Coastal Ecosystems Field Course for Teachers

June 26-29, 2023
VIMS Eastern Shore Lab
Wachapreague, VA

Please note: The application period for the 2023 field course is open.
Application deadline: March 1, 2023. Acceptance notification: March 20, 2023.

Audience |

Requirements |

Logistics |

Sample Agenda |



VIMS Educators 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, Virginia. This year educators from VIMS Marine Advisory Program and the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) team up to once again offer science teachers a field-intensive survey of Mid-Atlantic coastal ecosystems with a focus on Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs).

The objectives of the VIMS Coastal Ecosystems Field Course are to:
  • Enrich teachers' understanding of coastal and estuarine science content
  • Enhance teachers' skills and confidence in planning and conducting MWEEs
  • Prepare teachers to successfully integrate coastal and estuarine content into their curricula
  • Introduce teachers to research-based lesson materials as tools for teaching science 
  • Promote discussion and development of additional applications of lessons

Selected participants will: 
Receive expert instruction in several Virginia SOL-relevant content areas 
marine biology, chemistry, physics, earth and ocean sciences, coastal change, technology 

Experience using both high-tech and low-tech sampling methods 
seine, otter trawl, YSI, refractometer, hydrometer, Secchi disk, Van Dorn bottle, transects, test kits 
Be introduced to teaching resources for both field and classroom use 
MWEE, Estuaries 101, VA SEA, BRIDGE, research-based activities, and much more! 

Investigate habitats on both the ocean side and bay side of the Eastern Shore  
tidal creeks, mudflats, barrier islands, sandy beaches, seagrass beds

Participants will also have free time to explore the charming coastal community of Wachapreague, the Little City by the Sea, which includes a successful working waterfront.

Selected participants are expected to: 
  • Fully participate in the 4-day/3-night residential program. Participants traveling significant distances can choose to arrive the evening before (Sunday, June 25).
  • Conduct and assess two workshop activities with their students the following year 
  • Complete two surveys regarding the implementation of those activities with students 
  • Provide constructive feedback on the lesson plans and activities 

This course is designed for Virginia classroom teachers who: 
  • Teach middle and/or high school science 
  • Have a basic understanding of coastal biology and ecology 
  • 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 
  • Can commit to maintaining communication throughout the school year for the purposes of collegial sharing and course evaluation 
  • Are comfortable using basic computer and Internet-based applications 

This sample agenda is meant to provide a basic outline for the course. It is subject to change.

Lodging at the Eastern Shore Lab's dormitory is included for all participants. The dorm 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.

If you prefer, 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 a grant from the National Science Foundation. This course is a collaborative project between VIMS Marine Advisory Program, VIMS Aquatic Health Sciences and Virginia Sea Grant.

If you have questions not answered by this page, please contact Bethany Smith or Celia Cackowski at the VIMS Marine Advisory Program.