top of page

Photographing “Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake”

DC EcoWomen launched its spring photo contest in April and received more than 30 submissions of high-quality, on-topic photos showing how our great community is advancing environmental efforts in DC and around the world. The photos also showed how our members are learning and growing from environmentally-related experiences and putting their leadership skills to good work.

Our Third Place photo contest winner, Mary Polacek, shared a photo of DC students in 7th and 8th grades connecting with the Chesapeake Bay at the Echo Hill Outdoor School in MD. We sat down with Mary to hear firsthand about the winning shot and the inspiration behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Take us back to the time this photo was shot. What was the experience like being there?

Mary: The photo was taken place at Echo Outdoor school on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The experience there was beautiful; I personally have not seen the bay for awhile, and some of these DC students never have. So the experience was highlighted by the students, who were engaged right away, filling their senses with the water, sand, critters…  and overall getting to experience the Chesapeake Bay.

DC EcoWomen: We love opportunities that help EcoWomen members learn and grow. Did this experience help you grow and learn anything about yourself or about the environment?

Mary: Teaching in general, I have learned, is always a growing process. But the moment this photo was taken, the learning experience was trying to convey to the young girls that we could not bring stones and shells back home, and why it was important to leave them for the habitat and others to visually enjoy. They wanted to have tangible items to remember the experience, I tried and hoped to convey that with photographs you could have the memory and potentially something tangible.

DC EcoWomen: What words of wisdom do you have for future photo contest winners to try to snap a winning shot?

Be respectful to the people in your photographs. Try so that their faces aren’t directly seen and/or get their permission to use them in a photo.

“Teaching and Exploring the Chesapeake” by Mary Polacek

Mary Polacek is an Environmental Scientist and has worked around the country on various large infrastructure projects, working for local municipalities with a focus water quality. She moved to DC in 2012 and started working for DOEE’s Water Quality Division, where she was part of the inspection program and investigated illicit discharges to waters of the District. In 2016, she became a full time mom and started teaching with Anacostia Watershed Society for their Saturday Environmental Academy for DC students in 7th and 8th grade. She enjoys reading, traveling, planning, photography, cooking, and chasing her daughter Sophia.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page