Building climate and data literacy for Maine's middle schoolers.

Each year, GMRI hosts nearly 10,000 Maine middle schoolers in its LabVenture program — a hands-on, interactive, authentic investigation of the changing Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Completely free for Maine schools, nearly 70% of the state of Maine's fifth and sixth grade cohort experience LabVenture annually. At the lab, students use authentic tools of science and methods of inquiry to explore many of the same questions about the Gulf of Maine that research scientists at GMRI are addressing.

This image is a close up of a student using a tablet designed for students with disabilities to interact with LabVenture features.
A student uses a tablet designed to help people with disabilities interact with LabVenture features.

LabVenture Goals:

  • Provide an authentic science learning experience to over 10,000 Maine middle schoolers each year, free of charge.
  • Give students opportunities to understand and apply key scientific practices, such as gathering, representing, and analyzing data.
  • Create spaces where students can build and apply communication, collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
  • Connect learning that happens inside and outside school through supporting resources and educator professional development.

LabVenture is the cornerstone education program of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Since its launch in 2005, LabVenture has delivered immersive, engaging, and interactive scientific learning experiences to over 130,000 Maine middle schoolers in the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning. The program was recently reimagined through our NASA funded project, as part of the Real World Real Science project which included a renovation of the Cohen Center. We continually update and revise the program's content to ensure that the over 10,000 students that visit LabVenture each year, can immerse themselves in a relevant, accessible, and cutting edge learning experience.

LabVenture is available to Maine’s fifth or sixth graders students from all 16 counties free of charge, and includes transportation to our lab. Research shows that middle school students are at a critical stage in their learning, when exposure to authentic STEM explorations can cement their interest and confidence in science.

As part of our LabVenture experience, fifth and sixth graders from all corners of Maine take on the role of scientists and conduct their own hands-on research in the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning, our state-of-the-art learning laboratory.

Our goal is to give the next generation the science and data skills they will need to manage the challenges and opportunities that come with a changing climate. LabVenture is a totally unique science learning experience that places students in the middle of some of the most important questions scientists explore every day.

Leigh Peake Chief Education Officer
Leigh Peake Chief Education Officer

The experience combines traditional tools of science with high-tech interactive resources to enable students to explore Gulf of Maine ecosystems. Using NASA satellite data, as well as local fishery data, they investigate how warming ocean temperatures are impacting key species, including lobster and black sea bass. Students also have opportunities to measure live lobsters, observe plankton under microscopes, analyze real sea surface temperature data displayed on interactive touch tables, and conduct an underwater species survey at our Biodiversity Tank. As they work, they build key science skills and develop lifelong skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem solving.

In this edition of Field Notes, Jeff Bate talks about how we work to continually update and revise the program's content and technology to ensure that the over 10,000 students that visit LabVenture each year, housed in the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning, can immerse themselves in a relevant, accessible, and cutting edge learning experience.

Learning doesn't stop once students leave our interactive learning facility. We've also worked to connect students' LabVenture experience back to the classroom by developing and implementing coordinated curriculum modules in schools, and by giving teachers more professional learning experiences. These teacher professional development opportunities include teacher participation in the LabVenture experience from the student standpoint, where they can also engage in personal and small group reflections, and receive an introduction to classroom activities. Perhaps most importantly, teachers use these opportunities to build a community of peers dedicated to giving students authentic experiences with scientific inquiry.

In addition, students record their notes and thoughts as they move through the LabVenture experience in a digital Field Notebook, which they can bring back to their classrooms and homes.

More recently, in order to continue serving teachers and students during COVID-19 school closures, we created LabVenture Express offered remotely through GMRI Home Delivery.

LabVenture Team

Statewide Support

The poland spring logo.

Poland Spring is a statewide partner in delivering LabVenture through their Good Neighbor grant program. Poland Spring supports GMRI to help foster the next generation of water stewards.

Additional Sponsors

  • Abbott Diagnostics Scarborough, Inc.
  • Arlene Briard
  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation
  • Bath Iron Works
  • Bath Savings Institution
  • Charles C. Butt
  • Clark Insurance
  • Edwin S. Webster Foundation
  • George P. Davenport Trust Fund
  • Harold H. Dudley Charitable Fund
  • Hyman Family Foundation
  • Katahdin Trust Company
  • Kennebunk Savings Bank
  • LL Bean
  • M&T Bank
  • Machias Savings Bank
  • MMG Insurance
  • Norway Savings Bank
  • Old Bug Light Charitable Foundation
  • Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Foundation
  • Pond Family Foundation
  • Portland Pipe Line Corporation
  • R.H. Reny's, Inc.
  • RBC Wealth Management
  • Reny Charitable Foundation
  • Robert G. and Jane V. Engel Foundation
  • Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution
  • Skowhegan Savings Bank
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation
  • WesaDoe Fund

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