Select a recommended model laboratory program or design your own.

Lab and In-school Programs
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!  Visiting teachers may work with our marine educators to customize a lab program, or select from one of our standard labs below.

Suggested Laboratory or In-School Programs

Choose two activities for each 2.5 hour time slot

CRITTER BINS (Lab or In-School)

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 (Any Grade):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.

  • Tree of Life (Middle School/High School):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).  

  • Taxonomic Classification (Middle School/High School): Students will use a dichotomous key to identify phyla, genus and species of each organism.

DAVY JONES LOCKER/LAYERED OCEAN (Lab or In-School) - High School/Middle School/Upper Elem

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. 


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.  Finally, students will 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). 

QUANTITATIVE PLANKTON STUDY (Lab or In-School) - High School

Students will use microscopes to examine and identify planktonic organisms from Long Island Sound. We’ll compare different types of plankton, and discuss the role of plankton in food webs. Students will use our plankton splitter, Bogarov trays, and clicker-counters to do quantitative plankton counts, compiling a dataset that can be used to examine the relative abundances of different members of the plankton, or to compare different locations. In-school requires access to dissecting microscopes.

HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS (HAB'S) (Lab or In-School) High School

Can be combined with the plankton exploration lab, or conducted as a stand-alone. Students will use microscopes to search for the presence of phytoplankton species known to have harmful algal blooms in our region. Data collected during this lab will be shared with the NOAA phytoplankton monitoring network. In-school requires access to dissecting and compound microscopes

ALL CAUGHT UP (Lab or In-School) - Any Grade

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.

BEACH EROSION (Lab) - Any Grade

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) - High School/Middle 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) - High School/Middle 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. 

SQUID DISSECTION (Lab or In-School) - High School/Middle School/Upper Elementary

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.  


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).  

SEAL THERMOREGULATION (Lab or In-School) - High School/Middle 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 (Lab) - Middle School/Elementary

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. 

MARINE ALGAE/ALGAL ICE CREAM (Lab or In-School) - Middle School/Elementary

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!

MARINE ALGAE HERBARIUM (Lab or In-School) - Any Grade

Marine seaweed is of great importance to coastal and nearshore environments. Preserving plants can be used for identification of species and study of the taxonomic relationships between plants. They can also be used to determine geographic variations and studies of their tissues and structure. Seaweed pressing is also practiced as a form of art. In this lesson, students learn about seaweed anatomy and classification as they collect, identify and preserve seaweed specimens.

LOBSTERS AND CLIMATE CHANGE (Lab or In-School) - High School/Middle School

Students will examine live lobsters and a lobster trap, and learn about the lobster fishery. They will then use Project Oceanology’s lobster dataset to examine trends over time in local lobster populations. Students will create graphs and present their findings to their peers.

COLOR ME BEACH Beach (Lab or In-School) - Middle School/Elementary

In this follow-up activity to our Barrier Beach Study, students will use beach profile data, including beach elevation, percent cover of vegetation and sediment size to create a large-scale image of a barrier beach. Beach sands are in constant motion through erosion and deposition. These topics including natural forces, storms, and human activity will be discussed.


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.

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Project Oceanology's Laboratories
Marine life identification
Bring science to life
Supplement classroom work
Analyzing the possibilities
Custom marine science laboratories
Hands-on education programs
Beyond the laboratories

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1084 Shennecossett Rd. Groton, CT 06340