Schoolyard K-12

The PIE-LTER Schoolyard K-12 education program, The Salt Marsh Science Project, is done in partnership with Mass Audubon and administered by David Moon.  The program is aimed at students in grades 5 through 12.  There are currently 10 participating schools, most on the Massachusetts North Shore but some also in the Boston area.  The key aspect of this program is to bring students into their own backyards and provide hands-on experience. Students work with their teachers and scientists to learn about salt marshes and the impact of the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis).  Students collect their own data and compare their findings to those of previous classes and to regional data.

As part of Mass Audubon's Salt Marsh Science and Seaside Stewardship Salt Marsh Science is enhanced by additional schoolyard activities, led by Mass Audubon staff, including the Perrenial Pepperweed Control Project and Seeking Relief from Sea Level Rise Student Mapping and Leadership Initiative. To learn about all these inspiring initiatives, click here for video.

In conjunction with the Salt Marsh Science Project, we developed a Salt Marsh Science Curriculum for middle and high school students.  The curriculum includes classroom activities, identification sheets and a dichotomous key for identifying salt marsh plants, and data sheets for salt marshfield trips.  These tried and true methods for studying Phragmites, vegetation, fish, and salinity in salt marshes were combined as an "integrated unit" in 1999,  utilizing lessons developed by Kristen Grant and the salt marsh science protocols developed by Dr. Robert Buchsbaum and Dr. David Burdick. Classroom teachers, Carmen Ochoa, Amanda Demetri, working with PIE Education coordinator Liz Duff.

Data Nuggets - are classroom activities, co-designed by graduate students and teachers, which give students practice interpreting quantitative information and making claims based on evidence. They are created from ongoing scientific research and provide a brief background on a scientist and their study system, a dataset from their research, and challenge students to

answer a scientific question using the dataset to support their claim. The goal of Data Nuggets is to engage students in the practices of science through an innovative approach that combines scientific content from authentic research with key concepts in quantitative reasoning.

The Mass Audubon Invasive species program addresses a number of invasive species that are of concern in the Plum Island region including purple loosestrife and perennial pepperweed.   Lessoning Loosestrife is a curriculum designed for elementary to high school level students.  Its goal is to help educators teach about wetlands, invasive species, and about using beetles as a biological control for purple loosestrife.   For teachers who want to become actively involved in removing pepperweed,  The Perennial Pepperweed Handbook (PDF) includes mapping tools, instructions for acquiring permits and permissions, ways of treating this invasive, and outreach materials.


Fiddle Me This is a lesson plan for grades 9 -12.  In this investigations students will use models to analyze and draw conclusions about climate change and its effects on fiddler crabs.  See Fiddler Crab Curriculum for more info.


Inland Fish and Warming Waters are lessons that explore the impact of temperature on 4 species of inland fish. A warming climate will increase the water temperature and decrease oxygen levels. Participants will investigate water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels in local water bodies and consider how to improve habitat for native cold water fish. The lesson includes a guided on-line inquiry using the US Geological Surveydatabase. Developed by Liz Duff, this lesson is linked to Next Generation Science Standards, as well as current and draft Massachusetts Science Curriculum Frameworks, and is a CLEAN (link is external) (Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network) Educational Resource. See Inland Fish Curriculum for more details.

Raising Awareness About Rising Sea Levels is a lesson plan for grades 6 - 12 designed to investigate sea level changes and  their impact in coastal areas. Students will conduct field studies using spotting levels and will discuss ways of reducing future sea level rise through individual and collective actions. See Sea Level Awareness for more info.

Striper Science is a set of lesson plans and resources for middle school and high school based on striped bass researchconducted in Massachusetts and put together by our education coordinator working with PIE researchers. Resources include  PowerPoint presentations, inquiry lessons based on databases, field studies, and online videos. We are proud to present these  lesson plans and resources which are based on Massachusetts Science Curriculum Frameworks.  See Striped Bass Curriculum for more details.


The Governor’s Academy Internships are awarded each year to 1-3 students from The Governor’s Academy, Newbury, MA. The program is designed to introduce interns to the importance of scientific study and allow them hands on experience in both field and lab work.  They are mentored by both teachers from The Governor's Academy and PIE scientists.  For the last two years, students have been working on a stiped bass population study with teacher John Pirie.  Previous telemetry studies by PIE scientists identified the confluence of West Creek and the Rowley River as an area of interest to striped bass.  To examine the questions of where and why striped bass are in the two rivers, students have been afforded the opportunity to head into the marsh and collect striped bass size and stomach content samples.  Their sampling has produced viable data describing the average striped bass fish size and prey.                                 



The Gulf of Maine Institute’s (GOMI) mission is “to touch, move and inspire young people, in partnership with adults, to lead in stewardship of the Gulf of Maine and its watershed”, an area stretching from Cape Cod to the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia.  Through a number of programs and initiatives, and working with schools and research and conservation organizations in the watershed, GOMI sponsors local teams and mentors.  A new initiative in 2021. the "Emerald Web" aims to link schools and communities in the watershed by engaging students in creating habitat santuaries at their schools or nearby, thereby creating a network of both.   Planted with native species, the sanctuaries will provide habitat for wildlife and buffer nearby waterways from runoff.  The pilot implementation of the program involves 5 schools along the Merrimack, and includes participation by the Hubbard Brook LTER, in the headwaters, as well as PIE, at the mouth.  John Halloran directs the NBPT GOMI team at PIE which has focused on pepperweed removal, climate change, and water quality.  In addition, with grant support from the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Foundation and the US EPA, GOMI has developed a model program for training professionals in place-based education. In partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Parker River National Refuge and the Newburyport Public Schools the model is being introduced at Nock Middle School and Newburyport High School.

The LTER Children’s book series  is aimed at helping children and their families learn about both their local environment and other places though stories based upon LTER site research. PIE has published "Save Our Stream!", set in the watershed of a marsh-estuary.  The story follows two children as they learn that traditional methods of lawn maintenance may be having detrimental effects on their local stream. They take action to alert the neighborhood homeowners, who begin to make changes that improve the health of the stream.  One of PIE's collaborating LTERs, the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems, has published the book “And the tide comes in…  The book is about a young girl showing her cousin a Georgia salt marsh, but is very appropriate for any child interested in marshes anywhere. For more information on other LTER books, visit the LTER Children's Book Series web site.