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>Smithsonian Mobile Ecology Lab

 Overview | Programs | 
Pre-K - 2nd Grade  |

 > Overview

SERC's Mobile Ecology Lab will bring scientific research and methods from Smithsonian researchers into the classroom. Exploring research-based information and sound ecological principles, the Mobile Ecology Lab teaches current issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Students will be encouraged to make observations and collect data whenever possible. Programs align with state standards of learning, and all programs can be tailored to meet the specific needs of teachers, students, and specific groups. 

For more information, contact our, contact our our Public Programs Coordinator Karen McDondald at 443-482-2388 or e-mail at

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> Programs

These programs are designed to be flexible for all ages, from Pre-K through Adult. We can modify content and material to fit the needs of your group.

Click here to download a brochure

Introduction to SERC Science (1 hour)

In this program we will introduce you to SERC's researchers, leading scientific research, and the equipment used by our research teams. Highlights include the world's longest running terrestrial CO2 study site, the national ballast water clearing house studying invasive species, the world's larges team focusing on estuary health, and more.

Blue Crab Lab (1 hour)

Students will be introduced to the life history of blue crabs from larval plankton to adults. We'll study their growth, molting, and how to differentiate males from females. Participants will then examine a live blue crab and its anatomy up close. We will also discuss how crab migrate, where they migrate, and research being conducted on blue crabs by SERC scientists.

Competition: Design Your Own Plankton (1 hour)

Through hands-on learning students will discover the differences between phytoplankton and zooplankton and the different types of plankton found in the Bay. Students will also design their own phytoplankton in a fun competition to help them understand planktonic adaptations.

Bay Water and an Introduction to Microscopes (1 hour)

Students will be introduced to the parts of a microscope, how to use them, and learn about scale. We'll then practice drawing from lea life objects in Bay water ranging from plankton to small invertebrates.

Jellyfish (1 hour)

Participants will learn about different types of jellyfish found in the Bay, why they are important and all about their life cycles. We will also discuss research conducted by SERC scientists and the two major species of jellyfish found here. If the season permits we'll have a live one on hand to show your students.

Owls and Owl Pellet Dissection (1 hour)

Discover the world of owls from their talloned feet and silent flight to their satellite dish ears. After a brief discussion we'll dissect an owl pellet to see what owls eat and their most recent diet. There is an additional lab fee for owl pellets, $4 per student.

Shark, Frog, or Squid Dissection (1.5 hours)

Dissection is a hands-on way to learn about the adaptation that make animals unique, and at the same time no so different from us. You choose the organism you would like to dissect. Limited to 18 students. Participants must be 12 yrs. or older. An additional lab fee will apply for the number of organisms ordered.

Teacher Training Seminars (Time Varies)

We offer a wide variety of teacher workshops that can come to your site, ranging from hands-on activities to how to teach about the Chesapeake Bay. We can also conduct distance learning seminars. Contact the Outreach Coordinator (443) 482.2388 for more information.

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> Pre-K to 2nd Grade Programs

Programs are designed for a maximum of 18 students. Larger groups must schedule more than one program.

All K-2nd Grade programs include a book, craft, and hands-on activity. These programs last approximately one hour.

B is for Blue Crab

Learn about the world of blue crabs and visit with a live blue crab.

Fish and Fish Prints

Learn about fish and fish adaptations, and then make fish prints on t-shirts or paper using rubber fish.


Uncover the world of jellyfish, their life cycles, and importance. If the season permits, meet a live jellyfish.


Dive into the world of sharks by learning about their adaptations, and about the different types found in the Bay.

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