LAB OR IN-SCHOOL - MIDDLE SCHOOL

Lab or In-School Programs for Middle School Students

Deepen the learning experience by adding hands-on experiences in the laboratory to complement what your students are doing on the boat and on the shore. Labs can also be a stand-alone experience, and many of them can be brought to your classroom during an in-school visit!  Teachers may work with our marine educators to customize a lab program, or select from one of our standard labs below.  Choose two activities for each 2.5 hour time slot unless otherwise indicated.
New!  Climate Escape Box (Lab or In-School)
In this fast-paced and engaging activity, students will work to solve puzzles related to climate change as they try to open a locked box.  Discussion will focus on the keys to solving the climate crisis, and on how students can be climate stewards.
Creature Encounters
Critter Bins (Lab or In-School) Seasonal (fall/spring), based on organism availability. Students rotate in small groups between bins containing a variety of organisms from Long Island Sound.  The activity can be focused in several different ways:
Adaptations: 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.
 
Taxonomic Classification:  Students will use a dichotomous key to identify phyla, genus and species of each organism.
Tree of Life: Students will take notes on major traits of the organisms, and note how they are similar and dissimilar.  They will then use their observations to build phylogenetic trees – visual hypotheses about how the organisms might be related evolutionarily.  Students will present their trees to the rest of the class (requires the entire 2.5 hour period if taught as a lab, or two separate hour-long sessions if taught as an in-school).  
 
Lobsters and Climate Change (Lab or In-School)
Students will rotate through stations in which they examine live lobsters, practice skills related to the lobster fishery such as lobster measurement and banding, examine a lobster trap, learn about lobster life cycles, interpret data from CT DEEP and Project Oceanology on climate change and lobster populations in Long Island Sound, and create a graph based on Project Oceanology’s lobster catch dataset.  We’ll end with a discussion of causes and consequences of the lobster die-off in Long Island Sound.  
Squid Dissection (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 (Lab or In-School)
Students will use microscopes to examine and draw planktonic organisms from Long Island Sound.  Students will compare different types of plankton, and discuss the role of plankton in the food web.  For lab programs taught at Project O only, students will then participate in an engineering challenge in which they design their own planktonic organisms. Students will have the opportunity to evaluate and compare their designs during a plankton race (sinking rate challenge) – slowest plankton wins!  In-school does not include plankton engineering challenge, and requires access to dissecting microscopes.
 
Marine Algae / Algal Ice Cream (Lab or In-School)
Marine seaweed is of great importance to coastal and nearshore environments. In this lesson, students learn about seaweed anatomy and classification as they collect and identify seaweed specimens.  Students can also extract carrageenans from seaweeds and then use the extract to make their own ice cream! 

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 examine the properties of seal skin, seal blubber, and seal shape (streamlining).  

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

Fish Printing (Gyotaku) and Fish Anatomy (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. This activity focuses on the history of fish printing and its modern form.  In this lesson, students learn about fish form and function, then make their own fish prints on paper or t-shirts.  Project Oceanology t-shirts are available in a range of sizes for purchase at our front desk for $10.00 each.
Experiments and Engineering Challenges
Davy Jones Locker/Layered Ocean (Lab or In-School)
The ocean appears homogenous from the surface, but under the waves there are many different layers of seawater.  As an organism travels from surface water to deeper water, it may encounter sharp changes in temperature, salinity, and other physical factors.  In this activity, students try to find Davy Jones’ Locker – a mythical place between the surface and the sea floor – by adjusting the density of an object to make it float between layers of seawater.
 
Bycatch Engineering Challenge (Lab 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.

Plankton Exploration (Project O Lab or In-School) 

Students will use microscopes to examine and draw planktonic organisms from Long Island Sound.  Students will compare different types of plankton, and discuss the role of plankton in the food web.  For lab programs taught at Project O only, students will then participate in an engineering challenge in which they design their own planktonic organisms.  Students will have the opportunity to evaluate and compare their designs during a plankton race (sinking rate challenge) – slowest plankton wins!  In-school does not include plankton engineering challenge, and requires access to dissecting microscopes.

 
Energy Engineers: Build-a-Blade Wind Power (Lab or In-School) NOTE: 2.5 hrs duration
Wind Power energy generation is a growing industry in southeastern New England. In this lab, students will conduct an experiment to test variables in turbine blade design, such as pitch, blade length, blade number, and others. Students will use their data to draw conclusions about which variables have the greatest effect on power output. Then, students will design, test, and revise turbine blades to find the optimal design with the least waste.

Beach Erosion (Project O Lab) 

Students will use our wave tank to study how wave action affects the size and shape of beaches.  Build a beach and stabilization structures, and see how they would stand up to a hurricane!  We can also set the wave activity to mimic summer or winter conditions to see how water movements can build up or erode away beach areas.  

 
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.
 

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.

 
Rock Erosion & Experimental Design (Lab or In-School)
Students will learn about chemical and physical weathering and rock types, then make predictions about how temperature, pH, turbulence, and exposed surface area will impact erosion rates of limestone (chalk).  They will then work in small groups to design and carry out a two-factor experiment testing two of these variables, and report their findings back to the larger group.  This activity introduces students to complex experimental designs, and can be customized to fit into a wide variety of earth science curricula.
 
Data Analysis Labs (Lab or In-School)  
Project Oceanology offers data analysis labs to accompany many of its boat and shore programs.  These are designed to complement the field experiences, but can also be taught as stand-alone lessons.  The curricular materials for these labs are freely available to teachers who book the programs.  They can be taught by Project Oceanology staff or by interested teachers, and can take place in the Project Oceanology computer lab or in the classroom either before or after a trip. Examples are provided here – if your program is not listed, ask!
A Changing Sound (Introduction to Oceanography Data Analysis)
Students examine Project Oceanology’s historical dataset of organisms captured and water quality characteristics, and make graphs showing how the biological and physical nature of Long Island Sound has changed (or not) over time.
 
Sewage Plant Study Data Analysis
Students examine Project Oceanology’s water quality dataset, and make graphs showing geographic and seasonal variation in nutrient concentrations and other water quality parameters.  
 
Nearshore Fish Study Data Analysis
Students compare the data they have collected on nearshore fish to a sample dataset.
Color Me Beach/Color Me Marsh 
In this follow-up activity to our Barrier Beach Study or Marsh Transect Study, students will use beach profile or marsh data to create a large-scale image of the habitat they surveyed.  Strong focus on graphing and science communication skills.

Other Middle School Programs

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1084 Shennecossett Rd. Groton, CT 06340