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Horseshoe crabs in the Great Bay Estuary

"The Great Bay Estuary"
Audience: Grades K-6

Program Summary:

The Great Bay Estuary has played a defining role in New Hampshire's history and economy since 1623, but how does the estuary itself work, and what kinds of creatures call it home? This interactive program uses props, short video clips, and illustrative photos to show students how different plants and animals survive in one of earth's most challenging environments (imagine your house being flooded and drained twice each day).

We introduce the Great Bay Estuary's three main habitats: eel grass meadows, mud flats, and salt marshes, and then challenge students to explain the different adaptations found in each. Why are the legs of a great blue heron different from those of an osprey? What does a clam do exactly when there's no water left at low tide? How can marsh grass grow in such salty water? 

Following the 15 to 18-minute PowerPoint presentation on the Great Bay Estuary and its relationship to the coastal watershed, students rotate through two (or sometimes three) hands-on activities which could include:

  • an up close and personal encounter with a live houseshoe crab
  • a hands-on exercise that visually illustrates what a watershed is, how different sources of pollution can affect it, and the positive effects of vegetative buffer zones
  • a history portion about salt marsh haying and how the antique tools were used
  • a tower exercise representing the estuarine ecosystem and the effects of different kinds of pollution on the health of the estuary
  • a guessing game exercise that reinforces the extreme lengths of time it takes for different polluting objects to be reabsorbed into the environment

"The Great Bay Estuary"
Audience: Grades 7-12, Adult

Program Summary:

In a PowerPoint presentation we introduce the audience to the estuary and watershed concepts and how everyone living in a watershed area affects the health of that watershed, in this case the Great Bay Estuary.  This estuary is a fascinating environment consisting of three main habitats which are affected twice daily by the tidal flow.  During the presentation we address the following questions:

  • What are some of the plants and animals that live in the estuary?
  • How have they adapted to this fluctuating environment?
  • What happens to the estuary in the event of an oil spill or heavy rain?
  • What are some examples of estuary pollutants?

Discussion involves the science behind the factors which affect the health of the estuary over time.  Students are introduced to projects underway to restore estuary habitats to a more healthy condition (eelgrass and oyster reef restoration).

Hands-on activities following could include:

  • Estuary metaphors (a box of cereal is like the estuary because...)
  • Match-ups (Average salinity = 26 ppt; Freshwater input/Saltwater input = 17%, 83%)