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.


Studying the Chesapeake Bay, Using Digital Resources and the Arts!!

Exploring the Chesapeake Bay
Children who may not know the way of estuaries to the sea can learn using valuable online resources.
I use a different way of teaching. Marc Prensky is right. There are people who know a lot more than I do about the Chesapeake Bay.I became the facilitator for learning, connecting the dots and some of them were using the arts , digital media and hands on science by mistake really. I had training from the National Geographic which included maps, history, art and a great video.
I wanted to think how to fund all of this and how to create a rich environment . I wrote some grants, the parents and I had a meeting and we enlisted some help from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Chesapeake Bay is the most important water way in this area. I took courses at the National Aquarium in Baltimore , and learned to write curriculum  . For three years I investigated

estuaries, and then the Bay as a system and then the ocean. I think I would have become a Marine Biologist if I had not been swayed by technology and the Clinton administration. But I had the curriculum , but as usual not the permission to use it at my grade level and so I reached out to NASA, NOAA, National Geographic, the Chesapeake Bay Society and parents and I found a way to get a grant. When money is given in schools and principals sign their permission , you can do wonderful things.
The final trip was ito Baltimore
We started by sharing resources from the Fish and Wildlife Service
We did Duck Stamps. We drew Duck Stamps  and learned about the various ducks who come to the Chesapeake Bay.
Here is a set of photos and resources from the Fish and Wildlife Service  The people who came from the Fish and Wildlife Service brought posters and resources too.
The Fish and Wildlife people gave us a bus to the Blackwater facility. We saw ducks in the wild and had an outdoor excursion.
National Aquarium in Baltimore
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a beautiful place. It is expensive for students and we decided to do a bus tour.
Thank heavens for grants.
The education program is fantastics, we did adaptations and studied the salinity, turbidity waves and tides, microscopic life , seined and did pollution studies from different sites on the Chesapeake.But we did our homework. We read stories about the CHesapeake Bay, and wrote some of our own. We studied the maps of the bay and the estuary.
Smithsonian Estuary Research Center
You can see that we did a lot of work at this research center, before we had our “Eat a Crab Lab” and other activities
3.   About Crabs – Lesson 1
…ere the River Meets the Sea: Exploring Life in the Chesapeake Bay with Smithsonian Scientists SERC Project Home Page Project Team Members Activities & Lesson Plans Project Resources Photo Gallery S E R C Schenectady City School District +————-+—————-+———– Lesson About Index Crabs Lesson Worksheet 108 1 Education Drive Schenectady, NY 12303 Blue Setting Crab Up A SERC: 518.370.8100 Observation Salt Tales of the Water Blue Crab Aquarium About Crabs Lesson No. 1 OBJECTIVES: 1. Students will use the Internet to learn about the Blue Crab. 2. Students will be able to identify the…
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    Grade Level: K-5
4.   About Crabs
Where the River Meets the Sea: Exploring Life in the Chesapeake Bay with Smithsonian Scientists SERC Project Home Page Project Team Members Activities & Lesson Plans Project Resources Photo Gallery S E R C Schenectady City School District Lesson About 108 Index Crabs Lesson Worksheet Education II 1 Drive Schenectady, NY 12303 Blue Setting 518.370.8100 Crab Up A SERC: Observation Salt Tales of the Water Blue Crab Aquarium About Crabs Lesson No. 2 OBJECTIVES: 1. Students will observe a live Blue Crab. 2. Students will be able to distinguish between a male and fema…
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    Grade Level: 9-12
That service has a portable traveling lesson. I can’t think it is as exciting as being at the place.
If you look at the pictures you can see how fantastic it is. The children go out on a pier where there are stations . They have science experiments to perform.  We learned the data we needed to do the experiments back in the classroom.
One of my students surprised me. Since we were so early in the year in the crab season. I said if they caught a crab I would
buy a bushel to steam back at the school. Well this child had a plan. Her mother was a biologist. She captured an immature
stage of the crab and precisely identified it.  So we did have an eat a crab lab extra session.
The National Geographic had maps of the Chesapeake Bay and we took a canoe trip on one of the rivers we studied.
Blackbirds in the reeds, a smooth adventure.
National Geographic is partnering with groups – across a range of scientific disciplines – that are interested in exploring how FieldScope can better support student geographic learning and outdoor investigations.

FieldScope Projects

This is awesome.

National Geographic FieldScope is a web-based mapping, analysis, and collaboration tool designed to support geographic investigations and engage students as citizen scientists investigating real-world issues – both in the classroom and in outdoor education settings. FieldScope enhances student scientific investigations by providing rich geographic context – through maps, mapping activities, and a rich community where student fieldwork and data is integrated with that of peers and professionals, adding analysis opportunities and meaning to student investigations.

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay FieldScope Project is a “citizen science” initiative in which students investigate water quality issues on local and regional scales and collaborate with students across the Bay to analyze data and take action. Chesapeake Bay FieldScope is a project of National Geographic’s Education Programs in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.
Serc does on line teaching for everyone. But I did it from the Pier and Reed Center.
Marc Haddon was my contact for a long time there.

See the  SERC Lab
This was a teacher workshop
Art was mosaics, writing a play about the bay, drawing the animals of the bay, creating a workbook for people who loved the bay, and writing a grant, the kids did this, to be able to take field trips to photograph the bay.
I never knew that there was a  boating minority connection to the study of the Chesapeake Bay regarding Frederick Douglass.
He created with others , a boat building facility for blacks to be able to be involved in the shipbuilding enterprise.
Who knew?
We collected books and read them about the bay and its children.
In the end we loved best the study of Anoxia Mae.
We wrote a grant with the help of parents and had $5000.oo to spend on field trips, excursions, making movies and posters.
This was at Ashlawn School  in Arlington, Virginia.
We did a lot more than this. One of the things you learn from being a teacher trained by the National Geographic is that children with an interest in geography learn and share with the community. So my children went to the school board to complain about the filth in local streams, and got some help on organizing a clean up day with the Arlington County  Board.
I did not plan that idea. The kids did. You can see why theme based, supported project based learning is wonderful for students.
I am thankful for the training I had at the National Geographic Society as an educator.
If I was teaching now, in a classroom, I could add the GIS information to this program.
ESRI and the National Geographic help make for a rich learning experience for kids.
More resources for everyone are at My Wonderful World .org.