Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve - an official New Hampshire Government website
Smaller text size Reset text size Larger text size
back to homepage button

Education and Outreach

Overview of Education Programs

Estuary Exploration Programs | Fall Cultural History Program | Spring Natural History Program
Public Programs | Teacher Resources | Fundraising and Outreach Events

The Great Bay Discovery Center hosts a variety of educational programs throughout the year, designed to teach visitors about the unique natural and cultural resources of the Great Bay Estuary. These include a school program for children in grades 1-5, and several public programs for adults and children. Educator Volunteers are essential to the success of these programs.

The Center and its boardwalk trail are accessible to individuals with physical limitations. Please notify us ahead of time to ensure that your scheduled program allows all of your students and chaperones to fully participate: (603)778-0015.

For more information on the National Estuarine Research Reserve System education priorities, go to:


Education Programs for Grades 1-5

kids exploring the water
Kids exploring the estuary.
Courtesy of Kelle Loughlin

Come explore the amazing natural world of the Great Bay Estuary! We invite you and your class to delve "hands-first" into an interactive experience that will broaden your students' understanding of the natural and cultural history of the region. There is a $4.00 per student charge for our school programs and $4.00 per parent chaperone.

We offer both Fall Cultural History (September to October) and Spring Natural History (April to June) field trips led by trained volunteer educators and Center staff. While our programs, detailed below, target 3rd-5th grade students, we can also accommodate older and younger students. Up to 72 students with chaperones can attend each session, and sessions are 2½ to 3 hours long. Most activities are held outdoors at the Center rain or shine. Reservations are required several months in advance and programs fill quickly. Please call the Center for details.

Education programs incorporate science based concepts that meet New Hampshire K-12 Science Curriculum Frameworks in the following areas: Curriculum Standards 3a., 3b., 3c., 4c., 6a., and 6b.

If you are a teacher or school administrator interested in booking a school field trip please contact Beth for more information.

Back to the top

Fall Cultural History Program

The Discovery Center offers a unique Great Bay environmental heritage program in September and October. These activities encompass many of the NH Social Studies curriculum standards for 2nd through 5th grade as outlined in the Great Bay Discovery Center Fall Program teacher resources pdf file. Each 3-hour field trip includes the following activities:

young kids examining their discoveries in the woods
Kids discovering all kinds of creatures.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Heckman

Bounty of the Bay
Through an interactive first person account of natural resource utilization of the Great Bay area, students will tour our newly opened Great Bay Special Collections room located in the basement of the Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center. This activity focuses on the tools that were used for the harvesting of wildlife through trapping, waterfowling, icefishing, and shellfishing.

Trail of the Arrowhead
Did you know that the Great Bay Discovery Center is located at a spot along the edge of Great Bay that was once used by the Msquamskek people over 400 years ago? Come along and follow the "Trail of the Arrowhead".
A guide will lead your students on a discovery walk where they will learn about native plants and animals along the way. Students will travel "back in time" as they visit an Abanaki style fishing encampment. While in camp they will have a chance to taste smoked fish, a staple in the diet of the Pennacook and Abanaki Nations that once fished Great Bay.

Time's Treasures
Dig into the past during an activity that introduces your students to the people who lived around Great Bay over the last 400 years. Students become "archaeologists" as they dig through sand searching for replicas of artifacts that may have been used by Native Americans and Colonists that once settled the shores of Great Bay.

Tom Wiggin, Salt Marsh Farm Boy
Sit on the shore of Great Bay and listen to the story of Tom Wiggin, a fictitious character based on a real family that lived on Great Bay many years ago. Back in the 1800s, farmers cut salt marsh hay to feed their livestock. In this activity, your students will see real tools that were used for harvesting the hay and learn how they kept it dry at high tide. Make sure to try a taste of switchel before you leave!

Great Bay Country Store
Gundalow boats were the first "tractor trailers" of Great Bay. They carried everyday products to many ports around the Piscataqua Basin. Products like cloth, flour, smoked fish and sugar would then be distributed to country stores where could be purchased or traded. Join us in our own "Great Bay Country Store" to learn where these local products came from. After we make our purchases, we will climb aboard the "Driftwood II", a dry-docked model Gundalow for a time of exploration and hands-on learning.

