"GMRI programs are so impressive. They are extremely well designed, have ambitious learning goals, and provide highly creative solutions to difficult education problems. I see great potential for documenting significant learning in GMRI education programs, including gains in critical thinking and collaboration in LabVenture! and Vital Signs. These areas are notoriously challenging for educators and students, yet they are increasingly important for careers and citizenship in the 21st century world."
-- Jonathan T. Shemwell, Ph.D.
University of Maine
Since its launch in 2006, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute's (GMRI) LabVenture! program has become one of Maine's most innovative and impactful science learning experiences. Thanks to the support of 40 sponsors last year, more than 10,000 of Maine's 5th and 6th graders came to our world-class lab for an immersive, hands-on, technology-rich research investigation. View the list of schools that participated. Their experience exploring lobsters in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem redefined science as exciting and personally meaningful. Students participated free of charge, including transportation, regardless of personal circumstances.
Science Literacy Vision
LabVenture! is a key component of our vision of transforming science literacy in Maine. We believe Maine can and should emerge as one of the nation's most science literate states. We work hand-in-hand with the formal education community to provide experiences that activate students to become lifelong science learners and environmental stewards. We are focused on grades 5-8 as the critical time when students' interest in science begins to develop. We also provide professional development and curriculum resources to support teachers in bringing exceptional teaching methods into their classrooms. Read more about our approach to education.
Piquing Student Interest
From the moment our LabVenture! bus picked them up at school, students were immersed in an unforgettable science experience. Students had a rare opportunity to try on the identity of a scientist and conduct their own hands-on research about the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. They were inspired as they interacted with scientists in our lab. They handled live lobsters, used digital microscopes, conducted a virtual tagging study in our live exhibit tank, and took a virtual lobstering trip. The experience piqued students' interest in science and provided one of their first forays into the scientific method. Online resources and teacher training extended the learning experience back into the classroom.
Evaluating Our Impact
We have a wealth of anecdotal evidence and traditional evaluation results which suggest that science engagement, deep learning, and changes in teacher practice are taking place as a result of LabVenture!. Feedback from teachers and students continues to be overwhelmingly positive. These are just a few of the many stories:
Critical Thinking - Back in the classroom after the LabVenture! experience, students at Fairmount School in Bangor are exploring the issue of right whales and lobster gear interactions in the Gulf of Maine. They are using whale tracking data and also getting out in the field to explore the intertidal zone.
Problem Solving - A student from Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston said: "I loved how there is a mystery about why we have so many lobsters in the Gulf of Maine, because it gave me great encouragement to try and solve it."
Collaboration - A teacher from Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris commented: "As I watched my students, it was clear to me that they were discovering the power of working cooperatively in groups. They were applying the various strengths of each group member to solve the problem at hand."
Communication - Inspired by LabVenture!, students at Greene Central School created 3-D maps of the Gulf of Maine watershed, researched and wrote reports, designed posters, painted murals, and presented their work to other students, teachers, and parents (and GMRI staff!).