K-12 Outreach & Education

The Darling Marine Center K-12 Education Program strives to provide a connection between local school children, University of Maine’s marine laboratory, and the Damariscotta River Estuary. The program fosters marine science literacy so students of all backgrounds may be better informed citizens and able to engage in scientific discussions no matter their future occupation. Inquiry, exploration and discovery are the basis of all programs. All programs are meant to enhance individual classroom curriculum and help students achieve Maine State Learning Results and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. School groups, homeschool groups, scout groups, and other organized groups are welcome to plan a visit.

For more information please contact our K-12 Education Coordinator Anneliese “Lili” Pugh, 207.563.8135.

Program descriptions
Visits to the DMC can be as short as 1-½ hours or as long as the school day, depending on the interests of the group and planned activities. Below are some suggested programs available for classroom field trips. Also note that Maine State Learning Result standards (MSLR) areas, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and Ocean Literacy Principles (OLP) are indicated after the description. These are possible areas that will be touched on during particular programs and could provide basic knowledge to help meet these standards, but do not represent complete units. Any data collected at the DMC can be taken back to the classroom for further investigation.

Most programs work well with groups of 15 or fewer. If there are 20 or more in your group please contact us at least 3 weeks in advance so we can secure staffing. Programs that include shore time will be dependent on tides and weather. We can arrange rain dates when booking programs if space is available. Field trips can be customized to suit your needs, but may need additional lead time.

Please contact us for current field trip costs. Thanks to a generous donation from the Edward A. Myers Marine Conservation Fund, field trip costs for schools within the Damariscotta River watershed can be defrayed.

Programs for grades K-4
Elementary students are introduced to the basics of marine science in the programs offered. Each visit can include time at the shore and/or time in the classroom. Programs generally last 1.5-2 hours with a snack break included.

  • Rocky Coast Investigations
    Explore the rocky shore along the Damariscotta Estuary. Figure out what animals live in this special zone. Survey the shore to see what is crawling on rocks or hiding under algae. Spend time with some live critters in the classroom. Students will interview a chosen animal and determine what makes it suited to the environment and discuss with others what they have found. May or may not involve use of microscopes. (MSLR: A1, A3, B1, E2; NGSS: K-LS1, 2-LS4, MS-LS2-2; OLP: 5)
  • Food webs of the Damariscotta Estuary
    Learn about the marine food web of the Maine coast. Play a game to model marine food webs and discover how organisms are interconnected. Visit the rocky shore and search for producers and consumers. Groups can alternatively visit the salt marsh to explore its unique features (best for fall field trip). Students can finish up the trip by observing plankton, the base of any marine food web. (MSLR: A1, A2, A3, B1, E2; NGSS: 2-LS4, 5-LS2, MS-LS2; OLP: 5)
  • Shellfish Aquaculture
    Our region of Maine is known for its fishermen, especially lobstermen. But did you know that the area is also a leader in aquaculture? Damariscotta River oysters are a prized delicacy. Learn about what aquaculture is and what it takes to manage a sea farm. While at the DMC students will visit the aquaculture lab, learn about some current research, and participate in some hands-on activities. Activities may include learning about plankton’s role in aquaculture or collecting water quality data. (MSLR: A1, C2, C3, E3; NGSS: K-LS1-1, 2-LS4, 3-LS1, MS-LS1; OLP: 5, 6)
  • Essential Plankton
    Plankton are the base of the marine food chain. They are important in providing half of the oxygen we breathe. Many are larvae of animals we see on the shore. Learn about these organisms through playing games, collecting samples and observing critters under the microscope. A visit to the phytoplankton culture room can be added on to this program pending availability. (MSLR: A1, A2, C3, E1, E2, E3; NGSS: K-LS1, 2-LS4, 3-LS1, 5-LS2, MS-LS1, MS-LS2; OLP: 4, 5)

Programs for grades 5-8
Programs for this age range can take the basics of marine science to the next level. Any of the programs above can be modified for middle school groups to include more complex inquiry or other aspects appropriate for middle school learners. Is your class looking to do some citizen science or delve into the scientific method in a very hands-on, student-driven way? Please look at the additional programs section below. Program length will depend on interests of group, but typically are 2-3 hours in length.

