Date Awarded


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Mark Brush

Committee Member

Christen Miller

Committee Member

Courtney Kirberger (Environmental Educator at Machicomoco)

Committee Member

Sarah Nuss (Education Coordinator at CBNERR)


Project description:

This experiential estuary science field trip program was initially created as a master's capstone project by Anna Caputo in partnership with Machicomoco State Park, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), and the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR). The ultimate goal of the project is to strengthen community estuarine literacy in the local area by teaching students who will be future marine scientists, community leaders, watermen, and environmentally conscious citizens. The program is designed to highlight the coastal habitats at the state park, the issues those habitats are facing, and how science and monitoring efforts done by VIMS and CBNERR lead to solutions.

The curriculum aligns with Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and highlights the marine science that is being done in and around the park by VIMS and CBNERR. It was designed as a program that could be offered by Machicomoco to local schools as a regular field trip option.

There are three foci for different age groups (i.e., elementary, middle, and high school students). The elementary unit focuses on habitats and ecosystems and covers topics such as estuarine food webs. The middle school unit focuses on relationships humans have with these habitats. These can be beneficial relationships or the negative impacts humans can have on the environment. Topics for this group may include climate change, sea level rise, water quality, and ecosystem services. Lastly, the high school unit focuses on solutions, science, and monitoring by surveying a salt marsh habitat and exploring living shorelines as an ecological engineering technique for shoreline restoration. In addition, optional classroom extension activities can be offered for advanced high school classes that want to apply what they have learned during their time at the park beyond the field trip.

The curriculum is designed to scaffold concepts, meaning that each field trip builds off of the information from the previous one. Therefore it will be most effective if students visit Machicomoco three times during their school experience (once per elementary, middle, and high school). However, the program can accommodate one-time visits.

A note on the audience for this product:

This field trip curriculum was built for Machicomoco State Park. All the lesson plans were written for the park’s interpretive staff and volunteer docents.


Curriculum Materials:

  • How to Approach this Program
  • Pt. 1 Elementary School: Estuary Habitats
  • Pt. 2 Middle School: Human & Estuary Interactions
  • Pt. 3 High School: Science Solutions



© The Author

How to Approach this (2447 kB)
How to Approach this Program

Pt 1 Elementary School_ Estuary (10862 kB)
Pt. 1 Elementary School: Estuary Habitats

Pt 2 Middle School_Estuary (16160 kB)
Pt. 2 Middle School: Estuary Interactions

Pt 3 High School_ Science Solutions (14687 kB)
Pt. 3 High School: Science Solutions