The Gunston School

The Chesapeake Watershed Semester  

A high school educational experience equal to the challenges of our time.  

Dr. David Orr writes, “We continue to educate the young for the most part as if there were no planetary emergency.” What we teach, or don’t teach, provides today’s students with an educational foundation that they will draw upon for years to come.  The Gunston School has launched the Chesapeake Watershed Semester as a powerful opportunity to expand our educational paradigm and offer students a 21st Century learning experience that empowers them with real-world knowledge, critical thinking capacities, and leadership skills. 

The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed have REAL challenges

Politicians and scientists have spent decades crafting REAL solutions

Students thrive when the learning is REAL

The Chesapeake Watershed Semester offers real learning and real transformation

The Chesapeake Watershed Semester offers a unique model for high school education, the “deep dive”.  Additionally, it stands apart from other semester schools by offering a blend of science and policy grounded in a regional environmental issue. More than two years in the planning, and borrowing from Gunston's 20+ years of innovative Chesapeake Bay Studies programming, CWS offers students extraordinary learning and life experiences.

Within the intensive fifteen-week program, students spend nearly a third of their time on various leadership expeditions and field experiences, ranging from a trip to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, to seminars with public policy leaders in Annapolis and Washington, to an extended tour of the energy-producing regions of Pennsylvania, to a multi-day stay on the ecologically fragile Tangier Island, where the impacts of sea level rise can be observed first-hand.  When on campus, rigorous classroom, lab, and research project work deepen each student's academic foundation, leading to a capstone action project to be publicly presented at the end of the program. We expect that each cohort of CWS students will emerge as reflective and confident scholars and leaders who can support regional and global environmental sustainability through their understanding of scientific, social, cultural, and political systems.

This fully-accredited, semester-long program for high school juniors and seniors welcomed 13 Gunston students in its inaugural pilot semesters, and seeks to welcome students from around the region for the fall of 2020.  To learn more about the Watershed Semester, visit us at or contact Emily Beck, Director of CWS, at

About The Gunston School: Located on a 35-acre waterfront campus on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the co-educational Gunston Farm School was founded in 1911 by Sam and Mary Middleton. The Gunston School is an independent day school serving students in grades 9-12.  Now enrolling over 200 students from five Maryland counties and Delaware, and experiencing 60% enrollment growth since 2010, Gunston enjoys a strong reputation for delivering a rigorous, nurturing, and personalized college preparatory high school program. Moreover, the school has been an innovator in environmental education.  The annual “Chesapeake Bay Studies” experiential learning week is over 20 years old, and we recently partnered with AIMS, AISGW, and VAIS to create and lead the multi-day “Environmental Leadership for Independent School Leaders” summer workshop. 

To learn more about The Gunston school, visit us at