  • Understanding the Earth’s spheres
    The earth is a system. This system’s spheres interact in many ways. Often we take these interactions for granted. What are the spheres and how do they interact? Students will be introduced to pedosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. They will visit the shore to document where the spheres are found and identify how they interact. They will be able to do water quality monitoring from the dock to assess conditions of the environment and return to the classroom for analysis of data collected by DMC scientists as well as perform experiments with water. (MSLR: A1, A3, B1, C3, D2; NGSS: 2-ESS2, 4-ESS2, MS-ESS2; OLP: 2, 3, 6)
  • Marine Taxonomy
    Classifying organisms into groups helps scientists better understand relationships, similarities and differences between organisms, and appreciate the diversity of life on earth. Students will learn about classifying marine animals by shape and function through exploration with live creatures. Older students may learn about current techniques used in taxonomy. (MSLR: E1, E2; NGSS: MS-LS1, MS-LS2, HS-LS4, HS-LS2; OLP: 5)
  • Technology of Marine Science
    Marine scientists of all sorts use technology to conduct their research. Whether it is finding out more about lobsters or conducting ocean sensing. Learn about some of the tools of the trade. What is a CTD and how does it collect data? What can we learn from the data it produces? How is an ROV used to see the bottom? Students will use simple tools to learn about ocean sampling. Appropriate for middle school and high school classes. (MSLR: B2, C1, C2, C3, C4; NGSS: 5-ESS3, MS-LS2, MS-ESS3, HS-LS2, HS-ESS3; OLP: 3, 6, 7)

Programs for High School groups
High school groups often have unique needs for programming. If you teach a marine science or oceanography class we would welcome you for a field experience. Occasionally we can arrange to visit with a researcher, but this can not be guaranteed. Programs above can be adapted for the needs of high school groups.

  • Sensor Technology
    Sensors are an important tool to oceanographers and other marine scientists. At the DMC sensors are even being used to help aquaculturists better understand the environment in which they are growing their product. With the advent of inexpensive programmable microprocessors sensors are easier to create. Students will learn about creating circuits, coding, and programming simple sensors. By the end of the day students will have an appreciation of sensors, how they work, and how they are used in marine science. This program requires a full school day. (MSLR: A1, B2, C3; NGSS: MS-ETS1, HS-ETS1; OLP: 6,7)

The following can be added on to any of the above programs:

  • Student water quality data (.5 hour)
    Visiting school groups have been collecting basic water parameter data using simple scientific tools. Join in to add to the database.
  • Tour of the DMC waterfront campus (.5 hour)
    Have a tour of our facilities to learn a little about the research going on at the DMC. Students will get to see some of the tools and tanks used for research.
  • Nature walk (.5-1 hour)
    The DMC has many trails that can be explored. Wind your way along Lowe’s Cove to look for wading shore birds looking for a meal on the mudflat or salt marsh. Hike along the rocky shore to a rocky beach where you may find fossils.
  • Pre-trip classroom visits
    Public and private schools in the Damariscotta River watershed may request a visit from the center. This visit would include an introduction to the DMC and some background information about the field trip topic.

Additional programs and opportunities for individual students
Below are some projects organized by the DMC and other organizations that may be of interest to your students. We are happy to be of assistance in getting started with any of these projects.

  • Project DEEP
    The DMC K-12 education program, in conjunction with the Damariscotta River Association, conducts a multi-part educational experience for 6th-8th graders. Participants engage in an exploration of the Damariscotta River Estuary through preparatory classroom visits, a day-long field trip, and concludes with a presentation of student projects. Through inquiry-based processes and hand-on experiences, the goal is to create an opportunity that teaches science through student-driven learning experiences and offer the students the necessary tools, technology and community support to gather data and make use of this information.
  • Vital Signs
    Students are encouraged to help monitor invasive species across the state through the Vital Signsprogram, created and coordinated by Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, ME. Students choose a mission, look for species, and collect data to help document the spread of invasive species. Data collection can happen anywhere. The DMC can be your local source for advice if you need help along the way.
  • Signs of the Seasons
    Signs of the Seasons is a phenology study coordinated by UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, in partnership with the USA National Phenology Network and others. Plants and animals are good indicators of change and rockweed (Ascophyllum sp.) is one of the species the project is tracking. By monitoring the natural history of rockweed it may be possible to link the shifting of its reproductive cycle to changes in climate. Help is needed to collect enough data to find out exactly what is happening and students are encouraged to get involved. Groups can come to the DMC to learn about Ascophyllum. They can monitor rockweed at the DMC or at their preferred site.