Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

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Turtle Grass

Girl with magnifying glassThe Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County, is dedicated to educating the general public and school children about the critical need to preserve Florida’s marine environments.

At the Marine Ecosystems Exhibit, visitors can explore six different Florida marine and estuarine habitats and learn about the complexity and importance of marine ecosystems. The largest display is a spectacular living model of a Caribbean coral reef ecosystem. Other displays include seagrass, mangrove, lagoon hardbottom and nearshore reef habitats, as well as a deepwater Oculina coral reef. There are several smaller aquarium displays and a touch tank where you can meet some of our local sea creatures. Please ask about marine science reference materials available for review.

School and Group Programs

Boys loooking through a microscopeField trips may be scheduled Tuesday-Friday from 10:00am-4:00pm. All trips, regardless of program(s), have a flat fee of $2.50 per student and $3.50 per adult chaperone with no charge for teachers. If group numbers exceed programs maximums, multiple programs may be booked together or teachers may choose to have playground time or schedule a joint trip to the St. Lucie County Regional History Center.

To book a trip please call 772.465.3271 or email smseducation@si.edu.

Habitat Match

Students begin in the classroom at the Aquarium where education staff lead a discussion about habitats and habitat requirements. Students then work with a partner to self-guide through the Aquarium and complete a scavenger hunt activity where they identify animals in the tanks and match the animals to their respective habitats. Education staff provide a brief wrap-up in the classroom before the students break into small groups to visit the touch tank. Sample Habitat Match
[Grades K-2. Max 35 students. 1 hour.]

Ecosystem Explorers

Students begin in the classroom at the Aquarium where education staff lead a discussion about local habitats, the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean. Students then work with a partner to self-guide through the Aquarium and complete a worksheet activity where they identify organisms in the tanks based on riddles and clues in a scavenger hunt. Education staff provide a brief wrap-up in the classroom before the students break into small groups to visit the touch tank. Sample Ecosystem Explorers
[Grades 3-5. Max 35 students. 1 hour.]

Ecosystem Scene Investigation (ESI)

Students begin in the classroom at the Aquarium where education staff lead a discussion about ecosystems including biotic and abiotic components. Students then work with a partner to self-guide through the Aquarium and complete a worksheet activity where they use their observation skills to answer questions about animal behaviors, food chains, adaptations and more. Education staff provide a brief wrap-up in the classroom before the students break into small groups to visit the touch tank. Sample Ecosystem Scene Investigation
[Grades 6-8. Max 35 students. 1 hour.]

Animal Investigations

Students conduct in-class pre-visit research on animals at SMEE using the Smithsonian’s online resources, the Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory (http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/index.htm) and Indian River Lagoon Field Guide (http://www.sms.si.edu/IRLFieldGuide/index.htm).  After conducting research online, students conduct animal behavior observations during a field trip to SMEE. Research may also take place after the trip is complete.
[Grades 4-12.  Max 35 students.  1 hour.]

Dichotomous Keys

Education staff provide an introduction to dichotomous keys with a brief PowerPoint presentation. Students work in small groups and use a dichotomous key to identify eight different seashells. If time allows, students create their own dichotomous keys to “classify” different paper shapes.
[Grades 3-8. Max 15 students. 45 minutes.]

Scientific Sampling

Students break into two groups and use a transect line and quadrat to “sample” a large mat that represents a coral reef. Students calculate percent coverage for various bottom organisms such as coral, sponge, algae and sand and wrap-up with a discussion.
[Grades 3-8. Max 15 students. 45 minutes.]

Seine Netting

Students enter the Indian River Lagoon to catch animals using nets.  All students and adults entering the water must wear clothes that can get wet and water shoes such as sandals with a heel strap, old sneakers or water socks. Students should also bring a dry change of clothes. Seine netting must be paired with an indoor component such as a staff-assisted tour.
[Grades 3-12.  Max. 20 students.  45 minutes.]

Outreach

Teacher Loan Kits

The Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit offers Teacher Loan Kits for use in area schools. Three Kits are available: Coral Reefs, Indian River Lagoon and Ocean Food Chains.  Loan kits are designed for grades K-5 and include books, DVDs, puppets, lesson plans and much more! Kits may be checked out for a two-week period with a $35 conditionally refundable deposit. Teachers must pick up and return kits to the St. Lucie County Aquarium, located at 420 Seaway Dr. in Fort Pierce. Please contact the Smithsonian Education Office at 772.465.3271 or smseducation@si.edu for more information or to reserve a kit.
Coral Reef Loan Kit Inventory Sheet
Food Chains Loan Kit Inventory Sheet
Indian River Lagoon Loan Kit Inventory Sheet

Funding for Teacher Loan Kits provided by the Aquatic Education Group.

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Exhibit Tours

There is much more to the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit than what you see in the galleries. As complex and impressive as our ecosystem exhibits are, they are the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Feeding Frenzy Tours

Join us every Tuesday through Saturday at 10:30am as our underwater residents enjoy their morning meal! A volunteer or staff person will provide information on the Exhibit's daily menu, as well as share stories and provide insight on what makes our constantly changing ecosystems so unique. Feeding Frenzy tours are free with paid admission. [All ages. 30 minutes.]

Snack Time Tours

Join us every Tuesday through Saturday at 2:30pm as the critters in a select number of our aquaria get a special afternoon snack! Our Education Staff will provide information about animals targeted for feeding each day and answer questions about our dynamic Model Ecosystems. Snack Time tours are free with paid admission. [All ages. 15 minutes.]

Behind-the-Scenes Tours

The Exhibit staff conducts a weekly behind-the-scenes tour of the facility every Saturday at 2:00pm. This insightful tour gives visitors a look at the necessary systems essential to keeping the living ecosystems thriving. Biological, chemical and mechanical filtration systems, lighting systems and chillers and feeding regimes are all explained. Behind-the-scenes tours are free with the price of admission. [Suggested ages 10 and up. 30 minutes.]

Community Groups and Birthday Parties

Educational programs, and exhibit and behind-the-scenes tours may be available on a limited basis for community groups and birthday parties. Programs and tours are always dependent on staff availability. Please contact the Education Office for more information at 772.465.3271 or smseducation@si.edu.

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Public Programs

Educational opportunities at SMEE are available for all our visitors, regardless of age! We offer programs for children, families and seniors; everyone can find a way to experience some must-see marine life and maybe even learn a thing or two. Programs change on a monthly basis and we're always adding new offerings, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar regularly. If you'd like to be the first on your block to know what opportunities SMEE has in store, sign up for our Events Notification list.

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Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce
701 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949
Phone 772-462-6220, Fax 772-461-8154

Smithsonian Exhibit at St. Lucie County Aquarium
420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949
Education Office 772-465-3271

Copyright © 1998-2017 by Smithsonian Marine Station
Send comments to smswebmaster@si.edu

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