Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Sultana Education Foundation’s milestone construction establishes a legacy for future generations

Mar 29, 2016 01:04PM ● By Lisa Lewis

Educated By Example

By Lisa A. Lewis // Images courtesy Sultana Education Foundation

When the Sultana Education Foundation’s Bay Studies Center—a dynamic facility that will host educational programs for approximately 15,000 people each year, including more than 9,000 Maryland public school students—celebrates its official grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony this coming July in Chestertown, the Sultana Education Foundation will not only embark on an exciting new chapter, but it will also “sail” into history as only the second LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified building on the Eastern Shore. It’s a dream almost 20 years in the making.

In 1997, a group of educators who would later create what is currently the Sultana Education Foundation, joined together to achieve a unique goal: to create a full-scale replica of the 1768 Schooner Sultana, a merchant vessel in the British Royal Navy that patrolled the coastline of colonial North America from 1768 to 1772. Sultana would serve as an educational tool to help students gain an understanding of and an appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay. The community rallied together, and in 2001, Sultana, dubbed the “Schoolship of the Chesapeake,” was officially launched. Since that time, thousands of students have sailed aboard Sultana to learn about the history, ecology, and culture of the Bay.

Docked in its home port in Chestertown, Sultana has become a mainstay of the community and an important educational resource that serves as the framework of the Sultana Education Foundation and its enduring mission to “create inspired, knowledgeable stewards of the Chesapeake Bay who will pass on this treasured legacy to the next generation.”

Throughout the years, the Foundation has continued to develop its educational programs, which focus on both classroom instruction and field-based, hands-on learning experiences, to complement its Sultana programs, even partnering with school systems to offer programs in history and environmental science to students in grades K–12. Indeed, since the Foundation’s inception, more than 200,000 students have participated in its programs, including paddling excursions, historic walking tours, wetlands exploration and restoration, and summer programs that provide a variety of opportunities to explore the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the Foundation also offers programs for teachers and the public.

“By 2011, we were operating at full steam, and since there was such a great demand for our programs, we knew it was time to expand even more,” says Drew McMullen, president of the Sultana Education Foundation. “So we committed to ‘Vision 2020,’ an initiative to double the number of students we serve through our programs by the end of the decade. To achieve this goal, we knew that we needed new facilities. The Bay Studies Center will allow us to offer additional programs, including high-level science courses. It will also enable us to provide programs year round, which we weren’t able to do before because we didn’t have the proper facilities.”

“Our new Bay Studies Center is located in the heart of Chestertown’s historic district [200/204 South Cross Street],” adds Patti Hegland, board chair, Sultana Education Foundation.

“Comprised of an existing 1865 building and a contemporary new addition, the center will literally bridge Chestertown’s historic past with a state-of-the-art educational facility. In addition to doubling the number of students we serve with our hands-on educational curriculum, we will also be able to significantly expand our program offerings to the general public.”



LEED® Platinum Certified Buildings in Maryland

The Philip Merrill Environmental Center, which is located in Annapolis and houses the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters, was the first LEED® Platinum certified building in the world.

The Sultana Education Foundation’s Bay Studies Center is one of only two LEED® Platinum certified buildings on the Eastern Shore. Perdue Corporate Headquarters in Salisbury was the first to receive Platinum certification and was certified in 2013.

There are now 48 LEED® Platinum certified projects in Maryland.


A Premier Green Building

In keeping with its mission to create stewards of the Bay, the Sultana Education Foundation believed it was vital to design a building that was as environmentally friendly as possible. So it decided to obtain LEED® Platinum certification, which requires meeting rigorous standards. Indeed, LEED® certified buildings are more than simply energy-efficient buildings. Various issues, such as the site, energy, water, materials, and indoor environmental quality (such as reducing chemicals and associated emissions that affect air quality) are taken into consideration in order to implement the most sustainable and cost-effective strategies and practices. In short, constructing a LEED® certified building involves minimizing the environmental impact of the building, so it’s energy efficient and water efficient. This ensures that the building provides a healthy environment.

Construction of a LEED® Platinum certified building is an immense, challenging undertaking that involves a lot of collaboration among the members of the project team. The Sultana Education Foundation devoted a great deal of time and effort into choosing a talented team of expert contractors, architects, creative directors, and interior designers.

