In addition to supporting courses for undergraduate and graduate students from William and Mary, VIMS-ESL supports the teaching missions of a variety of outside institutions by providing field experiences for middle schold, high school, undergraduate, and graduate courses. Each year, VIMS-ESL hosts visits by a variety of middle school and high school programs including the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Estuary Explorers summer camp; local 5th, 6th and 7th grade science classes (Broadwater Academy, Pungoteague Elementary & Nandua Middle schools); and Hampton High School’s International Baccalaureate Program.
More than 20 outside colleges and universities regularly bring their students to VIMS-ESL to get hands-on educational experience. These groups often stay at the ESL's lodging for days or weeks, depending on the needs of the program. While here, they use a variety of equipment and techniques to collect data on local environments and explore local ecosystems. Approximately half of these students come to the Eastern Shore from elsewhere in Virginia, while others come from other parts of the US including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and Ohio. Collaboration with the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University in Wales brings up to 40 students and instructors from the United Kingdom to VIMS-ESL each year.
Use of VIMS-ESL for education has expanded in recent years. The combination of ready access to live marine organisms in an unspoiled coastal marine environment combined with shore facilities to hold and study live specimens in modern laboratories provides the ideal setting for experiential learning.