Field Trips

wells national estuarine research reserve

Enjoy a rich educational experience with a trained leader or head out on your own with expert guidance.

Students can become familiar with laboratory equipment and methods.Our education programs have helped tens of thousands of youngsters and adults to recognize the important links between land and sea — and to see how their everyday actions can harm or benefit coastal environments.

The Wells Reserve protects hundreds of acres of "living laboratory" and maintains education facilities that include a teaching laboratory, exhibit areas, a barn classroom, a Forest Learning Shelter, and facilities for convenience and comfort.

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Reservations are required for all group visits (10 or more people) and space is limited. Please book early to avoid disappointment, especially during May, June, and October. By limiting the number of people using the site, we protect fragile ecosystems and avoid overcrowding on trails and in facilities.

Guided Programs

These programs are led by educators or volunteer docents who have completed training and "job shadowing."

Wild Friends in Wild Places

Barred Owl animal ambassador from the Center for Wildlife
  • Who: Kindergarten through second grade. A single program can accommodate up to 36 students and double program (2 presentations + 2 trail sessions in 1 visit) up to 72 students.
  • What: Live animal "ambassadors" from the Center for Wildlife are used to teach about native wildlife and their behaviors, characteristics, and life needs. Students also venture outdoors to explore the habitats of the Wells Reserve while searching for animal homes and signs.
  • When: Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm all year; program lasts 3 hours.
  • How much: $225 for a single program, $425 for a double program. Financial aid is available through the Laudholm Trust Mattina Proctor Seacoast Explorers Fund. Download financial aid application.

Exploring Estuaries

Looking at estuary animals in aquariums beside the salt marsh.
  • Who: Third through fifth grade groups up to 60 students.
  • What: Explore the interdependence of estuary creatures and their habitats in the great outdoors. Activities include testing the salinity of estuary water, seeing live fish and other aquatic animals, discovering skulls and skins of local wildlife, using a watershed model to explore human impacts on estuaries, and more.
  • When: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:15 am to 12:30 pm in April, May, June, October, and November.
  • How much: $5 per student. Financial aid is available through the Laudholm Trust Mattina Proctor Seacoast Explorers Fund. Download financial aid application.

Microscopic Marvels

  • Who: Sixth grade through high school groups up to 30 students.
  • What: Introduce your students to the diverse world of plankton. During this program, they will collect, observe, and identify live plankton, come to understand the importance of plankton to healthy ecosystems, and learn plankton life histories. Students collect plankton from the estuary then view them using microscopes in the laboratory. They also learn water quality testing methods for measuring salinity, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity while at the salt marsh. Aligned with Maine Learning Results.
  • When: Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm in April, May, June, October, and November.
  • How much: $5 per student includes all field sampling and lab equipment. Financial aid is available through the Laudholm Trust Mattina Proctor Seacoast Explorers Fund. Download financial aid application.

Guided Walks

A group of birders with binoculars raised.
  • Who: Age 5 through adults; up to 30 people with up to 15 participants per docent.
  • What: Seasonal programs adapted to the age and interest of participants. Topics include History of a Saltwater Farm, Life Between the Tides, Secrets of a Salt Marsh, and Nature Walk.
  • When: All year. Flexible scheduling.
  • How much: $6 per person; minimum charge $60

Self-guided Programs

Wells Reserve Field Experience

  • Who: All ages; up to 100 people
  • What: Explore our trails, habitats, and exhibits at your own pace
  • When: All year. Flexible scheduling.
  • How much: Site admission. Additional fee for consultation and equipment rental.

Equipment and Consultation for Self-guided Field Experience

Consultations are available up to 2 weeks before your program date. Group leaders can schedule up to 90 minutes to consult with our educators for a $30 fee (one consultation remains valid for 3 years). The fee includes a comprehensive information packet, one copy of the What is Ecology? curriculum guide, a site tour, and an overview of training equipment available for rent.

Equipment rental adds $10 per backpack to participation fees. We make available materials such as binoculars, field guides, soil corers, and more.

Discovery Program Trail Guides and Backpacks

The Water Wonders discovery booklet features a salt marsh mud minnow, or mummichog.
  • Who: Ages 6 and up; 1 trail guide per child recommended
  • What: Self-paced trail guides paired with activity backpacks that hold everything you need for a half day investigation. Especially fun for kids from 6 to 12 years old. Three booklets available: Habitat Hike, Time Travels, and Water Wonders.
  • When: Spring, summer, and fall. 2 hours recommended.
  • How much: $5 includes trail guide, backpack rental, and prize (one per child).

Note: You may use this text form as a template to copy-paste in a file or email to Caryn Beiter.

School bus in Wells Reserve parking lot with farmhouse in background

Note to K–12 Teachers

We have been working creatively with educators for more than 20 years, so we can help you offer the best possible experience for your students. Please call the education program for a consultation: 207-646-1555. Many Wells Reserve education programs are tied to Maine learning standards and guidelines.

Download our latest Field Trips brochure
Download the What is Ecology? teacher guide (56 MB)

Questions? Contact Caryn Beiter at 207-646-1555 ext 110.

What They Say about Field Trips


  • Very well organized and planned. Children were riveted!
  • Student-centered activities, enthusiastic facilitators!
  • Such high quality learning stations!
  • Leaders catered to needs and levels of students.
  • A perfect culminating field trip to the study of oceans and estuaries.


  • Everything was my favorite! I want to come again!
  • I thought I knew a lot already, but I've learned so much.
  • This is the best time in my life.
  • I thought this was going to be boring, but this is wicked fun!

Discovery Groups

  • Students were able to explore without feeling pressure to slow down or move quicker!
  • Very creative program. Nice work!
  • There was no whining — what a miracle!
  • We are lucky to have such a beautiful reserve to visit.