Virginia Coastal Ecosystems Field Course

Virginia Coastal Ecosystems Field Course: Teachers & Scientists Exploring Coastal Change

Not offered Summer 2018
VIMS Eastern Shore Lab
Wachapreague, VA




Sample Agenda


Map of Wachapreague, VA

Educators from the VIMS/Virginia Sea Grant Extension Program have been leading classroom science teachers in explorations of the diverse habitats of Virginia's Eastern Shore and its barrier islands since 2001. The home base for these learning adventures is the VIMS Eastern Shore Lab, an active coastal research facility in Wachapreague, VA. This year, we are again offering science teachers a field-intensive survey of Mid-Atlantic coastal ecosystems with a focus on the use of research-based lessons and experiences, and input from scientists working on the cutting-edge of coastal studies.

The objectives of the VIMS Coastal Ecosystems Field Course are to:

  • enrich teachers' familiarity with current topics in marine and environmental science by linking them with scientists working on cutting-edge topics in ocean science research;
  • focus relevance of ocean science topics using the issue of coastal change;
  • prepare teachers to successfully integrate coastal and ocean content into their existing curricula;
  • introduce teachers to research-based and multidisciplinary lessons and experiences as tools for teaching science; and,
  • promote discussion and development of additional classroom and field applications of research-based lessons.

Learning from scientists and educators, participants receive: Virginia SOL-relevant content in marine biology, chemistry, physics, earth and ocean sciences, and technology; teaching resources for the classroom and field; and a meaningful outdoor educational experience that both models a MWEE and generates data they will be able to use in the classroom. Using high-tech and low-tech methods, teachers will sample the ecosystems with various types of oceanographic equipment, including:

  • Otter trawl
  • Oyster dredge
  • Sediment corer
  • YSI salinity/DO/temp probe
  • Refractometer & hydrometer
  • Secchi disk
  • GPS receivers
  • Van Dorn bottle
  • Profiling stadia
  • Chemical test kits
Teachers examing seine net catch Using the scope Oyster dredge Dune Crest

Participants investigate habitats on both ocean and bay sides of the Eastern Shore, including:

  • Salt marsh
  • Tidal creek
  • Mud flat
  • Barrier island
  • Sea grass bed

Field site maps:


Participants are also able to explore the coastal community of Wachapreague, the Little City by the Sea, which includes a successful working waterfront.

Teacher Resources
The classroom and lab portions include content supporting Virginia Standards of Learning and integrating existing environmental education curricula and online resources. Participants receive teaching materials, laboratory and field activity outlines transferable to their own students and individual regions of Virginia. Examples of the references and curricula provided are: Life in the Chesapeake Bay; Estuaries 101; WILD Science & Civics; Healthy Waters/Healthy People and research-based activities authored by VIMS scientists and tested in VIMS partner classrooms. Teachers also receive guidance and VRUEC resources to build teacher confidence and competence in planning and conducting Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences.

Target Audience
This course is designed for educators who:

  • Teach middle and/or high school science
  • Enjoy, or are willing to endure, early mornings and long hours in the field under the typical summer weather and insect conditions of coastal Virginia
  • Will maintain communications throughout the school year for the purposes of collegial sharing and course evaluation
  • Have a basic understanding of coastal biology and ecology
  • Are comfortable using basic computer and Internet-based applications and communications (e.g. Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer/Firefox, email)

Participant Requirements
Participants will be expected to:

  • Fully participate in the 5 1/2 day residential program
  • With their students in the appropriate classes, conduct and assess two lessons or activities using content and resources from the workshop during the 2018-19 school year
  • Complete follow-up questionnaires regarding their implementation of content and activities from the workshop (we anticipate no more than two online surveys during the 2018-19 school year)
  • Provide feedback on the implementation of lesson plans

This sample agenda (pdf) is meant to provide a basic outline for the five day course. It is subject to change.

Lodging is included at the Eastern Shore Lab's dormitory. It is a large older house that has been renovated for group living. The second story consists of two large bunkrooms, each with its own bathroom. Additional bunkrooms and bathroom facilities (including handicapped accessible facility) are available on the first floor. The dorm also includes a large kitchen and dining area, small den with satellite tv and a picnic area with gas grills.

Hotel accommodations are also available, at the participant's expense, approximately 20 minutes from the Lab.

There is no cost for this program thanks to support from Virginia Sea Grant and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Clark, V., C. Hopper Brill, and C. Petrone. 2008.
Two Boats, Three Summers, Five Universities, One Dozen Instructors, and Sixty-Five Teachers: A Collaborative Oceanography Field Program for Earth Science. The Journal Of Mathematics and Science: Collaborative Explorations. Vol 10: 43-53.

Course Application 

If you have questions not answered by this page, please contact Carol Hopper Brill or Lisa Ayers Lawrence at VIMS Marine Advisory Services.