Sample Lessons

The Ecology School lessons are designed to create immersive and hands-on learning experiences for students, no matter where they are taught. Lessons can be modified to meet students’ grade level needs from Kindergarten through High School, and are aligned with school, state, and local learning frameworks, including the Next Generation Science Standards. We look forward to working with you to craft a program that meets your needs!

2nd graders determine the salinity of ocean water using a hydrometer with some help from Little Suzy.

2nd graders determine the salinity of ocean water using a hydrometer with some help from Little Suzy.

ABCs of Ecology

An introductory lesson, “The ABCs of Ecology” lesson will equip students with the knowledge they need to further investigate ecology. They will explore the four key concepts of the ABCs: Abiotic, Biotic, Cycles and Change and have an opportunity to delve into how these four components create and shape ecosystems. We highly encourage that this lesson be included in our residential program.

Rock, Water, Glacier, Shift!

In the “Rock, Water, Glacier, Shift!” lesson students will take a look at how changes to the landscape have occurred over time and were caused by large disturbances (such as glaciers and major storms). Students will explore how rocks are the foundation of all ecosystems, and be able to describe which abiotic factors have shaped the land.

Battle of the Biotic

During the “Battle of the Biotic” lesson students will explore the roles producers, consumers and decomposers play in the forest, their adaptations and needs for survival, and predator/prey relationships. Students will discover the ways in which biotic organisms are in constant competition.

FBI: Maine!

During the “FBI: Maine!” lesson students will learn all about the fungus, bacteria and invertebrates that make the world go round. They will explore how all living organisms share the same basic building blocks (carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen) and will investigate the role of decomposers in ecosystems. Students will discover that the forest is a nutrient recycling center where these nutrients are constantly being used and reused.

Living on the Edge

The “Living on the Edge” lesson focuses on how factors (such as nutrient level, available sunlight, permeability and disturbance) affect ecosystems. Students will use scientific tools to compare forest, meadow and edge habitats and will explore how these factors shape these distinct habitats.


Students will gain an understanding of how water is the great connector in the “Watersheds” Lesson. They will investigate how and where water flows, and how it changes the landscape as it travels from the mountain to the sea. They will gain knowledge of watersheds and explore the difference between weathering and erosion.

Marine Lab

The “Marine Lab” lesson is an excellent lesson on its own, but especially meaningful prior to a visit to the Tide Pools. Students will become acquainted with the feeding strategies and adaptations of intertidal organisms. They will learn where to find these animals in the cross section of the rocky shore and how to handle them safely. Throughout the lesson, students visit several stations where they get to examine and learn about live specimens.

Ecological Inquiry Project

Students will devise an inquiry-based question and use the scientific method to investigate the answer during the Eco-Inquiry lesson. Students design the question, implement the methods by which to collect their data and then synthesize this information based on tools used and content acquired during the week. Older students will have an opportunity to present their projects to their peers during the evening lesson. This lesson is designed to be part of a 4- or 5-day residential program.

Beach Lab

The “Beach Lab” lesson is designed as a lesson to precede the Beach and Dunes field trip lesson. Students will learn how a beach and dune systems are formed, how to use a field guide to identify organisms, and get ready for the harsh environment of the beach. This lesson will prepare students for success when they travel to their beach lesson.

High school students take soil core samples in the salt marsh during their Ecological Inquiry Project.

High school students take soil core samples in the salt marsh during their Ecological Inquiry Project.

Students get an up close look at intertidal organisms during a marine lab lesson.

Students get an up close look at intertidal organisms during a marine lab lesson.

intertidal ecosystems

During our Intertidal Ecosystems lesson, students will spend time comparing the beach and rocky shore ecosystems and comb the beach for organisms such as surf clams, moon snails, and periwinkles. Students will be treated to an incredible place to explore and the opportunity to discover a wide variety of creatures who have all adapted in different ways to survive the changing tides, temperature, salinity and substrate. This lesson pairs well with either the Beach or Marine Lab lesson.

Our Place in Space

By comparing the environments of other planets to that of Earth, students will gain an understanding and appreciation for the uniqueness of Earth’s environment. Students will learn about our solar system, galaxy and stars and make comparisons to the environments they have observed on Earth.

Nature at Night

During the “Nature at Night” lesson, students will discover the adaptations that nocturnal animals use to survive while being active at night. Groups will explore the forest to see how it has changed with the onset of darkness as well as how humans may not be best adapted to nocturnal survival.


Students involved in four- or five-day residential programs have an opportunity to apply their new knowledge during EcoQuest. Each study group works as a team, using scientific tools to complete a set of challenges to discover a mystery ecosystem and create its inhabitants. The evening ends with a closing ceremony where the school comes together to share experiences.

Town Meeting

In this lesson, students will have an opportunity to role play a variety of constituent groups that have been affected by coastal erosion. During the Town Meeting, students will not only need their ecological knowledge, but also their ability to debate and study a situation from many angles. After a lively discussion, students will work together to create a compromise solution.

Student Choice

For students that are onsite for four- or five-day programs, schools can chose to add Student Choice as a lesson. In this lesson block, students will choose between a variety of activity options such as Survival Skills, Nature Olympics and Nature Spa. Students are regrouped based on their choices for this lesson, giving them an opportunity to work with different students and explore another side of ecology.

The Final Lesson: Ecology is Everywhere

In the final lesson of your students’ experience with us at The Ecology School, students will begin the lesson in the woods to reflect on the ecological concepts, self-awareness, and team building that they learned and their experience over the course of their stay. Groups will make their way back towards campus and reflect on their shared experience and how to put to best use the new knowledge and friendships made during their stay as they reenter their familiar worlds. Similar to the ABCs lesson, we highly encourage this lesson to included in any residential program longer than 3 days.