“We’re proud to be part of this project because of our involvement in the community and the good work that the Sultana Education Foundation does,” says Joe Fox, project manager, who has completed construction projects at Washington College, University of Maryland Shore Medical Center, and numerous commercial and residential buildings. “To me, it’s important that the history and tradition of the sailing ships are carried forward, and the Sultana Education Foundation is one of the driving forces behind that. I also believe that the opportunity to teach about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed is a great benefit to all the school districts that send students to Chestertown each year to participate in [its] programs.”

“The Bay Studies Center is a very energy-efficient building and uses 40 percent less water than a traditional building,” says Peter Doo, the hired LEED® consultant on the project. “The building is 49 percent more energy efficient than a traditional counterpart building. And the solar energy panels reduce the use of energy by five percent. So overall, the building is actually 54 percent more energy efficient than a traditional counterpart building when factoring in the renewable energy component. Working on this project was a great experience. It’s rewarding to work with people who aspire to achieve better buildings and help the environment. Constructing LEED® certified buildings is challenging, but I think that brings out the best in everyone.”


An Innovative Design

The principal design architect, Alex Castro, was responsible for creating a functional design for the Bay Studies Center that was not only contemporary but also remained true to Chestertown’s historic landscape. Since Chestertown is located in a National Register Historic District, this involved combining elements of contemporary and classic architecture. Although the task required several compromises with the Chestertown Historic District Commission and the Maryland Historic Trust, Castro believes the process was ultimately beneficial to the project.

“The working metaphor for the design is a theater stage,” Castro says. “The Cross Street elevation features a curtain wall, which opens the interior space to the street. It’s meant to [seem] as though someone has drawn the curtains back and revealed the interior of the ‘stage,’ the area where the action is. I chose to use simple, traditional forms for the building, intersecting gabled form with a box-like form. The box-like form carries within it the more work-oriented elements, whereas the gabled section, which projects toward Cross Street, carries the students’ activity space. This is the ‘theater,’ open to view by all passing in front of the building. Designing in an historic district is always a conflict of directions. My aim was to develop a building that honors the past but has enough of a contemporary feel to challenge the town to go forward in vigorously expressive ways—ways that indicate a town that is robustly moving forward.”

Although Castro developed the overall design of the Bay Studies Center, its configuration, and its atmosphere, and Joe Adamczyk, his associate, completed the working drawings, Joe Karlik was responsible for the interior design of the building. For more than 10 years, Karlik and the Sultana Education Foundation have worked together on a number of initiatives.

“We approached the design of the interior spaces to best represent the vision of Sultana and its role as an educational foundation and steward of the Bay,” Karlik says. “The selection of materials and wall colors was chosen to marry the old building with the new construction.” 


“We approached the design of the interior spaces to best represent the vision of Sultana and its role as an educational foundation and steward of the Bay. The selection of materials and wall colors was chosen to marry the old building with the new construction.” 


Exciting Facilities and Features

Since the Bay Studies Center will serve as the heart of the Sultana Education Foundation’s programs, it was important to design the building in a way that makes students feel welcome and creates a sense of excitement. The state-of-the-art building includes modern facilities and special features that captivate students’ interest and offer a variety of experiences. The following is a snapshot of a few of these facilities.

The Commons Classroom, a unique, multipurpose room, can serve as a lecture hall, movie theater, activity room, or dormitory. When entering the classroom, students are greeted by a huge floor map of the Chesapeake Bay—a creative educational tool that highlights the focus of their studies. Since the Foundation believes that hands-on learning experiences complement and enhance classroom instruction, the WetLab is an invaluable facility for its science programs and offers students the opportunity to work with a variety of equipment, including microscopes and water quality testing gear. In addition, the WetLab also features a Living Systems wall with aquariums, including a 100-gallon mobile touch tank, and is equipped with the most up-to-date technology, such as wireless video microscopes, an interactive Smart Board, and video conferencing and distance learning capabilities.

The Project Shop, which also offers opportunities for hands-on learning, includes three areas: the Work Floor, an area where students can complete projects, such as building small boats, duck boxes, and cages for growing oyster spat; the Work Shop, a wood and machine shop; and the Rigging Loft, an area located on the second floor balcony that is designed for the annual winter overhaul of the Sultana’s sailing rig. Other facilities include a lecture hall, a kitchen, and offices for the Foundation’s staff.

“The construction of the Bay Studies Center is a huge step in the Sultana Education Foundation’s nearly 20-year history,” McMullen says. “It’s truly a milestone. The Foundation and all of our generous supporters are very excited. We’ve created a solid, diverse organization that will continue to flourish and established a legacy that will endure for years to come.”