Assateague State Park Environmental Field Trips

Shell on Assateague beachMaryland Park Service and Maryland Conservation Corps offer the following field trip opportunities at Assateague State Park beginning Spring 2018. We welcome you and your students to discover the unique ecology of a salt marsh and barrier island and the abundance of creatures that inhabit them. Through a series of rotating stations, lasting approximately 30 - 45 minutes and selected by you in advance from the following descriptions, we can set up a program schedule to meet your needs. We can generally accommodate student groups up to 100 and scheduling dates and times are flexible, but are reserved on a first-come first-serve basis. A picnic area is available for bag lunches, and accommodations for individuals with disabilities will be provided upon request. Suggested appropriate age ranges are listed but some programs may be adapted for other grades.

Activities will take place at the Beach (oceanfront or Nature Center location); or State Park Marina (bayside/ saltmarsh location on the mainland just before the island bridge). Our staff can assist with logistics involved in transporting students between sites. A service charge for Assateague State Park field trips of $2.00 per student covers costs of materials and supplies and supports Assateague Interpretive Programs.

Please call or e-mail for more information or to schedule a field trip program for your school group. E-mail is suggested for fastest reservation confirmation.

Contact Information:
Meghan Rhode
Phone: (410) 641-2120 x 12

If you reach voice mail, please leave a message including your name, school name, phone number or e-mail, grade, number of students, program/s requested, and potential dates.

Oceanside/Beach Programs

Located at State Park Day Use beach or Nature Center area.

Program: Horsing Around
Location: Nature Center or Pavilion
Age Range: Pre-K - 2
Description: Wild Island Horses - Students will roll play the stories of the origins of the horses coming to Assateague and use interactive tools to participate in activities to learn about the Assateague horses and their habitat. Students will make a horse craft to take home after defining "what is wild?" and how to stay safe around the Assteague horses.

Program: The Pony Patrol
Location: Nature Center or Pavilion
Age Range: Grades 3-5
Description: Come out and join the Pony Patrol. We will explore the life of a horse, from horse characteristics to habitat to wildlife safety. Engage in several "hands-on" activities to explore the wonderful world of the Assateague horse. Learn about where they came from and how they survive in this unique coastal environment. If time permits, the students will create a book contrasting "wild vs. domestic" to take back to their school.

Program: Recycled Assateague Crafts
Location: Nature Center or Pavilion
Age Range: Activity can be adapted for grades 1-6
Description: The average American throws away about 4.5 pounds of trash each day. This adds up to over 1400 lbs. of trah per person per year. With 37 miles of coastline Assateague sees trash no only from visitors, but has more and more marine debris washing in from the ocean and bay. Students learn about recycling, re-using, and renewing and exploring everyday items made from recycled materials. Then students will get to make their own recycled sea life creature. (For this activity we ask each student to bring a 16-20 oz. plastic water bottle or soda bottle).

Program: Beach Scavenger Hunt
Location: Beach
Age Range: All grades
Description: Students explore the beach at Assateague in search of its natural treasures. Using a “Common Shells and Artifacts Discovery Guide,” students are challenged to find examples of the shells and artifacts pictured, then return to a sharing circle to learn about and share their finds. An advanced version, Biological Beach Combing, is available for grades 5 - 8.

Program: Critter Talk
Location: Nature Center or pavilion
Age Range: All grades
Description: Meet some of Assateague’s most interesting aquatic inhabitants. Check out our aquariums and observe horseshoe crabs, whelks, snails, terrapin, fish and more. Get a close-encounter aquatic animal program and learn more about the special features that allow these amazing creatures to survive in the waters around Assateague Island.

Program: Hoots and Hisses
Location: Nature Center or pavilion
Age Range: All grades
Description: An exciting up-close look at some of Assateague’s most interesting inhabitants -- the screech owl, corn snake, and eastern box turtle. What adaptations do these animals have that help them to survive on the island? Learn about their habitat and importance in the island ecosystem.

Program: Backyard Habitat
Location: Beach
Age Range: K - grade 3
Description: Parks aren’t the only places for students to see wildlife- learn to look for wildlife all around you as we discuss the importance of local reptiles and amphibians in the ecosystem. Demonstrations will show simple ways to create inviting homes for wildlife and ideas for students to build habitats to attract animals to their own backyards and school yards.

