School Programs

In support of your teaching goals, Coastal Rivers is offering a wide range of school programs. See the full list below or download the list here. All programs are designed to teach basic concepts of ecology and integrate hands-on opportunities to learn scientific methods. And by enabling students to make their own discoveries about the natural world, we hope to inspire a deeper connection to nature.

Program format

Please note we are not offering in-person instruction at this time. That being said, we are prepared to support you as needed with online instruction, equipment and supplies. Some options include:

  1. Using Zoom, we provide an introduction to the topic for your students, and provide teacher training for a field component that you lead yourself.
  2. Using Zoom, we provide an introduction to the topic for your students followed by an in-the-field demonstration by our naturalists. Students can follow up with in-school or at-home assignments connected to the topic (optional).
  3. Using Zoom, we provide you with teacher training on the topic, along with suggested activities. This can culminate with a Zoom meeting between students and our naturalists to wrap-up the experience (optional).

Most programs incorporate a variety of activities including observation time, games, and nature journaling designed to help students develop naturalist skills.

Programs can be tailored for any age and are offered year-round unless otherwise specified. Special classes can be designed to meet specific needs.


All programs are provided to AOS93 and Lincoln Academy free of charge. Other groups will be charged $70/hr. Scholarships may be available.

Travel to Coastal Rivers Preserves

We encourage you to use our preserves for your classes, whether you are within walking distance or can bring students by bus. If you let us know ahead of time when you plan to visit, we can be sure to let you know about any changing conditions. See a list of our preserves by town here. Click on any preserve name for more information and a trail map.

A note about standards

A standard is listed for each program. This is intended to indicate a potential learning standard that this program might support. For most programs this can be changed or strengthened to meet specific needs.

To book a program for your class or for more information

Email Director of Education Sarah Gladu or Education Assistant Angela DesVeaux.

Program List

Download the full list here.

All about Animals

horseshoe crab swimmingHorseshoe Crabs (Offered June – September 15)

These remarkable and ancient creatures present many mysteries. Learn how scientists are tracking these animals in Great Salt Bay and how critical they are to the life cycles of many other animals. Standard: Life cycle.

Animal Tracks and Signs

Tracks and signs can tell the life histories of wild animals if we learn to read them carefully. Go beyond footprints and scat identification to discover the habits of the many animals living among us. Observe signs of the interactions of animals with each other and with plants. Standard: Connection of mammals to specific habitats (biotic and non-biotic connections).

Birds of Midcoast Maine

Borrow Coastal Rivers’ binoculars and field guides and learn to identify some common (and perhaps even some uncommon) birds in several different habitats. Observe bird behaviors and make your own discoveries about the fascinating life histories of these animals that live all around us. Standard: Animal adaptations through the seasons (homeostasis).

Fear and Fangs – Predators (Ages K- 4)

Large or small, predators can be fearsome. Discover some ways they are different from other kinds of animals, the critical roles they play in the ecosystem, and what really controls animal populations. Standard: Physical adaptations and human perception of predators, energy cycling.

Incredible Insects

Even in winter, insects make their living all around us. Discover the many ways insects have adapted that enable them to thrive. Discuss natural selection. View Coastal Rivers’ observation bee hive. Learn about the variety of life cycles of insects. Standard: Animal adaptations for survival. Plant and animal interactions.

Mammals of Maine

What makes a mammal a mammal? Become familiar with the variety of mammals in Maine and discover what makes them specially adapted. Do you know the difference between a mole and a vole? Standard: Adaptations. Sensory systems.

alewivesDiadromous Fish (Early to mid-May through early June at the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder)

Eels, salmon, alewives and other shad have incredible life histories that are closely tied with conservation and local human history. Witness the incredible annual migration of these fish, play a migration game and more! Standard: Migration (movement of matter in ecosystems).

Cultural History

Who are the Wabanaki?

An introduction to the culture and history of the Wabanaki people. See artifacts such as stone tools, hear a story, make a birch bark spoon or cedar twine. Standard: Wabanaki history and culture.

Wabanaki Living Skills and Culture

Our re-created Wabanaki village occupies a site where Wabanaki people lived for thousands of years. Make cedar twine, taste wild edibles, hear a story, learn about traditional Wabanaki culture and, if time permits, visit a shell midden left by people thousands of years ago. Learn how you can help maintain the wigwams when you visit on your own. Standard: Wabanaki history and culture.


base of an old red oak with fall foliageTremendous Trees

Trees have fascinating adaptations that enable them to survive in a variety of conditions. Learn to identify common trees and why they are important resources for people and other animals. Standard: Photosynthesis, seed dispersal, patterns of organisms across ecosystems.

Maple Syruping (Late February through 3rd week of March only)

Tap maple trees (we will loan buckets and spiles for your site), sample sap and see syrup being made. Learn all about tree anatomy and how trees function, and play an identification game. Standard: Photosynthesis, seed dispersal, cycling of energy through ecosystems.

Plant and Animal Interactions

Forest Ecology

Learn to identify key forest flora and fauna. Focus on succession and the life history of forests. (Older groups may practice using a transect to document plant and animal diversity.) Standard: Patterns of organisms through habitats, energy transfer, plant adaptations.

Forgotten Pollinators, Seeds and Fruits (Offered August – October 15)

Discover how seeds are the result of millions of years of coevolution of plants and animals. Witness these complex and highly developed relationships. Standard: Biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Prehistoric Relics (Grades 4 and up)

Take a trip back in time to study geologic history. Observe plants (like horsetails and conifer trees) and animals (like horseshoe crabs) that have survived for millions of years and have adapted to the modern environment. Standard: Adaptations. Interpreting data from fossils. Variations in characteristics over time.

Wetlands and Coastal Ecology

Oysters and Aquaculture

Dissect an oyster (we provide oysters and tools) and learn about the ecological role of wild oysters and how they are raised commercially. In spring and fall the group can visit an aquaculture site where oysters are grown. Standard: Genetic traits, adaptation, and the relationship of non-biotic environment to oyster survival (water quality and conditions). Also possible (engineering): Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Coastal Studies in Great Salt Bay

Explore the shore of Maine’s first Marine Protected Area and discover how organisms have adapted to exist in an ever-changing tidal environment. Older groups will learn about nutrient cycling in the ocean. Standard: Understanding community history and human relationship to the local environment.

Go with the Flow: Comparing Salt and Freshwater Habitats

Compare stream and marsh habitats and the life they sustain. Observe the fantastic adaptations of freshwater invertebrates and plants. Learn how water quality is critical to supporting healthy aquatic environments. Standard: Comparing diversity in different habitats.

Microscopic Ocean Life (Best from April 15 – November 1, grades 4 and up.)

View the extraordinary world of phyto- and zooplankton through quality microscopes loaned by Coastal Rivers. Optionally, students can observe online through our microscope so we are all looking at the same thing. Learn how these minute organisms impact the atmosphere and all life on earth. Identify key phytoplankton. Standard: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

turkey feather caught in the grass of a salt marshSaltwater Marsh Geologic History and Ecology

Marshes serve a variety of important functions including as a nursery for young fish spawning, a sponge absorbing the impact of flood tides, and a hotel and restaurant for migrating birds. Witness the effects of tens of thousands of years of tides and other mechanisms that transport living and nonliving matter throughout this ever-changing environment. Standard: Use information from several sources to provide evidence that earth events can occur quickly or slowly and how this impacts organisms.

Freshwater Habitats

Observe the fantastic adaptations of freshwater invertebrates and plants (which we can deliver to your school, let you know where to find on school grounds, or show to your students using Zoom). Learn how water quality is critical to supporting healthy aquatic environments. Standard: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.