmental opportunities and an immersion expedition to investigate climate change issues by touring the beleaguered Ninth Ward and a swamp boat trip on the bayou as part of that conference.

For more information about the Collaborative, contact Erica Baugh at

Superintendents’ EE Collaborative Timeline for 2016-2017

  • Launch Superintendents’ EE Collaborative, Fall 2016
  • Conference call with superintendents, Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland, United States Department of Education, Fall 2016
  • AASA conference session and expedition, March 2-4, 2017
  • Provide guidance to school systems on applying for funding, Spring 2017
  • Facilitate the dialogue between superintendents to further strengthen their programs by adopting best practices, Fall 2017
  • Develop a tool kit for school systems to access ESSA funding, Fall 2017
  • Webinar with superintendents on accessing funding, Winter 2017



Meet UA’s new Program Director

Erica Baugh Bio Collage

“When observing my love of the environment and my passion for education, one can see that Upstream Alliance is a perfect fit. I feel empowered now that I can utilize all of my strengths and put them to work for something I am deeply passionate about while being the new Program Director. I cannot wait to immerse myself in our programs this fall and dive into our environmental networks. Our Regional Networks are an important way for professionals to connect, share and learn from one another. I can’t wait to get in a kayak myself, meet some distinguished leaders and recruit some emerging leaders. Our Expedition Conferences are a great way to help build educators professionally. I am thrilled to work with educators throughout the nation to bolster environmental opportunities for students and citizens.  The Superintendent’s Collaborative is being launched at a pivotal moment in time and I am honored to be able to help school systems understand the opportunities for environmental education. I feel privileged to be able to support these efforts of connecting people through networks and connecting people to nature. Working for Upstream Alliance has been a dream come true.” ~Erica Baugh

Erica Baugh’s Biography: Erica is passionate about education and the outdoors. She graduated from Virginia Tech in Natural Resources and filled her days in Blacksburg with hiking, camping, backpacking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking. Education and outreach has been her specialty, working with a variety of organizations including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, Dewees Island POA, Oyster Recovery Partnership, and the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute. One summer she lived on a sailboat and taught youth sailing on the Eastern Shore of MD. Most recently, Erica worked at a charter school in Key West teaching marine science. Now, as Upstream Alliance’s Program Director she lives and works from Manteo, NC. On the weekends you can catch her crabbing, paddle boarding, fishing, biking, kayaking, or running.

Environmental Education Report Released

NFWF Report Post 3

Newly Released:  Environmental Education and Community Stewardship Report

This report is a synthesis of the foremost thinking on how environmental education can lead to conservation objectives through community stewardship.  It compiles the best available research and was guided by interviews of leading experts. Designed to advise the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on their conservation education grant making, yet written as a comprehensive piece, the report can be useful across the field; it can guide environmental education investors, help practitioners improve their program design, and give evidence to program directors that what they are doing will lead to change at a landscape scale. While the research connecting environmental education to conservation outcomes is still emerging, the most important lesson outlined here is to be intentional in program design so that programs are based on the leading research, evidence, and practices. This report provides that much needed synthesis and analysis in one document.

— Genevieve Leet, primary author and project director at Environmental Leadership Strategies

Here is what people are saying about this report:

“This paper combines the research and practice of environmental education in one of the most significant comprehensive analysis written.  I recommend this as a valuable resource for anyone interested in the field.” — Louisa Koch, Director of Education, NOAA

“This report brings together a much needed perspective from researchers to leading experts on why and how environmental education should be a cornerstone of environmental restoration. It’s a valuable resource for anyone that invests in connecting people and nature.”  — Angie Chen, Director, Blue Sky Funders Forum



Board Member completes NYC Circumnavigation


One of Upstream Alliance’s very own Board Members accomplished a daunting task last week: Circumnavigating New York City. Walter Brown completed the 30 mile paddling expedition in his kayak alongside over 100 paddlers. Here are some notes from his journey:

And, they’re off…

“Could not have had better weather – low 70″s with no sun and no thunderstorms or rain. It would have been brutal if it had been sunny and in the 90’s. They said about 160 signed up for it but only a little over 115 showed up. My group was the largest with about 54 kayakers. We started at 0730 about 1.5 north of the George Washington Bridge and got back about 1800 with two short stops and a 1 hour lunch break.”


A lengthy feat…

“It got a little bumpy here with the various rivers meeting and the tide changing but nothing like our experience coming out of the C&D canal. When coming around the tip of Manhattan, the USCG was there to help and we had to wait for Staten Island ferry. Total trip was little over 30 miles- with the current and at some point we were doing over 8 MPH. But, the trip was well organized with everyone having VHF radios and with such a large group it helped.”


