The programs below are offered throughout the academic school year for students in grades 5 through 8. Along with the details of each program, you will find the Alabama Course of Study and Ocean Literacy Standards associated with each. 

Due to the availability of classroom space, the maximum number of participants allowed per activity is 35, unless otherwise stated.  Reservations must be confirmed one month before arrival. Additional information on programs, nearby educational attractions, preparing your students for their trip, and more is available upon request by contacting Scheduling Coordinator Jennifer Latour by email at or by phone at (251) 861-2141 x7511. See our Academic Year Field Trip FAQ’s for more help planning your trip and downloading forms.

Touch Lab (K-5th, 6-8th, 9-12th) (1 hr) (lab activity)
Students explore many different marine species from the coast of Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico through sight and touch.  The educator facilitates a discussion of animal classification, morphology, and life cycles, introducing marine ecology concepts appropriate for the grade level (ex. food webs, cycles, predator-prey relationships).  

Dissection: Squid (5th – 12th)(~1.5 hr) (lab activity)
Students investigate the anatomy of a common marine animal through a guided dissection of a squid. This class can be coupled with the Touch Lab class.

Coastal Habitats (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (field program) (formerly Beaches & Maritime Forests)
Students explore Alabama’s coastal ecology through a guided walk along the beach and maritime forest habitats of Dauphin Island.   The educator facilitates a discussion of the biotic and abiotic characteristics of beaches, barrier islands and maritime forests, as well as invasive species while students examine plants and animals.

Wetland Ecology (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (field program)  (formerly Salt Marshes)
Students use common sampling equipment such as seines and sieves to catch and identify various plant and animal species from Dauphin Island’s salt marsh, while the educator facilitates a discussion of its ecology, food webs and the importance of wetland habitats, estuaries, and coastal marshes. 

Designing Plankton (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr)(STEM) (lab + field activity)
Students investigate the many species of phyto- and zooplankton using plankton nets to take live samples from Mobile Bay, and use microscopes in the laboratory to observe what they caught.  Students then apply what they have learned and ‘bioengineer’ their own plankter to use in the Race to Survive! 

Research vessel experience (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (field program)  
Students board Mobile Bay DISL’s research vessel - the RV Alabama-Discovery and explore Mobile Bay firsthand.  Students learn how scientists study estuaries by exploring the types of equipment used by scientists (trawls, nets, water quality sensors, bottom grab), and discuss Alabama’s watersheds, the species that inhabit estuaries, and how humans affect these critical coastal habitats through their actions.

Marine Debris - It’s What’s in the Water (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (lab + field activity)
Students explore the problem of marine debris discovering microplastics, its sources, and how it affects ocean life.  Students engage in an authentic research experience by collecting, categorizing, analyzing and interpreting data and discussing the implications of their personal choices.

Watersheds to Water Quality (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (field program)  
Students engage in an authentic research experience by walking to a local pond on Dauphin Island, conducting water quality tests, and interpreting their data.  The educator facilitates a discussion of the Mobile Bay watershed, water quality in Alabama, and how humans affect water quality – both positively and negatively.  

History of Dauphin Island (4th – 12th)(2 hr or 3.5 hr) (field program)  
Dauphin Island is rich with the past and stories that include Native American civilizations, French settlements and Civil War events.  In this class, students investigate Alabama’s history by traveling by bus to visit shell middens and touring historic Fort Gaines.  Note: there is a separate cost for this activity.  This class can be shortened by only visiting Fort Gaines. 

The Oceanography of Waves (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (STEM) (lab + field activity)
Students explore the scientific method as they develop and test hypotheses by measuring, graphing and analyzing wave height data.  The group explores the physics of waves, online examples of unusual waves and investigates hypotheses using our wave tank while the educator facilitates a discussion of how waves can impact shorelines and communities with their constancy and power.

ROVing the Gulf (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (STEM) (lab + field activity)
Students design, build and fly their own unique remotely operated vehicle (ROV).  As they do, they explore buoyancy and hydrodynamics, and apply the engineering design process, learning to work as teams and rise to challenges as their ROVs carry out missions. The educator shares local and global examples of ROV use in underwater research, exploration, and industry.

Ocean Currents and Drifters (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (STEM) (lab + field activity)
Students design and build current drifters, a type of technology scientists use to study ocean currents.  Students deploy a full-size ocean drifter at the beach and track its motion using an app.  The significance of nearshore currents in barrier island dynamics and the effects of ocean currents on the distribution of organisms, heat, energy, and other materials in the water are discussed.

Sea Level Rise and Climate Change (5th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (STEM) (lab + field activity)
Through a series of short laboratory activities, students explore the issue of sea level rise, climate change, and barrier island dynamics.  Traveling to the beach, students use common GPS technology to map island shorelines, upload their maps to Google Earth and track changes in shorelines seasonally and over longer periods of time. 

Alabama Aquarium - (K-2nd 3rd-5th, 6-8th, 9-12th) (allow 1.5 hr)
Students explore Gulf of Mexico habitats, species, and issues through a self-guided tour of the Alabama Aquarium. Galleries highlight the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the Mobile Bay estuary, the coastal Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf’s barrier islands displaying more than 100 local species and evolving displays on local, regional, and national environmental issues. Four grade-based curricula (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) are available to help focus student attention or assessment. 

Kayaking though coastal habitats (7th – 12th)(3.5 hr) (field program)
Students explore the biodiversity of Dauphin Island’s coastal habitats by kayak. After safety training, student pairs are guided through the salt marsh, paddling as they practice their observational skills, investigate plants and animals in the area and discuss how scientists study biodiversity. The activity requires the participation of a person with school authority such as a teacher, coach, or administrator.