Grades 3-8

Middle school students learning about seining and nearshore communitites

Field trips for students in grades 3-8 are designed to be hands-on and inquiry-based in our outdoor classrooms and microscope laboratory. All lessons align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and correspond with SERC research and laboratories.

Our primary program is called “Shoreline Connections” (formerly Estuary Chesapeake) and consists of four activity stations (you can do less than four if time does not permit): water testing, plankton, seining and oysters. For this activity students are tasked with answering questions like “What is water quality and how does it affect life in the Bay?” Each station focuses on key vocabulary words (e.g. water quality, bio-indicators, habitat, dissolved oxygen) to help them answer activity questions. They learn the meaning of the word and its relationship to the main question though hands-on activities that model what SERC researchers do (e.g. seining, running water tests, sorting benthic invertebrates, using a microscope to look at plankton ). We adapt content and activities to be grade appropriate and include questions relating to good ecological citizenship and stewardship.

Our other field trip programs include:

  • Guided Canoe Trip
    • In this activity students will explore Muddy Creek and the Rhode River with one of our guides. Along the way we'll look for local wildlife and discuss SERC research. Basic paddling instruction and life jackets are included. 
  • Guided Trail Hike
    • In this activity students are joined by a guide for an exciting 1.5 mile round trip hike to Hog Island. On this hike we'll walk along scenic shorelines, get a bird's eye view of a marsh ecosystem from our marsh boardwalks and explore the secret life within our wooded trails. Along the way we'll look for local wildlife, discuss SERC research and visit the fish and invertebrate research station.
  • Engineering a Blue Crab
    • In this activity we'll study the anatomy of blue crabs, learn how blue crabs use hydraulics to move after molting and how this relates to pneumatics (movement via air compression). We also investigate biomimicry and challenge students to engineer a functional blue crab arm that moves objects. To do this you'll create engineering-inspired schematics to design and build a blue crab arm using simple materials.

If you have any questions, please contact Karen McDonald.

When you bring a group to SERC for a field trip, we want to make sure that you have the best experience possible. To help you with this, here are some resources for planning your field trip, including things to do before you arrive and how to prepare your students.


  • Prepare for weather
  • Consider commute time and traffic
  • Provide payment in full upon arrival or have arranged to remit payment within 10 days of field trip

Dividing the Group

  • Students: dependent on program activity (see downloadable PDF for instructions)
  • Chaperones
    • Grades 3-12: 1 adult per 10 students
    • Special Education: 1 adult per 5 students
    • Canoe trips require additional chaperones (see downloadable PDF for instructions)

Clothing (Students and Chaperones)

  • Prepare for weather
  • Closed shoes (toe and heel)
    • No crocs, flip flops, etc.
  • Change of clothes
  • Light jacket or raincoat (if needed)
  • Sunscreen, allergy and other medications
  • If anyone has known allergies (e.g. shellfish), please be sure to let SERC staff know at the beginning of the day

Food and Beverages

  • Water bottle
  • Lunch (food is not available at SERC)

When you bring a group to SERC for a field trip, we want to make sure that you have the best experience possible. To do this, we need your help. Please follow these short expectations:

  • Active participation during the program
  • Remain with your assigned student group at all times
  • Model kind behavior towards all animals
  • Limit phone calls and texts
  • Limit photos to before and after program
  • Wear name tags (students and chaperones)
  • Abide the maximum speed limit of 15mph on SERC's campus
  • Most activities are our outdoors
    • You may get wet
    • You may get dirty
    • You may be exposed to the sun and elements (e.g. rain, wind, etc.).
  • Closed shoes (toe and heel)
    • No crocs, flip flops, high heels, etc.

Please check back soon for information regarding field trip related activities that you can incorporate into your classroom lesson plans.