Environmental Studies Program

The Environmental Studies Program at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center offers a unique opportunity for students to expand their understanding of sustainable economics and business innovation, social sustainability, environmental sustainability and natural resource stewardship. Through experiential learning and community partnerships, students will learn about sustainability and expand their hands-on STEM experiences. Local environmental issues will contextualize students' challenge-based, collaborative, and design-thinking learning experiences. Integrated interdisciplinary instruction and service learning projects will broaden student knowledge of local and global issues pertaining to sustainability.

This program prepares students for post-secondary education and provides opportunities to investigate careers related to the environment and sustainability. Students will acquire the globally competitive skills necessary to be successful in pathways after high school and to become future scientists, politicians, and business leaders within our community and larger world. Through advanced placement coursework, students will secure a high school diploma, earn college credits and make an impact on our local environment, while benefiting from a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Goal of the Program

The goal of the Environmental Studies Program is to empower students in the program to broaden their understanding of sustainability through:

  • Utilizing the natural community as a context for learning about environmental and sustainability issues
  • Implementing environmental service learning projects
  • Integrating interdisciplinary instruction
  • Incorporating challenge based, collaborative and design thinking learning
  • Earning the Board of Education's Seal for Excellence in Science and the Environment


This program is for juniors and seniors. Students will attend the program every day for a partial school day and will travel to or from their home school for the other part of the day.

While at the Brock Environmental Center 11th grade students will take:

  • AP Environmental Science
  • Sustainability Core Concepts and Environmental Systems
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Watershed Hydrology

In year two of the program, 12th grade students will take:

  • Topical Research
  • Senior Independent Study: Internship Experiences with community partners

Application Process

Before entering grade 11, students will apply for admission to the program in the fall of their sophomore year. An essay formulated around the topics of Sustainable Economics and Business Innovation, Social Sustainability and Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Stewardship will be included in the application and will be used to identify candidates who show a passion for and interest in the fields of study. 

Fifty applicants will be accepted into the program in its first year. Rising 11th grade students will be selected using a lottery system so long as they meet the following criteria:

  • All course pre-requisites are met.
  • They have positive teacher recommendations. 
  • The student essay displays an ability to rationalize and think creatively and critically to solve or describe a problem pertaining to sustainability. 

A committee of school administrators, teachers and other professionals will review the applications and determine if the above criteria are met. 

Applicants that meet the above criteria will be entered into a spreadsheet, and a random number generator will select 25 students for the AM session and 25 students for the PM session, based on transportation zones. Those students will be recommended for admission. Alternates will be identified using the same process to fill the slots that are declined. The Environmental Studies Program will select 50 juniors for the 2022-2023 school year.

Applications for the 2023-2024 school year will open on for current 10th graders Oct. 26, 2022, and will close Feb. 15, 2023. Students will be notified of admission to the program in March. To apply, go to https://espapplication.vbcps.com

EcoSummit Senior Independent Study

All students within the program will complete an intensive one-year research project or senior internship focusing on a local sustainability issue. Through the independent study, students will have the opportunity to spend one year immersed in design thinking on a topic within the sustainable strand of their choice. The requirements of the independent study will be the same for all students, but the methods to complete the research project will be different based on the strand and student.

A goal of the independent study is to expose students to out-of-the-classroom design thinking experiences within our local community. Students' exposure to research and local, real-world, relevant field investigations will provide important educational opportunities. Students will design scientific studies and create potential sustainable solutions to local issues. The research project will culminate in an annual end-of-year Environmental Studies Program EcoSummit showcasing each senior's independent study work and each student's solutions or ideas to the local issue they focused on. The Environmental Studies Program EcoSummit will be delivered by students to members of the community, business and school officials.

For additional information contact Christopher Freeman, Environmental Studies Program Coordinator in the Department of Teaching and Learning.