Skip to content Skip to navigation

LabVenture! Annual Impact Report

During 2013, GMRI's LabVenture! program welcomed 10,261 middle school students and their teachers from communities across Maine (and Gloucester, MA) to the Sam L. Cohen Center for Interactive Learning. LabVenture! connected students to science in ways that absorbed their attention and fostered an awareness of the science that surrounds their everyday lives. Students conducted hands-on research that involved the use of microscopes and various measuring tools, as well as interpretation of graphs and computer models. They worked in small teams to formulate questions, collect data, and draw conclusions. Evidence found in digital artifacts (photos, videos, iPad reflections) captured as students progressed through the four LabVenture! (LV) workstations clearly demonstrate students are practicing skills needed for future success in school and 21st century careers.

During their research at LV Station 1, students looked at warm- and cold-water copepods under a microscope, using critical thinking skills as they considered what impacts climate change may have on the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Students collaborated during a virtual fishing trip at LV Station 2, deciding how to fish smarter to increase their profits and lower their impact on the environment. Moving on to LV Station 3, students practiced their problem-solving skills as they viewed videos and handled live lobsters exploring the question "Are we farming lobsters?" At LV Station 4, students exercised their reasoning skills as they took on the roles of juvenile lobsters, trying to avoid predators (cod). Throughout their LabVenture! experience, communication skills were honed as students recorded hypotheses videos and discussed their findings.

Conclusions on Fishing Trip

LabVenture! is the first part of GMRIs continuum of 5th-8th grade education programs designed to cultivate a scientific literacy and activate Maine students to become lifelong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learners. GMRI staff were part of Maine's Science Leadership Team who reviewed the Framework for K-12 Science Education and draft Next Generation Science Standards (read more). We are excited by the alignment of the student experiences we have developed for LabVenture! with the changes called for in the new standards, particularly the integration of science practices and systems thinking.

New Assessment Tools Measure Impact

Our current science topic invites students to explore Complex Systems and engage in questions about the multiple layers of interactions that occur among cod, lobsters, herring and people in the Gulf of Maine. Informal post-visit feedback from students and teachers have offered insight into the depth of learning provided by LabVenture!. In addition, we worked with the College of Education at the University of Maine (UMaine) during this past year to pilot a new assessment effort, which documented the extent to which students reason with evidence (a proxy for critical thinking) and collaborate. UMaine researchers led by Jonathan Shemwell, Ph.D. worked with GMRI staff to measure learning during the LabVenture! experience (read more). By focusing on the learning process as it unfolded, researchers were able to establish a baseline with which modifications and future efforts can be compared. Researchers recorded student groups at two LabVenture! stations and the full-group discussion at the end of the program. Researchers also collected written observation sheets completed by participating teachers. Nineteen student groups were observed between May 13th and June 10th, 2013. Conclusions from this study affirm that LabVenture! is effective at supporting students in identifying and reasoning with evidence and in collaborating to identify evidence. The fact that, at least in some parts of the experience, students are more effective at using evidence when they collaborate is particularly worth highlighting. It shows that LabVenture is accomplishing a difficult educational objective.

Conclusions on Climate Change

LabVenture! 2013 By the Numbers

3Colorful, custom LabVenture! buses traveling statewide
16Maine counties participating
27Generous corporate and foundation sponsors
128Maine cities and towns sending students
160Schools attending (See who participated)
503Teachers visiting and engaged
598Miles - longest distance traveled (Google Earth User? Take virtual trip down the watershed to see how students from this northern town connect to the ocean)
10,061Fifth and Sixth grade students served statewide
200Students visiting from Gloucester, MA
13,384Visits to the LabVenture! website
37,825Miles traveled in total to and from LabVenture!
63,360Digital artifacts produced by student teams for ongoing study and sharing with family and friends

Extending the LabVenture! Experience Beyond GMRI

We increasingly hear from teachers that they are organizing their classes to participate in LabVenture! because it integrates well with their curricula. As part of our on-going efforts to deepen the learning from the LabVenture! visit, GMRI developed a responsive professional development workshop, created and distributed enriching activity cards for the classroom, and provided on-line access to additional student activities. In August, GMRI hosted 13 teachers from eight schools and four counties in an intensive two-day Summer Teacher Institute at our lab. One of the unique aspects of this institute was that it enabled the teachers to go through the LabVenture! experience themselves and to reflect on how learning meshes with what they are doing in their own classrooms. Two Teacher Leaders shared their success in building deep units of study around LabVenture!. A scavenger hunt invited teachers to explore ways in which LabVenture! can help them meet the Next Generation Science Standards. Perhaps most importantly, we set aside time for teachers to collaborate and plan. Each left with a concrete curriculum project they intended to implement with their classes in the coming school year.

Heres what teachers had to say:



Participating teachers were asked to take part in a post-visit webinar where they shared their creative work incorporating LabVenture! into the classroom. Additional webinars are planned for 2014 to allow teachers to present their curriculum projects.

In addition to the Summer Teacher Institute, our LabVenture! team works each year to capture the creative pre- and post-visit activities initiated by participating teachers to extend the LabVenture! experience as a deeper part of their curriculum. These activities are documented on-line as part of our teacher resources webpage. Over the years, we have seen amazing follow-on research, multimedia projects, and service learning initiatives:

  • a class on Chebeague Island that is investigating species that enter a lobster trap other than lobsters;
  • a class in Bangor who dove deep into the issue of right whales and lobster gear interactions in the Gulf of Maine;
  • a class in Lincoln that organized a clean-up day for a lake in their town;
  • a teacher in Etna-Dixmont who asked her class to create a learning web to map all the connections they had learned during their trip;
  • an annual cross curricula event at Oxford Elementary School that brings live lobsters into classrooms, and includes lobster in the days lunch menu; and
  • a class in Greene who created 3-D maps of the Gulf of Maine watershed, designed posters, and painted murals to turn their classroom into an undersea world to share with what they learned with other students, teachers, and parents.