SERC.. a wonderful Smithsonian Adventure STEM Science on the River



One of my favorite field trips, is not too far away from DC. It is environmental , historical, beautiful, and all STEM and STEAM. It links the students and parents to the Chesapeake Bay in wonderful and unforgettable ways. Parents want to go, and take workshops to qualify to go on the trip. What is great is that those parents also create the possibility for re-visits. It is just that great a place.


We begin the year planning to write grants to cover the cost for all students.
I like to do a covered dish orientation for parents and their families about the Chesapeake Bay. I ask them to bring in dishes from around the Chesapeake Bay and one copy of their recipe. We eat, we have fun singing and making up Chesapeake Bay Cinquains.
We create a year-long committee to plan the SERC trip/
We display books, posters and resources about the Chesapeake Bay and share the information about SERC. We share their Powerpoint.

I have an invited speaker from Fish and Wildlife, NSF , National Geographic , ESRI or Earthwatch.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
(SERC) leads the Nation in research on linkages
of land and water ecosystems in the coastal zone and provides society with knowledge to meet critical environmental challenges
in the 21st century.


Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Why should you go?

This is a place that serves lots of learning communities.

There are programs for various age groups , internships, and serious scientific work going on.

GPS, GIS comes to urban students in a neighborhood setting

ESRI , and National Geographic provide resources for all.

This is one of the most interesting, fascinating place to take children to learn about the environment. There is a fully equipped lab with lessons and things for them to learn, and there are several hiking trails. The children love the learning activities especially the seining, which is one of several exercises that they learn about before they come.4894_115870586326_2833140_n

They go out on a pier with a leader and do several exercises, a turbidity study, a study of microscope things in the Rhode River, the study of winds and tides.. the seining activity.. and they carefully take notes on their findings.
I combine this work with the “Living in Water”curriculum from the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
The geography of and interconnection of the places around the bay are highlighted in this interactive presentation.|timePeriod=1|tourStop=0
We use a map and mark the various locations. We do some of the locations from time to time. We also have a table full of books on the Chesapeake Bay.
The center is a beautiful wild place away from the main road on the river.

Teachers and parents have to do a workshop which is shared here. This is from the website( About Estuary) Chesapeake Estuary Chesapeake is SERC’s most popular education program and involves a series of five stations at SERC’s dock and the Java History Trail. The class is divided into 5 groups that each rotate through all stations.

The five stations of Estuary Chesapeake are: About Crabs, Water Testing, Oyster Bar Community, Investigating Plankton, and Going Fishing (seining). For parents and teachers there on the site a training presentation powerpoint.

Check out the Parent/Teacher Training Presentation — this powerpoint teaches you all you need to know about SERC, the Estuary Chesapeake program, and how to be a Station Leader.


About Crabs Using hand lines and a hand trap, students catch their own crabs and study them to learn about their anatomy and behavior. Crab habitat is also discussed. Resources are shared so that leaders can have good information to share with students from the Estuary Chesapeake Manual about the crab station, and for Blue Crab talking points.
Here are most of the Blue Crab Talking Points

Station 1: About Crabs

Learn ways to catch crabs and study
their anatomy and behavior
The blue crab is a well known inhabitant of the Chesapeake Bay. Crabs can tolerate water that ranges from very salty to nearly fresh and are well-suited to live in the ever-changing salinity of the estuary. Because they are abundant and also a popular food, they are an important commercial and recreational resource.
Most often crabs act as predators and eat live clams, fish, and other crabs.However, they also act as scavengers by eating dead organisms, which helps to clean up the Bay. They will eat bait such as raw chicken and can be caught with baited lines, collapsible traps,and commercial traps.The abundance of crabs varies seasonally.
In April they begin to enter rivers and creeks, and,throughout the summer, they increase in numbers at these locations. In the fall they go to warmer, deeper Bay waters, where they burrow into the sand.
Key Points to Emphasize
Parts of the crab include the shell, abdomen, mouth, eye stalk, claws, swim paddles, and walking legs.
Crabs are both predators and scavengers.Crabs swim, however they spend most of their time on the floor of the Bay.
A crab can be identified as female or male by the appearance of its abdomen. The shape
of a male’s abdomen resembles the shape of the Washington Monument. An immature
female’s abdomen is triangular shaped. Once matured,she carries her eggs in her abdomen and therefore a mature female has a wider abdomen. It has a shape similar to the shape of the Capitol Dome.

Water Quality

Water Testing Using a variety of tests, students will measure the water quality parameters salinity, pH, turbidity, and temperature, and discuss the results. The dock where we will do our water testing is right on the Rhode River in Edgewater, MD.

Oyster Bar Community Students learn about the habitat that oyster shells provide for small crabs, fish, and invertebrates. They also will learn about oysters’ ability to filter water. (Fun fact: Oysters can filter about 50 gallons of water a day!) Investigating Plankton After completing a plankton tow from the dock, students use microscopes to observe plant and animal plankton found in the Chesapeake Bay.

Seining (Going Fishing) Donning chest waders, students wade into the water to catch fish and other organisms with a seine net.Think high waders, a big sweep of a net, and walking in the river to collect what you can.. you gotta do this. It is awesome.The students then identify the animals they find. Physiological aspects of fish anatomy are also discussed. We put the things we find back into the water.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.