OAC Course Descriptions

The changing seasons provide a background ripe for learning. From exploring how insects have adapted to the freshwater environment of rivers and ponds, to practicing leadership and communication skills, our year-round programs are inspiring and engaging.

Trained instructors combine discovery and inquiry with games and activities to make ecology come to life for students. We weave skits, exploration, data collection, and sensory activities into programs, creating a vibrant and memorable learning experience.

All courses are primarily offered at Tanglewood in Lincolnville. If a full-immersion marine ecology program is desired, we will schedule for Blueberry Cove in Tenants Harbor (note, this site currently only has capacity for day programs). 

Forest Ecology

Students have an opportunity to discover the interconnected and ever-changing forest as they become scientists and detectives among the branches of coniferous and broadleaf trees.  Adventuring in the forest encourages students to get to know our resident producers, consumers, and decomposers and to appreciate the role each has in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem. Students might learn to use field guides to identify trees, investigate decomposing logs, take and analyze soil samples, ponder the formation of our unique landscape, or focus on the cycles that allow Maine forests to flourish. 

Freshwater Exploration – Tanglewood only

Students gain an understanding of the role water plays in sustaining life in the Ducktrap River, the adjacent pond, and the surrounding forest. Pond scooping, a program highlight, is an engaging way for students to find and identify aquatic insects, amphibians, fish, reptiles, and plants. Once students identify their findings, they use the data to determine the overall health of the freshwater ecosystem, all the while becoming familiar with the unique adaptations of aquatic life.

In the spring, students explore the trials of some of our migrating species during the annual alewife run in the Ducktrap River, and keen observers might notice the birds of prey that take advantage of this seasonal feast. 

The Ducktrap also has a small population of native migratory Atlantic salmon. We investigate the journey of the salmon through an interactive migration simulation game; then, we walk part of the length of the river to witness the obstacles salmon overcome during the rigors of their run from the river to the sea and back again. 

Watershed – best at Tanglewood

Students delve into the study of the flow and origin of the Ducktrap River and surrounding streams. After creating their own miniature models of a watershed and simulating the movement of sediment and pollutants throughout their creations, students discuss the challenges of living in balance with aquatic ecosystems. Students also discover the essential parts of the water cycle during an interactive series of activities designed to illustrate the flow of water throughout the various landforms on earth. Characters from our skit, “Interview for a Watershed” might appear to enlist students’ help in hiring the most important features of a watershed. 

Building our Human Community

Students develop self-esteem and creative problem-solving skills while becoming intentional and compassionate leaders during a series of fun, interactive group challenges.

As the common themes of trust, communication, friendship, empathy, perseverance, and self-respect emerge, students strive to establish and maintain a welcoming atmosphere in their schools, their classrooms, and beyond. 

Intertidal Discovery

Students are invited to explore the intertidal zone eyeball to eyeball with limpets and dogwhelks.  While hiking among marine habitats, students might observe tidal changes, learn the history of a local island and its early inhabitants, investigate the specific adaptations of marine creatures, and become curators of their own mudflat museums.

Intertidal Discovery is offered at Blueberry Cove and at Tanglewood’s off-site location in Northport. Dates are limited due to tide times and transportation, so early registration is recommended. 

Winter Ecology (generally takes place at the school)

Inspired by the task of discovering how living things survive the challenges of winter, students explore both plant and animal communities in our winter wonderland. Students might look for signs of animals, study the different strategies various animals use to survive during winter, track each other through the woods using carefully placed scent clues, perform snow experiments, or watch a puppet show about the misadventures of mice hiding in the subnivean zone (under the snow)! 


Skits, songs, and cooperative group games make campfire one of the highlights of overnight programs. Students might play a camp-style round of charades, perform in their own talent show, or watch the energetic staff act in one of our hilarious and educational ecology-themed skits. Campfire always ends with a calming bedtime story. 

Night Walk

Using the calm and quiet dusk atmosphere, students experience nightfall as a time to discover the mysterious habits of nocturnal animals. As the light dims, senses awaken, and students are challenged to use their senses to gain an understanding of how animals adapt to the dark. Students might learn and practice owl calls, pretend to be a bat pursuing a moth to eat, walk silently in the forest, stargaze, or make rocks glow! The night walk always ends with a calming bedtime story.

Sensory Awareness

Although sensory awareness is a part of every lesson we teach, it can also be a stand-alone program, especially for early elementary students. Adopting the senses of a deer, we might walk quietly through the woods, using our “deer ears” to listen for bird sounds. Taking time to stop and smell newly-made soil from a decomposing log, tasting some wild edibles, or searching for carefully hidden items in the forest are some favorite sensory activities. 


Intertwining hands-on learning and imaginative play, students follow the story of the Peeps: miniature people who must prepare for fall, winter, and spring in the forest. Students take on the role of the “middle-people,” who help the Peeps by discovering ways to survive the changing seasons. Important themes include plant and animal adaptations, story-telling, sensory awareness, and the joys of observation and discovery.

Village is a four-day program, with two visits in the fall, one in the winter (at the school), and a final visit in the spring.

This program is best for lower elementary grades 2-3 but can be adapted for other grades.