After all that paddling…

“Worst part was at the takeout at the end, as first of all difficult to find parking – I parked at garage for $30. But, was 4 blocks from takeout. We could take kayaks off from the car in the morning at the put in but not at end of the day and had to drag them 4 or so blocks to the garage. This probably was the most tiring part of the day.” 

Incredible journey for an incredible group of paddlers! Seas the day!

Paddler’s Poems

Poem Post 7.14.16

Inspired through their new network of friends and colleagues, paddlers from Upstream Alliance’s June Paddling Expedition wrote poems about their memorable journey. Thank you these incredible poets for allowing us to share their exquisite works of art.

Red Boat

Red Boat

Rode hard and put away wet

Now dry in the shed

Great memories that will not fade

Like the grains of sand I can’t get out of my tent

~Peyton Robertson~

Being Out There

It was on the rising tide of friendship – eyes

glad to see you, earnest smiles,

and hardy hugs – that lifted all hearts

and kayaks parting the great green

sea of the Chesapeake,

Virginia’s Eastern Shore

to starboard.


It was those three days on and off

the water – progging uninhabited beaches

for history’s remains, campfire

dinners of rockfish with asparagus,

and sunsets aflame – that

tucked us in at night

under a blanket of stars.


It was just being out there – just you

and one-paddle-stroke

after-the-other, senses flushed clean

in the sea salt air, and wounds

healed that never asked

for fixing – out,

where time held eternity.

~John Hutchinson~

So much depends

upon the shore

red kayaks glazed with dew,

beyond a white egret

struts the hunt.


The dogfish shark circles

inside the pound net.

Blue crabs cling to mesh

below the strangled gull.


Siblings kneel in sand

before the red cooler,

cracking dewy oysters,

the wise shark teaches how.


Hunting for circling gulls

finds a blood riot below.

Behold the kayaking egret flock

grows seaside wild together.

~Genevieve Leet~

Murderkill River by Laura Murray

Horseshoe Crab

As seen on Laura Murray’s blog…

After weeks of inclement weather, I was especially happy to receive an invitation from my friends at Upstream Alliance to paddle Delaware waters. Weather was predicted to be in the mid-70’s and sunny, at least for a day or two. We set off on a creek paddle that would take us out to Delaware Bay just at the peak spawning of the horseshoe crab. We launched our kayaks in Federicka, DE on the upper Murderkill River. According to Wikipedia, the name is derived from Dutch, moeder meaning mother and kille meaning river, or Mother River, and not from someone’s demise there.


Murderkill River

As we began our journey downstream, extensive marshes of mostly Phragmites dominated the shoreline. Not too far along the way, these Phargmites marshes gave way to a mixed mid-salinity plant community, mainly consisting of big cordgrass, Spartina cynosuriodes.   As we began “riding the tide” down the river, I noticed numerous floating Spartina plant parts in the water that looked suspiciously as if they had been cropped by animal grazing. Could the culprit be the destructive, non-native rodent, the Nutria?  I was not aware that these creatures had made it as far north as Delaware.


Grazed marsh grass

All too soon we reached the mouth of Murderkill River at the small fishing village of Bower’s Beach. Here we beached our kayaks and watched hundreds of birds feeding on horseshoe crab eggs. Although seemingly preoccupied with their meal, they readily took flight with passing boats. These birds, including ruddy turnstones and the endangered red knots, depend on the crab eggs during their lengthy migration from their winter grounds in South America and southern United States to their breeding grounds near the Artic Circle. We spoke to a biologist who was studying these migrating birds. She told us the birds will gain two or more times their weight during this 2-3 week feeding frenzy.


Birds in flight

That night on the full moon and the first warm days of spring, the Delaware Bay waters warmed enough (nighttime temperature must be at least 590 F) for the horseshoe crabs to come ashore and spawn en mass.


Horseshoe crab

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crabs descended on South Bower’s beach where we were camping for the night.  The mating-spawning ritual involves the larger females leading “locked on” smaller males as they make their way up the beach from the water. Eggs are released around the high tide mark. The next morning, the birds swoop in to gobble up some of the eggs. The dependence of the birds on this food source ensures their survival. Their numbers depend on the availability of the horseshoe crab eggs, so when the crab populations decline, so do the bird populations.


Crab spawn

As the morning dawned, I was pleasantly satisfied that I had checked off one more item on my “bucket list”. Seeing this ancient ritual of the horseshoe crab was magical.

By Laura Murray