ON THE SHORE - MIDDLE SCHOOL

Suggested Shore Programs for Middle School Students

The area around Project Oceanology boasts a rich diversity of habitats and organisms.  Meet our educators at a local beach such as Bluff Point State Park in Groton, or meet at Project Oceanology (Avery Point) and either work at our beach or travel by skiff (additional skiff fee applies) to Pine Island. Meet the organisms, map out the habitats, and get your hands and feet wet as you explore the local ecology.  Select one 2.5 hr program or two 1.25 hr programs below (see suggested combinations). 
Barrier Beach Field Study (2.5 hours)
Location: Bluff Pt State Park
Carried by waves, currents, and wind, beach sands are in constant motion.  Students will hike about a mile to the end of Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton to the barrier beach. Students will measure elevation, percent cover of vegetation, and sediment type and layering along a transect running across the barrier beach from the Sound to a protected salt pond.  Out on the bluff while looking at the spectacular view across Long Island and Fishers Island Sounds, students will learn about the glacial history of Long Island Sound, local island formation, and deposition and erosion dynamics.
 
Beach Clean-Up/Marine Debris (2.5 hours)
Location: Bluff Pt State Park, Avery Pt, Pine Island (requires skiff), Bushy Island (requires skiff)
The oceans are increasingly impacted by garbage, particularly plastics.  Students will participate in a beach clean-up, and learn about how debris in the ocean affects the organisms living there.  We’ll measure and categorize our trash, participate in a global citizen science effort by logging our trash through the CleanSwell app on tablets, and discuss strategies for effective marine debris removal.
Rocky Intertidal Zone Exploration (1.25 hours)
Location: Project Oceanology, Pine Island (requires skiff), Bluff Pt State Park (requires hike @1hr RT)
The rocky shore is a rugged environment, battered by surf and changing seasons, and exposed to dramatic daily swings in temperature, salinity, pH, and other environmental factors.  Students will explore the rocky intertidal zone in search of local inhabitants and determine how they are adapted to survive in such a harsh environment. Suggested combinations: Shoreline Water Chemistry (Project O or Pine Island), Crab Habitats Lab (Project O). Bluff Point programs are typically combined with a brief ‘Geology of Long Island Sound’ talk out on the Bluff.
 
Rocky Intertidal Zone Transect Study (1.25 hours)
Location: Project Oceanology, Pine Island (requires skiff), Bluff Pt State Park (requires hike @1hr RT)
The rocky shore is a rugged environment, battered by surf and changing seasons, and exposed to dramatic daily swings in temperature, salinity, pH, and other environmental factors.  Students will use field ecology techniques (transects and quadrats) to look at patterns of organism abundance along physical gradients. Surveys can focus broadly on diversity, or on specific organisms with a stronger focus on adaptations and form/function.  The following locally abundant organisms are good candidates: asian shore crabs (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), periwinkle snails (Littorina littorea), rockweed (Fucus vesiculosus), knotted wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum), acorn barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides).  Suggested combinations: Shoreline Water Chemistry (Project O or Pine Island). Bluff Point programs are typically combined with a brief ‘Geology of Long Island Sound’ talk out on the Bluff.
Salt Marsh Exploration (2.5 hours)
Location: Bluff Point State Park or Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Marshes are among the most delicate and important habitats in our area.  Using energy from the sun, healthy marsh grasses produce nearly ten tons of organic matter per acre per year.  These nutrients promote the growth of marine organisms, and marshes are important nursery areas for off-shore animals.  Many marine waterfowl use the marsh for nesting and breeding.  Students will explore the marsh, identifying plants and animals and learning about the physical and biological structure of this important habitat.  We’ll leap a mosquito ditch, take a sample of marsh peat, measure peat depth, and discuss ecosystem services provided by marshes.  
Salt Marsh Transect Study (2.5 hours)
Location: Bluff Point State Park or Barn Island Wildlife Management Area
Marshes are among the most delicate and important habitats in our area.  Using energy from the sun, healthy marsh grasses produce nearly ten tons of organic matter per acre per year.  These nutrients promote the growth of marine organisms, and marshes are important nursery areas for off-shore animals.  Many marine waterfowl use the marsh for nesting and breeding.  Teams of students will lay transect lines along the marsh and work along them to quantify abundances of animals and vegetation, peat depth, marsh elevation, and water chemistry. At the end, student teams will report back to the larger group, and we’ll discuss what we have learned about the physical and biological structure of the marsh.  Includes a discussion of ecosystem services provided by marshes.
Nearshore Fish Study (1.25 hours)
Location: Bluff Pt State Park, Pine Island (requires skiff)
Fish use estuaries for breeding and as safe nursery areas.  Students will use seine nets to collect nearshore organisms
along sandy or gravel beaches. They will study diversity and abundance, as well as size related to age of marine organisms.  Suggested combination: Shoreline Water Chemistry
Shoreline Water Chemistry (1.25 hours)
Students will use field chemistry kits to collect data on water temperature, density, salinity, dissolved oxygen, CO2 and pH.
This activity can be combined with any of the field studies described above. Suggested combination: Nearshore Fish
Study, Rocky Intertidal Exploration or Transect Study

Other Middle School Programs

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1084 Shennecossett Rd. Groton, CT 06340

860.445.9007 | projecto@oceanology.org