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Lab or In-School Programs for Grades 3 - 5

Bring your students to our laboratories, or invite us into your classroom for an in-school visit!  All activities are stand-alone, or can be paired with a boat or shore program to deepen the learning experience. Choose two activities for each 2.5 hour time slot unless otherwise indicated
Animal Encounters
Critter Bins (Project O or In-School) Critter availability may be seasonal. Students rotate in small groups between bins containing a variety of organisms from Long Island Sound. For each organism, students will make predictions about how the animals move, eat, and survive.  Students will identify and discuss structures and behaviors that they think are adaptations.  This activity can be customized for a wide range of age levels and curricular goals.
Critter Explorations (Project O or In-School) Critter availability may be seasonal. Specially designed to provide younger students with the opportunity for a deep dive into the lives of specific marine organisms.  Each hour-long program includes an opportunity to meet and touch a marine animal, a lesson on the biology or ecology of that animal, a story book, and a craft.

Hermit Habitats: Hermit crabs are common in shallow water. Did you know they are often home to other smaller animals? Students will touch live hermit crabs, hear a story, and create a hermit crab of their own.

Living Fossils: Horseshoe crabs have been on Earth as long as the dinosaurs!  How have they been successful for so long?  Students will find out as they touch a live horseshoe crab, make a horseshoe crab model to take home, and hear a story.


Fabulous Fish: There are many different types of fish in Long Island Sound!  Students will touch live fish, discover adaptations used for protection, hear a story, and try their hand at camouflage.  Will anyone find your camouflaged flounder?


Super Skates: These animals are related to sharks and rays.  Students will figure out what these amazing animals have in common, hear a story, touch a living skate, and design a skate of their own.


Secrets of Squid: Find out how squid protect themselves against predators and search for their shell, which is called a pen!  Students will examine the inside and outside of a longfin squid, read a story, and create a squid craft to take home.


Amazing Algae: Seaweeds are at the base of the food web in the ocean – marine animals depend on them for food, protection, and more!  Seaweed is also used in many products you use every day, such as toothpaste and ice cream.  Students will examine seaweed up close, read a story, and then make their own kelp forest!


Clever Crabs: Discover how to tell male from female crabs, and what these animals eat based on their adaptations.  Students will read a picture book, touch live crabs, and create a crab of their own.

Crab Habitats (Project O Lab) 

The Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) is an invasive species that has become extremely common in local rocky intertidal habitats.  It competes for resources such as hiding places and food with native crabs.  In this inquiry-based activity, students design their own experimental chambers to understand habitat selection and competition for resources in populations of Asian shore crabs. Pairs well with a Rocky Intertidal Exploration.

Squid Dissection (Project O Lab or In-School)
Students will study in detail the external and internal characteristics of the long finned squid.  We will discuss squid adaptations and ecology, as well as the properties of organs and organ systems.  
Plankton Exploration (Project O)
Students will use microscopes to examine and draw planktonic organisms from Long Island Sound.  We will compare different types of plankton, and discuss the role of plankton in the food web.  Students will then participate in an engineering challenge in which they design their own planktonic organisms.  We will evaluate and compare designs during a plankton race (sinking rate challenge) – slowest plankton wins!  Can be offered in modified form as an in-school, without the plankton engineering challenge.

Seal Adaptations/Pinniped Power (Project O Lab or In-School) 

Small groups of students will rotate through a series of five stations each focusing on a different adaptation of the harbor seal.  Students will learn how to identify seals, examine the properties of seal skin and blubber and learn how they keep seals warm; explore seal senses and how they are adapted for underwater life; and conduct mini experiments to find out how seal shape and seal lungs are adapted for underwater life and swimming power.

Fish Printing (Gyotaku) and Fish Anatomy (Project O Lab or In-School)
Originating in Japan and China in the 1800's, fish printing served a practical purpose as fishermen used it to preserve a record of their catch. Since then, fish printing has been practiced as a form of art. In this STEAM lesson, students learn about fish form and function, then make their own fish prints on paper or t-shirts. Project Oceanology t-shirts may be available for an additional cost. Please inquire if interested.
Experiments and Engineering Challenges
All Caught Up Engineering Challenge (Project O or In-School)
Bycatch is a serious problem for many marine fisheries.  In this engineering challenge focused on fisheries and conservation, students learn about bycatch and then design fishing nets that will maximize catch of a target species while minimizing bycatch.  We’ll test the nets in a fishing competition, then redesign them to improve performance.  Discussion will include examples drawn from fisheries management.
Davy Jones Locker/Layered Ocean (Project O Lab or In-School) In this activity focused on density and why things float or sink, students try to find Davy Jones’ Locker – a mythical place between the surface and the sea floor – by building a layered ocean model in a large tube, and using hands-on experimentation to adjust the density of an object to make it float between the layers of seawater. We will discuss what their findings mean for the ocean environment and the animals that live there.
Energy Engineers: Build-a-Blade Wind Power (Project O or In-School)
How does a wind turbine work?  In this challenge, students will conduct an experiment to test how blade length, shape, and number affect power output.  We’ll test and revise the blades to find the optimal design, and learn about sustainable energy and the growing wind energy industry in New England. NOTE: Requires the entire 2.5 hours.

Coastal Erosion (Project O Lab) 

Students will create a coastal model that includes a beach or river and try to stabilize the structures they create. Groups will observe for impacts of erosion and then engineer solutions to coastal erosion by testing out a variety of mitigation strategies.  


Water Filtration (Lab or In-School)
Water treatment plants purify water, but so do natural habitats such as marshes.  In this engineering challenge, students learn about water purification and then design and test their own water purification devices.  Discussion will focus on how well different materials work to remove smell, color, and films from water, and on how water purification in the student-designed devices is similar to and different from water purification in the marsh and in the water treatment plant.
Fish Respiration (Lab or In-School) 
Fish living in estuarine environments frequently must cope with dramatic fluctuations in temperature and other environmental variables.  In this lab, students will study the physiological response of fish to rapid temperature change, and then discuss how this might impact their ecology.
Seal Thermoregulation (Lab or In-School)
Seals are warm-blooded mammals that need to maintain a constant body temperature for survival.  Harbor seals in Long Island Sound have adaptations that allow them to stay warm through the cold winter months.  In this activity, students use oatmeal models to quantify the effect of body size and shape on heat loss.

Plankton Exploration (Project O)

Students will use microscopes to examine and draw planktonic organisms from Long Island Sound.  We will compare different types of plankton, and discuss the role of plankton in the food web.  Students will then participate in an engineering challenge in which they design their own planktonic organisms.  We will evaluate and compare designs during a plankton race (sinking rate challenge) – slowest plankton wins!  

Other Grade 3 - 5 Programs

Programming Home Pages:
On the Boat
On the Shore
Lab or In-School
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