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2018 LabVenture Annual Impact Report

Farewell to Complex Systems

Another year of LabVenture is in the books — as is the last year of our Complex Systems content! This content helped students explore the vast interconnections of key species in the Gulf of Maine: lobsters, cod, herring, plankton, and humans.  

This past school year, 9,565 middle school students came to our lab, each gaining a new understanding of this important local ecosystem and building essential scientific skills along the way. 

Students Were Inspired With Hands-On Science

In Complex Systems, students investigated how different species are deeply connected. They went on virtual fishing trips to explore bycatch and how gear design can reduce it. They examined live plankton samples under microscopes to see how climate and weather can impact species. They observed interactions between cod and lobster in our biodiversity tank—and they held a live lobster as they researched how herring bait could be “farming” lobsters. 

After each activity, we asked students to give anonymous feedback. Their data this year showed that: 

  • 78% felt that LabVenture made them want to try another science activity.
  • 79% said that LabVenture made them like science more.
  • 78% shared that this changed their view of what scientists do.

These statistics are impressive, but it was even more powerful to hear directly from students about how LabVenture transformed their view of the world and their futures. These are just a few of our favorite thank-you notes:

"Going on this trip really changed my whole thought/opinion on science. I felt connected by a lot of things during the trip.”
"GMRI made me want to be a scientist even more. One of my favorite parts of the trip was being able to use a microscope. I've never used one before."
"I liked that we were scientists and we didn't sit down ever."
"I'm starting to dream about working there. I think I might want to become a marine scientist later in life. I had an awesome day."
"The next time I go to the ocean or to the beach I will think more deeply about the different species there."
"This is a once in a lifetime thing and it opened up my eyes to even small things like plankton so thank you."

Teachers Saw Real Change in their Students

Backing up student feedback, teachers observed significant positive benefits to participation in the program. Of the teachers responding to our annual educator survey, 74% said their students showed a greater interest in science after their LabVenture. Among the same respondents, 76% said the students demonstrated a better understanding of the nature of science. 

Teachers and chaperones also conducted an observational evaluation of their students during the LabVenture experience. Of this group, 98% said their students learned quite a lot, and 95% often saw examples of positive collaborations as students worked together. Additionally, 93% shared that they often saw students using evidence to back up their conclusions. An impressive 99% said LabVenture increased or reinforced positive attitudes toward science.

"I had a student tell me he never knew science could be this fun."
"Watching the students share their ideas and being excited about science and the process is great. This is an experience they never forget."
"One of my students answered more questions today in front of his peers than all year."
"A team of three students could not function during the first station. When they got to the second station, one said “Okay, we have to work together like scientists do."

Making a Difference in the Classroom

While the student experience is the heart of LabVenture, our team also works hard to ensure teachers have the resources and support they need to maximize student learning around the program. Every teacher who brings students to LabVenture has free access to add-on activities, websites, and learning resources. We offered a professional development workshop for 22 teachers in August 2017 to help teachers plan extensions of LabVenture within their classrooms. 

Our annual survey of educators involved with LabVenture showed that these efforts are truly meaningful for science learning throughout Maine. Among responding teachers, 88% spend at least one additional day on LabVenture-related content and skills, with 32% making this a multi-day unit. 

A core group — 16% of responding teachers  — has been bringing students to LabVenture for ten (or more) years. This points to a longevity in the value of LabVenture, and continued enthusiasm for the program throughout Maine’s districts. For many of these teachers, LabVenture offers an opportunity their schools simply cannot match:

"Because our school does not have an official science lab (classroom teachers set up and take down equipment due to limited space), LabVenture was a unique opportunity for students to experience a real lab environment designed to make the experience of being a scientist come alive for them."

Many teachers also shared stories about how LabVenture affected their students’ aspirations for the future.

"I have one female student who never thought college was in her future. She now understands that it can help her pursue her new goal of becoming a scientist."
"There are always a few students each year that return from the LabVenture program and admit that before the program they never considered a career in science. After the trip, there are several that are excited about a career in science."

When asked on a scale of 1-10 how likely they were to recommend LabVenture to a colleague, 78% of teachers gave us a full 10. We are honored by this community’s trust and satisfaction with LabVenture.

"I have found—in all the years that we have brought the students—they rise to their best here!"

Continuing Our Impact for Another Decade and Beyond

This summer, we are renovating our learning lab to ensure we continue to meet the needs of increasingly tech-savvy students. Digital, interactive lab tables (like giant multi-user iPads) will allow for greater teamwork and collaboration. Students will perform virtual dissections, sort species caught in lobster traps, and capture evidence of their research in a digital Field Notebook that will go with them back to the classroom. Our biodiversity observation tank and microscopes will continue to be central to student learning, with new outcomes and content to explore.

We will also launch new content focused on the Gulf of Maine’s warming waters. Through the narratives of an iconic Maine native (lobster) and a newcomer from away (black sea bass), students will explore the science behind ecosystem change. They'll learn more about the impacts of a changing ecosystem on both marine species and the fishermen who rely upon them. We’re looking forward to continuing to support Maine’s next generation as they discover the joys of hands-on science!