8-12th Grade Program Activities


Did you know Baltimore use to be full of wetlands? Students play a game that helps them understand the function and importance of wetlands, and explore the Masonville wetland while sampling and identifying soil types.

Plankton and Biofilm

Students learn about plankton’s essential role in the food chain and as an oxygen producer. After a brief microscope-use lesson, plankton samples are prepared by the students and then independently examined. Collective group viewing of specimens is also achieved with our video microscope.

Invasive Species and Ballast Water

Students are introduced to native and non-native species harming our Chesapeake Bay and the global environment. Through an interactive modeling activity, students find that all organisms struggle to collect resources for survival, and that there may be advantages and disadvantages to both native and invasive species. Students then use microscopes to examine microscopic and macroscopic organisms that have been global examples of introduced species via ballast.

Sizing Plankton in Ballast Challenge

Students are introduced to the technique of removing invasive organisms from ballast water with a filtration demonstration, and then use microscopes to observe plankton of various sizes. The students part with a clear understanding of how difficult it can be to remove such tiny creatures from our ships’ ballast!

Make Your Own Ballast Water Filter

Students play creative scientists by making their own filters and testing their effectiveness at removing microscopic organisms from the water. Students choose from a list of various supplies (such as sand, powdered charcoal, cotton balls, window screening, etc) with beakers and funnels to create the best possible filtration device. Students use microscopes to examine their water sample both before and after filtration, as well as record and discuss observations with classmates.

Sinking Slowly

Students learn the physical characteristics of plankton while they design and create their own using craft supplies. Then students take part in a competition to see whose plankton sinks the slowest in water.

Fish Printing

Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing that was used by fishermen to record their catches. Students explore the external anatomy of a real fish in order to learn how they live and function in the water, and then create this ancient art with life-like rubber fish molds. The students paint one side of the fish mold with various colors and transfer the pattern onto paper or cloth to take home.

Outdoor Excursions

Students explore the treasures of Masonville Cove with bark and leaf rubbings, scavenger hunts, and nature observations with binoculars and magnifying glasses. Although the wetlands are not yet accessible, numerous gardens, a fresh water pond, a short switch-back wooden ramp through a small wooded area, and a bird observation deck are all on site.

Meet the Cove Friends

Students meet and greet our resident inhabitants (various turtles, insects, and crabs), examine our furs, bones, and snake skins on display, and role-play with our animal puppets. Students may also dissect owl pellets or make animal footprint molds from Plaster of Paris.

Chesapeake Bay Treasure Box

Students match representative living and non-living “treasures” of the Bay to clues on an ancient treasure map of the Chesapeake Bay.

Full Day Program, Grades 6-12

In this full day program, students engage in a combination of microscopic cell studies and DNA experiments. Older students apply kingdom classification to plankton and biofilm based on physical characteristics and the use of identification keys, while younger students compare uni-cellular to multicellular characteristics. DNA is extracted from an onion with common household ingredients. Two students share one gel apparatus to run individual samples of onion DNA, or purified DNA in conjunction with restriction enzymes. Middle and high school students learn the importance of careful laboratory experimentation and identification, micropipette use, and proper safety procedures.

Water Quality

Students first hypothesize and then experiment with wet chemistry, hand held instruments, and field colorimeters (older students only) to determine important water quality parameters such as salinity, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc. If timing allows, students can also make saltwater themselves in this station to better understand salinity. Water quality is taught as a determination of health and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay.

Water Olympics

Students carry out a number of experiments to determine the unique properties of water. Comparison with another liquid, such as rubbing alcohol, enables the students to investigate cohesion, adhesion, water tension, and the molecular structure of water.

Marine Organism Dissections

Choice of: oysters, fish, crabs, and squid: Students use dissection kits to explore external and internal anatomy. Discussions include the physiological form and function, adaptations, economic impact, and ecological history that make each organism unique.

Interactive Eutrophication

Students learn the complicated process of eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay while playing the role of various components in the process: underwater grass producers, planktonic algae, bacterial decomposers, and consumer fish as they compete for resources of light, nutrients, and oxygen. The outcome of the game is altered when extra nutrients are added or the seasons change.

Population Dynamics/Adaptations

Students participate in a relay race, where they must collect food that is laying/floating in various substrates. In each round, the surviving food multiplies. Teams notice patterns of change as the population of their food source and the process of adaptation are revealed. Students are then asked to create their own super-organisms that is adapted to a particular environment, assigned by the instructor.

Native Gardening

Students learn the importance of native versus non-native species in Maryland, are introduced to the environmental impact of local versus global food sources, and learn the role of plants in preventing runoff and absorbing extra nutrients that may harm the Chesapeake Bay. Depending upon the time of year, students will either plant in our MCEEC gardens or sow seeds to take home.

Osmosis Lab

Students experiment with osmosis as blood worms are soaked in water of various salinities. Students take detailed observations of osmosis in action and measure weight loss/gain of each worm.

Salt Gauge

In this activity, students use triple beam balances, graduated cylinders, and a refractometer to make their own salt water. Participants gain in-depth knowledge of how the salt to water ratio affects salinity and what this means for Bay critters.

Historic Shipping Board Game

Students learn about the technologies of wind driven boats used in the Chesapeake Bay from 1700 till 1775. In the lesson they play a game to illustrate the uses and limitations of different boat designs. Students complete simple calculations of boat speed, distance and time traveled. Students learn how hull design correlates to boat draft, and then apply the understanding of this concept by determining where a ship with a certain draft could dock, based on port depths.

Present Shipping Board Game

Students learn about the technology of modern ships used in international shipping. The game illustrates the uses and limitations of different ship types and sizes in relation to cargo type and route. Students learn about the use and restrictions of canals, how certain ships can beneficially use the canals, and why others are disallowed from using them.

Future Shipping Board Game

Students learn about the technology of renewable energy sources that may be used in the future and some that are currently being tested. The game demonstrates the uses and benefits of different energy technologies in relation to emissions. Students use math skills to calculate the amount of emissions they’ve produce, the fees associated with those emissions, and the monetary benefits of renewable energy.

Air Pollution and Acid Rain Testing

Students are introduced to the major sources of air pollution and learn how the burning of fossil fuels affects air quality. Students build their own particulate matter collector, perform water quality tests and see a demonstration of how air quality affects marine life.

Air Pollution Shipping Emissions Game

In order to appreciate the challenges of global shipping, students play a shipping emissions board game to determine the most efficient ways to move cargo across the globe while simultaneously creating the least amount of emissions.

Carbon Footprint/Green Building Tour

Students tour Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and learn what it means for a building to be “green”. They then brainstorm ways that they can save natural resources in their own daily lives by completing a personal carbon footprint analysis.

Point vs. Non-point Sources

Students perform a skit (Hey Dee) that illustrates sources of both point and non-point pollution. Using a Venn-diagram, the group will understand the difference between the two types of pollution.

Baltimore’s Changing Landscape: Pervious v. Impervious Surfaces

Students respond to questions in a slideshow as they discover that even Baltimore (now a big city) used to be made up of pervious surfaces. Students learn how cultural changes impact the environment. (Best paired with Native Gardening as a solution to the problem.)