Last week, about fifteen of us met at the GofMERI for the Lobster: Untold Tales lab. The facility is impressive and the kids had an opportunity to collect data to help with the GofMERI's research. The program feels overall, a bit rushed, however and the staff focuses on the school groups the entire time. For example, at the introduction, the staff presents Google Earth to the participants, zooms in on an inland area and a river, asking the kids if they recognize the area. I could see the home/unschool group wanting and struggling to answer and looking a bit dismayed at the whole exercise, especially when by the end, the staff zooms to the school that the other half of the group came from (which happens to be a location at least two hours from the greater Portland area, where most of the home/unschoolers were from.) I thought this was unfortunate and it needlessly excluded, as I wrote, a half of the entire group participating in the lab. (see other complaint)*
Moving on, now. As stated, the facility is amazing and the kids were all able to participate fully and I think it's fair to say that our group thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Adam, 11, did say, however, that had they had a chance to really dig into the data and ask lots of questions, he would have.
The kids were sectioned off into teams and assigned stations that would be rotated with other teams so everyone had a chance at each station.
The lab consisted of taking videos of the lobsters in the tanks to observe behavior and determine what conditions the lobster preferred, using an interactive game. Then the kids used microscopes to examine and photograph the lobsters in all its life stages as well as the food it eats. At one point, the kids also examined a live lobster. At yet another station, using another interactive program, the kids determined the best and most profitable number of traps per lobster catch. Through their testing and data collection, the kids determined that overall, the best method is to set out a reduced number of traps, which, in turn, gains the fishermen the most profit.
The final step in the lab was to collect the data and present their findings in a video and then all the teams' data was compiled and presented to the entire group at the end, showing the results of their work.
Each participant then received a digital code to the website so they can view their data results. It's a pretty fabulous resource and the institute is very well-equipped with materials and the knowledgable staff offers a unique program. I advise the home/unschoolers to be proactive in getting their group into the the programs and making the GofMRI aware of the home/unschooling community as a whole, so that all kids in this age range can benefit from this fabulous program.
*one more complaint--because the GofMERI relies on sponsership and grants, the program is at times tainted with some commercial plugs. The worst offender was the unnecessary Poland Spring bottled water provided for each kid leaving the program. This was especially ironic given the opening discussion about Maine's invaluable watershed. Many of the home/unschoolers in our group simply left the bottles behind, to the apparent dismay of the staff, knowing as the kids do that drinking bottled water is not good for Maine's watershed. It seemed yet another instance where the program is overlooking how knowledgable and informed many of their participants truly are. Learn more here and here.
~ Amy Bradstreet