Course Descriptions

Numbers listed in parentheses indicate ages for each class; letters indicate the session(s).

SEASHORE LIFE (7-8) A, B, AB

Students will explore local beaches and salt marshes to observe and learn about the animals and plants that live there. Activities will include collecting in intertidal environments, setting up classroom aquaria, experiments, and art projects. The six-week version of the course will allow for a more in-depth study of seashore communities and invertebrate phyla.

WOODS, PONDS, AND FIELDS (8-9) A, B

Students will learn about animals and plants of terrestrial and freshwater environments through outdoor activities and collections and by setting up terraria and aquaria in the classroom. Separate units will introduce students to plants, insects and spiders, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR (8-9) A, B, AB

Animals are born with innate behaviors, already knowing how to do lots of things. A fox has the instinct to chase prey, like a rabbit, and that same kind of instinct is seen in a dog when it chases a ball. Animals also have learned behaviors. Herring Gulls learn to drop clams onto the road to crack them open by watching other gulls do it. In this class, we will observe animals to learn about what they do and why they do it. We will also set up some experiments to find out how animals learn.

MARINE BIOLOGY (9-10) A, B

This is a diverse field-oriented course in which students will visit rocky, sandy and marshy ecosystems to collect animals and plants and learn about what they are and how they live. In the classroom, students will keep organisms in aquaria for a closer look and use microscopes for close study.

ECOLOGY OF THE BIKE PATH (9-10) A, B

Riding bicycles lets students reach the unique aquatic and upland ecosystems along the Shining Sea Bike Path. During daily rides, students will do ecological studies of the distinct habitats and environments along the bike path. Participants must provide their own bicycles and helmets, and be comfortable riding for several miles and in a straight line. A skills test will be administered on the first day of class. (Enrollment limited to 14 students) 

ECOLOGICAL ART (9-10) A

Students will use various materials to create forms of art while learning about ecological relationships between organisms and local natural environments. Each week students will explore different habitats along the seashore, in the woods, in freshwater wetlands, and in suburban backyards of Woods Hole. Through sketches, sculptures, and other projects, students will showcase the connections among animals, plants, and their environments as well as our interactions with them.

FIELD ECOLOGY (10-11) B

In this class we will learn about species of plants and animals in their natural habitats and environments while making observations, learning life histories of animal species, identifying populations, setting up experiments, doing projects, collecting data, and presenting results. Woodlands, meadows, gardens, and freshwater ponds are among the habitats that will be explored.

SEAWEEDS (10-11) B

Did you know that we most likely consume some form of seaweed every day without even knowing it? Come find out why seaweeds are so popular lately. Over the course of three weeks, students will immerse themselves in hands-on activities that cover such topics as: form and function, growth and light, photosynthesis and respiration, eutrophication and pollution, ocean acidification, and aquaculture. Students will learn how to identify local species using identification guides, examine ecological interactions between seaweeds and their surroundings, press seaweeds, eat seaweeds, and design a kelp farm in a fish tank.

CHEMICAL OCEANOGRAPHY (10-11) A

Students in this class will learn about the chemical properties of sea water, such as salinity, temperature, and pH. They may investigate how changes to ocean chemistry due to natural processes (such as biological activity or geology) or human activities (such as pollution) may impact both marine and terrestrial life.

GEOLOGY OF CAPE COD (10-11) A

Did you know that Cape Cod and the Islands were formed by a huge ice sheet thousands of years ago? In this class, students will be introduced to the geological history of Cape Cod through field work, experiments, and classroom modeling. The class will also cover topics such as fossils, soil, and water.

BOTANY (11-12) A

Plants provide the foundation for all life on Earth. In botany, we collect and identify local plant species and learn about their importance in ecosystems. Through experiments, microscopy, dissection, and field-work, students gain a hands-on appreciation for botanical concepts and the dynamic role that plants play in the world around us. 