Program: Good Night Owl
Location: Nature Center or pavilion
Age Range: Pre-K - grade 2
Description: Hoo’s awake in the forest when we are all asleep? Young owl fans will enjoy an interactive story about the many daytime friends whose sounds keep Mr. Owl awake. Then we’ll meet Assateague’s own live screech owl and talk about the adaptations of this fascinating animal.

Program: Critter Storytime and Craft
Location: Nature Center or pavilion
Age Range: Pre-K to grade 2
Description: Horseshoe crabs, whelks, turtles, fish… Sit back and enjoy a story about one of the critters residing in our Nature Center. Students will learn about a fascinating local animal, where it lives, what it eats, and how they can help to protect their habitat. After getting a closer look, each student will create his or her own critter craft to take home.

Program: Can You Be An Assateague Animal?
Location: Beach
Age Range: Grade K - 3
Description: Younger students will learn about the animals that live on and around Assateague Island. Using pantomime and body poses, students will imitate some of the common critters found on the beach and in the water to learn about their unique body shapes and sizes, behaviors, and adaptations. Learn the sign language for some sea creatures and hear the sounds they make.

Program: Rescue Me!
Location: Beach
Age Range: Grades K - 3
Description: Discover the importance of keeping beaches clean and of not disturbing wildlife when you help one of Assateague's animals follow clues to return to its habitat. The needs and osbstacles faced by diamondback Terrapins on Assateague are discovered through clues, relays and an interactive story.

Program: Turtle Hurdles
Location: Beach
Age Range: Grades 3 - 5
Description: Did you know sea turtles migrate past Assateague Island on their yearly migration? Learn about the sea turtle’s life cycle, explore their migration route, and find out how climate change is impacting the turtles. You will get a close up view of what a sea turtle looks like by examining skulls and bones.

Program: Whale Tales
Location: Pavilion
Age Range: Grades 2 - 5
Description: Whales are often seen from the beaches of Assateague. Sometimes their bones even wash up onto the shore. Learn fascinating facts about these large mammals; touch and see real whale bones found at Assateague; and compare their size to that of your students to see how big these animals really are.

Program: Winged Migration
Location: Pavilion
Grades: 3 – 5
Description: There is a fascinating monarch migration that starts in the north east and ends it Mexico, where Assateague Island is an important rest stop along the way. Experience what it is like to migrate across the country and weigh less than a penny. Learn how climate change and human impacts are affecting their migration and how you can help the monarch in its travels.

Program: Sharks! Fact or Fiction?
Location: Pavilion
Grades: 3 – 8
Description: Just like they say in “Finding Nemo”, a shark is more than just a mindless eating machine! Using artifacts, photos, and models, students will learn to identify sharks according to their external parts and similar features. An activity will demonstrate how tooth shape matches food sources. And we’ll discuss ancient shark species as well as how environmental conditions will determine the survival of shark species today.

Program: Killer Trash
Location: Beach
Grades: 3 – 8
Description: Want to include a service project with your visit? How about a coastal cleanup? Not just about picking up trash, this lesson teaches students specifically about marine debris, how long it takes common trash items to decompose, and its danger to seabirds, fish and marine mammals. Armed with this information, a data collection sheet, and some Hefty bags, students comb the beach and collect debris, tallying their finds on Ocean Conservancy’s Coastal Cleanup Data Cards.

Bayside/Marina Programs

Located at State Park marina on the west side of Verrazano Bridge.

Program: Saltmarsh Exploration
Location: State Park Marina - Bayside
Grades: 3 – 8
Description: Not afraid of getting muddy? Come with us to discover the other side of Assateague Island. Students explore the complexities of a saltmarsh, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. Use seining and clamming equipment to collect mollusks, fish and shrimp for observation and identification, and investigate the differences between salt, fresh, and brackish water. Students can also use monitoring equipment to collect data about the health of the bay. (For this activity, students will wade into the saltmarsh. We recommend wearing old clothes/bathing suits and closed-toe shoes are required for all participants.)

Program: Blue Crabs - More than Just All You Can Eat!
Location: State Park Marina
Grades: 3 – 8
Description: We know we love to eat them, but how much do you really know about this famous bay critter? Learn about its fascinating life cycle, and the role blue crabs play in managing the populations of animals they prey on. What’s the difference between soft and hard crabs? How does a crab grow? What do newborn crabs look like? How can you tell a male from a female? We’ll answer these questions and more as we try our hand at crabbing. Using hand lines, some bait and a little luck, we just might bring in a keeper!​​​​​