Back to the top

Spring Natural History Program

The Great Bay Discovery Center offers a range of opportunities for your class to discover the Bay's rich and diverse natural history. This program is offered to visiting school groups in April, May and June. Each field trip includes the following activities:

a baby horseshoe crab
A baby horseshoe crab
Courtesy of Elizabeth Heckman

Walk On the Wild Side
What furry predators hunt in Great Bay salt marshes? How is an estuary like a restaurant? What is a wetland and how do you find one? This guided hands-on and senses tuned-in investigative activity using the Great Bay Discovery Center trail will help your students discover the answers to these questions and more! Get ready to become a "nature sleuth" as you and your students explore the trail, discovering the major upland and wetland habitats along the way.

Discovery Tank
Students gather around the discovery tank for an opportunity to hold live estuarine animals such as horseshoe crabs, green crabs and lobsters.

Waterfront Exploration
Can animals live in all of those 2000 feet of mud flats that we see at low tide around the Great Bay Discovery Center? Is Salt Marsh Peat a person? What plants and animals can you find in the deeper waters of Great Bay? Let's poke around in some bay bottom mud, and take a look at some fascinating Great Bay creatures in this hands-on activity. We will uncover the hidden plants and animals found in and around Great Bay and explore their adaptations for survival in the estuarine environment.

Estuary Soup
Try your hand at concocting "estuary soup" in our Great Bay Cafe. Discover all of the necessary ingredients that make up the Great Bay Estuary in this highly interactive activity. Sprinkle a little salt, grind in some bacteria, add a piece or two of detritus and plenty of phytoplankton into your bowl. Find out the rest of the recipe and make your own filter feeder meal to help you discover who else benefits from this delicious dish.

Back to the top

Public Programs

Looking for an estuary adventure in July and August? Look no further. BayVentures is an environmental education program series based at the Great Bay Discovery Center on select Wednesdays for children entering 1st-6th grade. Regular camp hours are from 9:30-3:00. Visit our Calendar of Events page for details.

There is also a Winter BayVentures series. During the week of February Winter Vacation, children in grades 1-6 can enjoy a day of exploring the winter landscape and wildlife tracks, or "autographs," here at the Discovery Center on snowshoes during the Animal Autographs program. During Teacher In-Service days (dates vary and will be posted on our Calendar of Events page), your 1st through 6th-grader can enjoy learning about how wildlife find food, shelter and water in winter during our 'We Will Survive!' program.

Registration is required and the cost is $40 for non-members and $35 for Great Bay Stewards members.

BayVentures JR.
A shortened, but just as fun, version of our BayVentures program! BayVentures JR. Will follow the weekly theme of the BayVentures program and is held on Fridays from 9:30-12. Registration is required and the cost is $15 for Great Bay Stewards members and $20 for non members.

Once Upon an Estuary
July and August are great months for your 3-5 year old at the Great Bay Discovery Center! Children, accompanied by an adult, will listen to a story, play a game and make a craft. Programs are generally on Thursdays and are one hour long. This program follows the weekly theme of the older children's BayVentures summer program.

There is also a Once Upon a Winter Estuary program for ages 3-5 (accompanied by an adult) on select Thursdays in January and February. Come dressed ready for some wintry fun outdoors! This series engages the younger audience through outdoor activities and games, followed by story time, a craft, and hot cocoa inside our pavilion.

Pre-registration is required for any of the above programs, and the cost is $3/child or $5/family (no fee for parents/guardians).

Elementary school students hiding in the vegetation
Young visitors discover a hideout in
the gardens.
Courtesy of Peter Wellenberger

Winter Lunch & Learn Series
Enjoy your lunch hour engaged in an adult lecture series offered by the Reserve, featuring local presenters discussing a variety of issues relevant to the Great Bay Estuary, or history involving the Seacoast NH area. Lunch & Learn Lectures are free, open to the public, and held at noon on select weekdays during the winter season at the Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center. Registration is not required. Please bring along your lunch; drinks and dessert will be provided. Please see our calendar of events page for details.

Summer BayViews
Our summer (and sometimes early fall) BayView programs are free and open to the public (some do require pre-registration). The programs range from an indoor lecture, to an informative live animal experience, to an outdoor educational exploration. Once finalized, programs will beposted on our calendar of events page.

