Mainly Marine

For those homeschoolers who have a science kid, or for those homeschoolers who think their kids could be science kids, this field trip is for you. Last weekend we came back from a field trip to the Marine Science Consortium and I just have to share. It is by far the most fun field trip we went on all year. And my child is a history kid!

The Marine Science Consortium is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. The region is biologically diverse and geologically dynamic. Many of the area’s barrier islands and marshes remain undeveloped. Unique maritime and upland forests, as well as bald cypress swamps, comprise the terrestrial ecosystems.  Additional resources nearby include Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague National Seashore, and NASA Wallops Flight Facility.


We began our three day adventure with a trip to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, where we learned all about the history of the refuge, their rehabilitation programs and the wild ponies of Assateague. Our bus took us on a loop through the refuge to see the wild ponies in areas that are usually restricted to the public.


We also had the chance to see the Assateague Lighthouse, which has moved pretty far inland because of the changing landform of the island.


Cade Martin uses the Van Dorn Bottle to collect water samples from a depth of 16ft.

Our second day at the MSC began with an oceanography research cruise where our students did many scientific experiments on the water and trawled for organisms that they would try and identify in the labs that evening.


Kerby and Joelle Johnson are checking current speed and direction.


Isabella Chalfant checks the water temperature at different depths.

After lunch at the Consortium we took a trip to the Intertidal Beaches at Tom’s Cove. We got to use seine nets and sieves for organism collection and spent time sampling for various environmental parameters, species diversity, distribution, adaptation.


The students learn about plant diversity using a 12X12 system.


The students are using a sieve box to collect organism samples.


Students are using a seine net to collect organisms.


Inside the nature center at Tom’s Cove the students were allowed to explore the touch tanks and learn about species found along the coastal waters.


The organism lab was my son’s favorite part of the day, which shocked me because a cruise and tromping through a bunch of intertidal gunk was pretty darned cool. But he really enjoyed the process of identifying all the organisms and critters that they had collected during the day. All the kids had a great time and didn’t want to leave the lab.


This is a video of a squid we found but were unable to identify because we ran out of time. But we all thought the ability to change color was fascinating and fun to watch.

The last day we had the option of visiting the NASA Space Center at Wallops Island. I had never known that we had a fully functioning NASA center here in Virginia. It is the principal facility for management and implementation of suborbital research programs such as sounding rocket programs and balloon operations. The students got to explore the beach just outside the facility, which is closed to the public. They were able to search and keep some very nice shells and walk along one of the most unspoiled beaches I’ve ever seen.


It’s impossible to fully relay how awesome this trip was. The Consortium staff pack in three full days of activities with only enough time to eat, sleep and get a few showers. The cafeteria is amazing (even making a special pasta dinner for my little vegetarian) and we loved sleeping in the dorms just like college kids.

For this year there are still two sets of dates left, September 26-28 and October 3-5. We will be going back next year for the Returners 2nd Year Program with the wonderful friends we already knew and the ones that we made this year. And we can’t wait!

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3 comments to Mainly Marine

  • Robin this sounds like an absolute blast! So glad you all got to take advantage of it. Thanks for telling us about it – love the photos of all the kids learning stuff!

  • Maureen

    Great report Robin. I’d like to concur with everything she said. We went last year and had an absolute blast.

  • Nan Johnson

    We also attended this 3 day camp and had a blast. I was impressed with the depth of the program and will be going back again next year if at all possible and adding a few days of camping in this beautiful area.

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