As a Leadership Academy Fellow, MM&C's Amy Grasso volunteers her time to give local students opportunities to learn and make contributions to our community. One such program, "Heroes on the Half Shell," aims to bring awareness to the plight of the oyster and its role in the health of the bay. Oysters act as an important filter, extracting particles and algae and flushing water back into the bay. Their former abundance allowed for the entire bay to be filtered in a few hours; today, it takes a year. The oysters project began in January with classroom presentations to local elementary schools. According to Ms. Grasso, "The classroom lessons generally talk about pollution and how the bay came to be the way it is, and then focus on what we can do to fix it." Following the classroom lessons, the students began collecting empty oyster shells — mostly from restaurants — as part of a competition between the schools. The collection runs until April. All the shells will go to the Oyster Recovery Project, a local organization that recycles the shells. These shells are valuable in nurturing the oyster population; one shell can grow up to ten new oysters. The Heroes project culminates in May with the unveiling of an oyster exhibit at the Maryland Science Center, which welcomes 60,000 to 80,000 students a year. "Through the oyster competition," says Grasso, "the children are directly contributing to the restoration of the oyster population in the bay."
"Heroes on the Half Shell" is the first Leadership Academy project to focus on environmental law. The Academy is a 12 month program that teaches young students and future lawyers to be better leaders.