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Mural project helps kids think about protecting Chesapeake Bay


Sharks, jellyfish and even a butterfly swam across a large canvas that was outside the National Aquarium in Baltimore. For some 500 kids who visited the aquarium last month, the painting they made &

butterfly and all &

is how they envision a clean Chesapeake Bay.

The kids were inspired (and helped) by the one-named artist Wyland, a painter who specializes in water scenes. Wyland travels the country with a specially outfitted education trailer, aiming to get kids thinking about how they can protect the lakes, rivers and oceans near their homes.

"I believe that by them creating art they will become more aware and better stewards," or caretakers, of the environment, he said.

The Chesapeake Bay is the country's largest estuary (pronounced ESS-tyoo-AIR-ee, it's a partly enclosed area where fresh water and salt watermix). More than 90 percent of U.S. estuaries, including the Chesapeake, are polluted, according to government scientists.

Pollution from trash, lawn fertilizers and other sources greatly affects the bay's ecosystem, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. As a result, millions of fish and other marine creatures are killed every year.

In the trailer, Wyland teaches kids about watersheds and how the things people do miles away from an ocean or bay eventually can affect the quality of water there. Kids can follow a drop of water through the water cycle and learn how man-made pollutants affect the environment.

"I knew a lot about (the water cycle) but not as much as I know now," Bethany Moorehead, 13, of Bloomington, Md., said while visiting the exhibit in Baltimore.

Wyland, 51, has been interested in protecting the oceans since he was a kid. He first saw an ocean at age 13 and jumped into the Pacific as two gray whales swam nearby. "It was like seeing a dinosaur," he recalled, his voice still filled with awe.

He has dedicated his life to protecting whales by painting life-size murals, which he calls Whaling Walls, that encourage people to think about the importance of clean water. He gets kids to paint, too. His 100th mural with kids will be painted next summer in Beijing before the Olympics.

Emmanuel Pullen, 8, who helped paint the Baltimore mural with classmates from Excellence Christian School in Upper Marlboro, Md., said he learned that "God's creatures are very interesting" and that pollution "is not good for the sea animals."