Summer on the Marsh followed from our successful Summer Science project by establishing a regional network of eight summer camp programs grounded in field experiences for environmental education in the marsh ecosystem. The two-year program included citizen science monitoring by campers ages 9-12, support and training for informal science center staff and partner scientists, and dissemination to peers at regional and national forums. Collaboration throughout the project enabled partner organizations to share activities and knowledge in both informal education and the significance of marsh ecosystems. The project served 45 staff (educators and scientists) and 547 youth over two years across New England. The project funding ended in December 2015, but we have made our data, protocol and data sheets available on CitSci.org. We know some of our original camps will continue to collect data, and hope we can inspire others to adopt it as well.
The project was successful in supporting environmental stewardship in all involved. Educators and scientists benefited from working together closely. We found that a strong connection between the scientist and educators increased enthusiasm which was then expressed at camp. Our two day training’s at the beginning of each year helped with this connection. The campers came in describing salt marshes as smelly, muddy places and left the program describing marshes as barriers, food sources, and filters. The campers changed their view from self-focused to an ecosystem focus. This awareness of marsh functions will likely lead to increased environmental stewardship. In fact, parent surveys in the Fall following camp reported that the majority of campers had taken actions to protect the environment.