Curriculum Matters: May 31, 2015



Middle School

The week of

May 11-15, the Middle School journeyed to New Hampshire’s scenic Seacoast region to study marine ecology and the social and cultural history of the area.  

This trip occurs every other year in the Middle School’s two-year curriculum. During the weeks leading to the trip, students are introduced to a wide range of topics from intertidal ecology to tides, food chains to invasive species, and a range of ecological issues facing the Gulf of Maine. 

Students did a good deal of work investigating the types of intertidal organisms and algae that they would see and considered the myriad ways plants and animals have adapted to be so well suited to intertidal conditions and stresses. 

The highlight of this unit was the time spent exploring the marine environment in person. The diversity of activities and findings was significant to students’ unfolding relationships to the natural world.  

Hosted by the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park, students had the luxury of spending three-and-a-half days in this hands-on museum, intimately getting to know exhibits, touch tanks and the resident fish and organisms.

Additionally, SSC naturalists led students on a variety of engaging programs, including three intertidal surveys and a program in marine mammals during which students worked in groups assembling the skeletons of a seal and a whale! 

Spontaneous opportunities to interact with staff at the aquaria and touch tanks abounded during their stay.


The University of New Hampshire Marine Docents took us on their “floating classroom” seven miles off shore to Isles of Shoals.
On board their vessel, students participated in five research stations which allowed them to test water quality, take benthic and plankton samples, learn about navigation and contribute to the organization’s on-going research of the Gulf of Maine.
During the trip, students logged many hours of field and lab work, all of it under the direction of experts in the field of marine ecology.

The last day of the trip we turned our attention to the human history and culture of Portsmouth by visiting Strawbery Banke Museum, an open-air, living history museum staffed by docents dressed in character. This very experiential, hands-on museum was a worthy complement to our marine studies and engaged students wonderfully at the tail end of a busy week of learning.

As is true of the Upper Level’s “Big Trip”, middle school students were required to exercise significant self-direction and independence during the week, managing their belongings, showing up on time and prepared for frequent transitions, supporting and motivating one another and acting as respectful and engaged ambassadors for our school in the wider world. Time and again, adults who observed these adolescents reflected upon their engagement and poise.