WLS Programs on the Eastern Shore
On a WLS Eastern Shore program, students will gain environmental leadership skills and spend our first few days at a marine ecology center in order to understand the complex ecosystems of maritime forests, salt marshes, and barrier islands. After gaining an understanding the Shore’s ecology, students will begin to explore how human forces impact the environment on the Shore. Environmental leadership students will learn about corporate farming, poultry houses, and also see examples of small-scale organic and community-based farms, along with local oyster hatcheries. Then they will visit a local school to understand the educational crisis that exists in our backyard. At the end of the environmental student leadership program, students will have a chance to go sea kayaking and explore an 18th century colonial plantation, which today is a working grape farm.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is the thin finger of land that separates the salt marshes of the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. This peninsula, only 10 miles wide, was one of the first places the English colonists settled after founding nearby Jamestown in 1607. Because of its geographic isolation, the Eastern Shore remains today a time capsule of its colonial history. Virginia’s Eastern Shore is also an interesting case study on how industrial agriculture is threatening the most pristine Atlantic coastline in the continental United States.
Though crops have changed, the Eastern Shore today remains some of the best-producing farmland in the United States. In the old days, cotton, potatoes, and strawberries were produced on the Shore, and today, some of the main crops are soybean, corn, wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, and most recently, grapes for winemaking.
Over the last few decades, smaller family farms have gradually been replaced by large corporate farms. At the same time, huge metal chicken houses have been built across Accomack County, the northernmost of Virginia’s two counties on the Shore. Local environmental activists say pollution from corporate farms and chicken houses endangers the delicate ecosystem of the Shore’s Atlantic coastline, which consists of a vast network of salt marshes and uninhabited barrier islands. The Nature Conservancy, a conservation organization, controls a large part of the Eastern Shore’s coastline and calls it the most pristine Atlantic coastline in the continental U.S.
The safety of our programs rests on the experience and skills of our Staff, Country Coordinators and Instructors, who convene at our annual training in Colorado’s Arkansas Valley.
- The Staff of World Leadership School have decades of experience working in different educational environments. Their focus is logistics, risk management, program design, professional development, and consulting.
- Our Country Coordinators live and work year round in our overseas countries. They screen our homestay families, evaluate our transport and other service providers, and provide ground support for our groups.
- Our Instructors are veteran educators with extensive international experience. They have wilderness first responder training and often have past affiliations with Peace Corps, Outward Bound, NOLS, and/or independent schools.
We strive to responsibly manage risks. Our itineraries minimize highway travel and maximize immersion in rural communities that we know well. We update our risk management protocols, integrate feedback into program design, and invest in safety and communication equipment. Despite these efforts, World Leadership School cannot guarantee safety nor can it eliminate the inherent and other risks of international student travel. For information regarding program activities and associated risks, risk management, and student and parent responsibilities, please contact our office.