Education

Group Programs

SERC offers programs for organized groups of all ages and interests. 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. Topics range from hands-on activities related to SERC science to general talks about the research conducted at SERC. You can also explore some of our 2,600 acres of land and water, with a guide, to visit research sites and learn about Smithsonian science in the field. 

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

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

This field trip is based on children following the journey of Gary the Grass Shrimp. The number of stations you choose will depend on how much time you have. These stations are fine in any combination.

Seining
Students will journey with Gary to explore the types of creatures that live in the nearshore zone of the Bay. They will then help gather fish and invertebrates from a seine net and sort them based on their adaptations for moving (swimming, hopping, crawling, floating, and sitting). Students will then count their organisms and discuss what they found.

Blue Crabs
We’ll journey with Gary to meet another invertebrate that is similar but not exactly like Gary himself. They will learn the parts of a blue crab, relate our five sense to a blue crab’s five senses, and learn the life cycle of a blue crab to see how baby crabs are alike but not exactly like their parents. They will then meet a live blue crab and compare it to mud crabs (smaller crabs) that live in the Bay. Students will get to handle the mud crabs and afterwards play a relay game.
   
Oysters
Here we’ll travel with Gary to meet his relatives Ginny and Gus Grass Shrimp that live on an oyster reef. He will explore the different types of creatures that rely on oysters (live oysters as well as
their shells). Students will 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.

Sharks
Gary bravely visits with his shark friends to learn more about the types of sharks that live in the Bay. Students will help Gary figure out how big the sharks really are by learning about some of the commons sharks in the Bay. We’ll discover what sharks eat by doing a mock necropsy too. Everyone will get to learn what shark skin feels like, see shark teeth and jaws, and even see a preserved shark.

Terrapins
In this station Gary will learn about the difference between land and water turtles, and specifically about the Chesapeake Bay’s unique resident, the diamondback terrapin. You’ll visit with a live terrapin and learn about his adaptations for living in the Bay. After that you’ll go with Gary on a turtle shell scavenger hunt along one of our trails.

Details
Time Required:
1 program=1 hr
2 programs= 2 hrs
3 programs=2.5 hrs
4 programs= 3 hrs

Group Size:
Up to 20 per activity; max group size 60 for multiple stations

Cost:
1-2 Activities
= $18/person or $300 minimum
3-4 Activities = $22/person or $375 minimum

 

Canoe excursions are designed for beginner paddlers and will include basic paddling instruction, life jackets, and two canoe guides. Trips are 3 hours long and may take up to 22 participants (parents and students). All participants should be able to swim. Guides will discuss the basics of watersheds and estuaries with participants, as well as share current research conducted at SERC. They will also point out wetland features, native plants, and animals along the way.

Details
Time Required:
3 hrs

Group Size:
Up to 22 

Cost:
$20/adults, $18/ child (12 or younger) or $300 minimum
 

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.  

Details
Time Required:
1.5 hours

Group Size:
Up to 20 

Cost:
$18/ participant or $300 minimum

This program can be adapted for a range of ages. It focuses on science as narrative, and a collection of facts, procedures, and observations that lead to understanding the world. The guiding question of the trip is, “How do scientists tell the story of clean water, and how do people fit into that story.” We focus on science as fact based, though hands-on inquiry at each station.

Plankton/ Microscopes
Students will begin with a short introduction about the difference between clean water, dirty water, and treated water. They will then discover how plankton plays a role in clean and dirty water, specifically related to humans. Students will be given a plankton sample and filamentous algae from the Bay, and then be asked to sort phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Oysters and Model Oyster Reef Sorting
Students will begin by exploring the different types of bivalves that live in the Bay, and then learn about how oysters live together and their biological function. They will attempt to build a model oyster reef to determine its habitat structure and then sort through a model reef that has been colonized by fish and invertebrates from the Bay. They will sort the organisms and learn about the role that oysters play in clean water and Bay habitat.

Seining
Students will begin by discussing how researchers might study nearshore organisms, and learn how SERC researchers use seining nets to catch fish and invertebrates. They will discuss the term “biodiversity” and how biodiversity might be an indicator of water’s health. They will then collect data by donning waders and use seining nets to sample the populations. Students will conclude with a short discussion about their findings and what they might mean.  

Watersheds
Students will explore how a watershed works through narrative and a 3D watershed model. They will demonstrate how material gets into and is carried through a watershed. After this they will then discuss how the properties of water can be described, and then will demonstrate by using a secci disc and sounding lead as well as a hydrometer.

Blue Crabs
At this station students will be introduced to the anatomy and biology of blue crabs. They will learn about their natural history, from what they eat to when and where they migrate. Students will then visit with a live blue crabs and study its anatomy and movement up close. They will then finish with a short discussion about blue crab research here at SERC and look at crab pots with excluders.

Bay Sharks
Did you know there were sharks in the Bay? Students will learn about sharks native to the Chesapeake Bay and found along the Atlantic coast. They will learn shark anatomy and then conduct a mock shark necropsy to determine the stomach contents of common sharks and rays in the bay. Afterwards we’ll see a preserved shark and then study and sort shark teeth found at Calvert Cliffs here in Maryland.

Details
Time Required:
1 program=1 hr
2 programs= 2 hrs
3 programs=2.5 hrs
4 programs= 3 hrs

Group Size:
Up to 15 per activity; max group size 60 for multiple stations

Cost:
1-2 Activities
= $18/person or $300 minimum
3-4 Activities = $22/person or $375 minimum

This program requires at least 3.5 hours, and no more than 30 students.

Introduction to Blue Crab Anatomy, Hydraulics, and Pneumatics
Students will start by asking a question about the adaptations that allow blue crabs to live in the Chesapeake Bay. They will then study the life cycle of the blue crab and its molting process. Next they will be introduced to how the blue crab uses fluid movement (hydraulics) to move after molting, and how this relates to pneumatics (motion through compression of air). We will demonstrate these principles, and Newton’s 3rd Law, using syringes of air and water.

Build a Blue Crab Hydraulic Arm
In part two of this class students will be introduced to the field of biomimicry, or solving problems using solutions found in nature. They will then be challenged to engineer a model blue crab arm that moves up and down, mimicking the structure of a blue crab arm. After sketching schematics they will then using simple materials, and syringes filled with fluid, to build a hydraulic arm that can lift a light object.

Details
Time Required:
3 hrs

Group Size:
Up to 25 

Cost:
$18/person or $375 minimum, cost includes materials fees

Having the Smithsonian right in your own backyard is pretty amazing, and so is the research that is conducted at SERC. In this activity we feature SERC science and research related to oysters, blue crabs, orchids, invasive species, climate change and more.  This talk can be modified for all ages, from children to adults. Younger students will have an opportunity to try on field gear and use research tools.

Details
Time Required:
1 hr

Group Size:
Up to 40 

Cost:
$18/person or $300 minimum