Summer Programs

Children on seining beach with counselor
People paddling in a canoe
Adults on a forest walk


New in 2016! For the first time, SERC is offering summer programs for all ages, from K through 90. Bring your scout troop, senior center, birding club, book club, summer camp, sports team, or group of friends to SERC for an exciting and educational hands-on program. Field trips include everything from walks and canoe trips to seining and blue crab hydraulics. While visiting, you’ll be able to try your hand at fun activities or listen to a talk, while learning about the Smithsonian research going on in your backyard.

Explore your options using the tabs below, or download the Summer Programs Brochure for a full list of SERC programs and details. For more information contact Karen McDonald at or (443) 482.2216.

Having the Smithsonian right in your own backyard is pretty amazing, and so is the research that is conducted at SERC. We’ll share with you our research oysters, blue crabs, orchids, invasive  species, climate change and more. This talk can be modified for all ages, from children to adults. For younger students we’ll try on field gear and test some research tools.  

Cost: $18/participant or $200 minimum
Approximate Time: 1 hour

Pick 1, 2, or all 4 stations:

Help gather fish and invertebrates from a seine net and sort them based on their adaptations for moving (swimming, hopping, crawling). Children will then count their organisms and discuss. Chaperones will be needed to go into the water in waders to use nets to collect the fish. 

Blue Crabs
Investigate what makes a blue crab well adapted for living in the Bay. Children will meet a live blue crab and draw their own blue crab, using the live specimen, to help them learn the crab’s anatomy and adaptations for living in an aquatic environment.
Understanding Oysters
Sort through a basket of oyster shells looking for fish and invertebrates that colonize a model reef. Children will sort and count their creatures and then try to explain what they found.  
Tools for Trees
Learn the parts of a tree and different leaf shapes. Then use tools, such as a DBH tape and calipers to measure trees and leaves. If there is time, children will create their own tree and leaf key using crayon rubbing.  
Caterpillar Camouflage
Learn about food webs, and how camouflage helps caterpillars hide. Children will then have a fun race to “capture” and count colored pasta (pretend caterpillars) and discuss which colors were easiest to find in the grass.    

Cost: 1-2 activities: $18/person or $200 minimum
3-4 activities: $22/person or $375 minimum
Approximate Time: 1-4 hours

Explore Muddy Creek and the Rhode River with one of our guides. We’ll talk about SERC research and look for local wildlife. We will include basic paddling instruction, life jackets, and canoe guides.

Cost: $25/adult, $20/child 12 and younger; or $200 minimum
Approximate Time: 2.5 hours

Join a SERC guide for a 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Hog Island. We will take you along SERC’s shorelines, stopping along the way to look for wildlife and talk about SERC research. We’ll go over two beautiful marsh boardwalks and visit the Fish and Invertebrate research weir.  

Cost: $18/participant or $200 minimum
Approximate Time: 1.5 hours

Pick 1, 2, or all 4 stations:

Participants will take samples of plankton using different sampling techniques, talk about how and why SERC researchers study plankton, and then try their hand at identifying plankton through the microscope. If there’s time we can have a plankton competition and build our own plankton.  

Oysters (Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab)
We’ll learn about live oysters and how they filter water. Then we’ll explore the organisms that live on oyster reefs by sorting through baskets of shells for fish, crabs, shrimps, and invertebrates. We’ll also take dissolved oxygen meter readings and profile surrounding waters to learn about why dissolved oxygen is so important and what SERC researchers are finding.  

Seining (Fish and Invertebrate Lab)
Explore three different nearshore habitats and learn about how habitat affects the types of fish and invertebrates that live in the Bay. You’ll don waders and use a large seining net to survey the nearshore fish and invertebrate populations in a fun, hands-on learning activity.   

Water Testing (Nutrient Lab)
We’ll use our fun 3D landscape model and discover how a watershed works, testing water samples from the Rhode River. Participants will test salinity, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and nitrates. We'll also look at a blue crab shell under a microscope and discover what happens when water becomes supersaturated with carbon dioxide as climate changes.

1-2 activities: $18/participant or $200 minimum
3-4 activities: $22/participant or $375 minimum

Approximate Time: 1-4 hours

Introduction to Blue Crab Anatomy, Hydraulics, and Pneumatics
We’ll visit with some live crabs, study their anatomy and learn about how they use fluid movement (hydraulics) to move after molting, and how this relates to pneumatics 
(motion through compression of air). We will demonstrate using syringes of air and water.  

Build a Blue Crab Hydraulic Arm
You’ll be introduced to the field of biomimicry, and be challenged to engineer a blue crab arm that moves. After sketching schematics, you will then using simple materials and syringes filled with fluid to build a hydraulic arm that can lift a light object. 

Cost: $18/participant or $375 minimum
Approximate time: 3 hours