Grades K-2

Grades K-2 students learn how to measure oysters

Bring your students to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center for hands-on and inquiry-based programs that focus on the practices of science and align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Students will actively take on the role of scientists by asking questions, collecting and analyzing data and constructing explanations about the research they’ve conducted. Programs are offered year round and designed to be outside as much as possible. 

The main program for K-2nd grade is called Exploring Nature. You may custom design your field trip with one of these six activites:

  • Seining: Students will ask a question about the types of creatures that live in the shallow waters of the Bay. They will then help gather fish and invertebrates from a seine net and sort them based on their adaptations for moving (e.g. swimming, hopping, crawling). Students will then count their organisms and discuss what they found.
  • Blue Crabs: Students will ask a question about what makes a blue crab well adapted for living in the Bay. They will meet a live blue crab and draw their own blue crab using the live specimen to help them learn crab anatomy and adaptations for living in an aquatic environment.
  • Understanding Oysters: Students will ask questions about the types of creatures that rely on oysters and oyster shells. They will sort through baskets of oyster shells looking for fish and invertebrates that colonize a model oyster reef. Students sort and count their creatures and try to explain what they found. 
  • Tools for Trees: Students will ask questions about how to measure and describe trees. They will learn tree anatomy and how to use tools (e.g. DBH tape, calipers) to measure trees and leaves. If there is time they will create their own tree and leaf key using crayon rubbing.
  • Caterpillar Camouflage: Students will ask questions about how caterpillars and other creatures keep from being eaten. They will learn about food webs and camouflage before they participate in a modeling activity (fun race) to “capture” pretend caterpillars (colored pasta). At the end, students will discuss which colors were easiest to find in the modeling activity environments. If time allows, we will create a simple pictograph and discuss how to read pictographs.
  • Earthworm Explorations: Students will ask questions about how earthworms are adapted to live in soil. They will learn about earthworms by getting hands-on with live specimens and conducting simple soil experiments. We add a literacy component to this program by reading aloud a short book about earthworms.

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
    • 1 adult per 5 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.