NAUTICAL SCIENCE (11-12) B

Explore boat design and build a seaworthy model boat, learn to navigate by chart and compass, experiment with the principles of buoyancy and displacement, and delve into nautical terminology and practical seamanship. Classes will take trips to the working waterfront and through Woods Hole Passage.

ENTOMOLOGY (11-12) B

In this class we will learn about the major groups of insects; about their habits, growth and Development; and about the important roles they play in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Many of our activities will involve collecting insects in fields, woods, ponds, and backyards, and rearing them in the classroom. We will be working in the garden outside the school, learning to create sustainable habitats for insects and other animals. (Did you know that one third of every bite of food we eat is dependent on insect pollinators?) 

ICHTHYOLOGY (12-13) A, B

In this class, students will learn to fish using different baits and lures, as well as by setting traps and using seines. They will study the characteristics of species found in local North Atlantic and freshwater habitats, including their diverse forms and survival strategies. 

INVERTEBRATES (12-13) A

Invertebrates dominate the animal world. They include organisms such as sponges, cnidarians, worms, echinoderms, mollusks and arthropods. This hands-on class will survey the diversity of invertebrate phyla and explore the evolutionary relationships among these groups. Students will study internal and external anatomy, reproduction, feeding, and behavior through observation of live specimens, dissection, classroom experiments, and field trips to local ecosystems. 

VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY (12-13) B

Vertebrates make up many of the animals we see daily: birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals. In this class, we will investigate the anatomy, form, function, and behavior of numerous vertebrates to determine which characteristics are common to all vertebrate classes (groups) and which are unique to specific groups.

INTRODUCTION TO FILM PHOTOGRAPHY (12-13) AB

Welcome to photography! We will learn how to use a film camera, understand the science behind photography, composition, and printing photos in the dark room. This class will introduce the balance of light and time, developing film, and printing photos. We will explore how to artistically capture nature through our lens. CSS will provide each student with an SLR film camera to us for the class; enrollment is limited to 10 students. Materials Fee: $40 

EMBRYOLOGY (13-14) B

During development, a single cell will divide and produce many different cell types with different shapes and jobs. How does this happen? How long does it take? This course will introduce and explore the changes and stages of embryonic development in organisms through collection and microscopic research.

ROBOTICS/ROVs (13-15) A, B

Students will focus on the technical, economic, and environmental aspects of real-world marine engineering and electronics. Through frequent field trips to Woods Hole labs, project design, and data analysis, students will explore principles such as buoyancy, propulsion, and energy. Students will build a functional remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Materials Fee: $40. 

ADVANCED MARINE BIOLOGY (14-16) A, B, AB

Through hands-on exposure, students will delve into the biology and ecology of marine vertebrates and invertebrates, their evolution and classification, anatomy and physiology, and behaviors and habitats. This course will include snorkeling field trips to different ecosystems around Woods Hole. Students must provide their own mask, snorkel, and fins. A swim test will be administered requiring students to swim 50 ft and tread water for 2 minutes. (Enrollment limited to 14 students)

MICROBIAL LIFE (14-16) A

Microbes profoundly impact our external environment as well as our personal biome. Learn about the strange and fascinating world of bacteria, protists, and fungi through microscopic observation and experimentation, both in the classroom and in various Woods Hole ecosystems. 

BIOLOGICAL ILLUSTRATION (14-16) B

Illustration can be a useful and beautiful method of recording information. In this class we will become familiar with basic techniques of biological illustration, while examining the structure, anatomy, and function of local organisms. This course will also compare historically important methods of illustration with modern techniques such as photomicrographs and data-based animations.

BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE (14-16) A, B, AB

Climate change is altering ecosystems around the globe, and Cape Cod is being affected in profound ways. In this course we will develop a scientific understanding of how and why the climate is changing and then explore the impact that these changes are having on the biodiversity of ecosystems on the Cape and beyond. We will learn from experts who are conducting research on these topics and use a systems approach to learning how climate change is impacting both natural and human systems.