During late spring, summer and early fall, enjoy a guided walk of the Discovery Center's grounds, universally-accessible boardwalk, and surrounding spectacular natural beauty. Learn how rivers, streams, and small ecosystems such as vernal pools play a major role in the life cycles of many aquatic insects, amphibians, and other animals, or about the predator-prey relationships of the diverse wildlife that live in and around our marshes. Cultural history buffs are sure to enjoy our Special Collections Room, in which artifacts from many aspects of hunting, waterfowling, icefishing and more can be seen. Programs can be somewhat tailored to your group by choosing from a several different options. A staff member or experienced volunteer educator will be your guide during this interactive interpretive experience. This program is designed for small groups (12 or less per guide) and is suitable for all ages, and a typical program is 60-90 minutes. A 2-week advanced registration is required. Cost is $4 per child or adult.

getting the kayak ready for a trip.
Participants getting ready to kayak the Bay
Courtesy of Sheila Roberge

Kayaking Trips
Join the Great Bay Discovery Center's Interpretive Naturalists as they guide you through the fascinating habitats found throughout the Great Bay Estuary. Explore secluded tidal creeks, rocky shores and salt marsh. Watch osprey dive for fish and herons as they gracefully glide across the water. Your 2-4 hour program will include basic instruction such as how to safely enter and exit your kayak, paddling techniques and how to do a "wet-exit" should the occasion arise. All kayaks, necessary equipment and safety items are included.

Summer 2018 was a great season for kayaking. We led 5 programs for 55 participants during the summer. Programs included a teacher trip out on the estuary, sunset birding trips, a Great Bay history trip, a volunteer appreciation trip, and a kayak angling trip.

A note from Colleen our kayak program coordinator.

“I had so much fun leading trips for the Great Bay Discovery Center. The joy of sharing the world of paddling and being able to teach about the ecology, history, and importance of the Great Bay Watershed with so many this summer was a dream come true. To all of those that I had the pleasure of paddling with thank you so much for an excellent kayaking season. I hope to see you all on the water again soon!”

For dates and trip information for the 2019 season please check back in early June.

While experience is not necessary to enjoy your paddle, kayaking is moderate to vigorous activity and you will spend approximately 1.5-2 hours on the water. The remainder of your time will be spent receiving instruction and assisting guides in loading and unloading boats from the trailer, as well as washing down and putting away equipment at the end of your paddle. We look forward to your enthusiastic participation from start to finish!

Back to the top

Teacher Resources

Traveling Trunks
Teachers and home schooled families may request to use one of the Traveling Trunks that the Center's educators have put together to help students learn more about the Estuary. Trunk themes include: 'The Horseshoe Crab', 'Ospreys', and 'It's All Connected'. Inside the trunks are materials, artifacts, and activities for teachers and students. The trunks are available for a week at a time. Please call the Center at 603-778-0015 to inquire about our Traveling Trunks.

Fall Education Program Field Trip Preparation Materials:
NH Curriculum Standards pdf file
Build a Gundalow pdf file
Build a Gundalow Answer Key pdf file
Butterbean Game pdf file
Great Bay Foods Eaten by Native Americans Scramble pdf file
Great Bay Foods Eaten by Native Americans Scramble Answer Key pdf file
Gundalow Crossword pdf file
Gundalow Crossword Answer Key pdf file
Gundalow Crossword Reference Sheet pdf file
Gundalow Song pdf file

Spring Education Program Field Trip Preparation Materials:
activity objectives pdf file
creature feature pdf file
day at gb pdf file
gb animal match pdf file
gb crossword pdf file
gb pollution mystery pdf file
where is great bay pdf file
Next Generation Science Standards for the GBDC's Spring Field Trip pdf file

Great Bay Treasures for Kids: A Children's Guide to Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
This booklet serves as a supplement to the Estuary Exploration Programs offered at the Great Bay Discovery Center. The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve offers this guide which includes information, activities, and puzzles about the Great Bay Estuary suitable for grades 1-5. Teachers who have scheduled a field trip for their class may reserve one booklet per student for use prior to or following their visit. Please contact the Center at 603-778-0015 for hardcopy availability. The "Treasures" booklet is now also offered electronically allowing teachers and parents to select the pages they would like to print.

Adobe Acrobat Reader Symbol Adobe Acrobat Reader format. You can download a free reader from Adobe.

Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department