Field Experimentation in Boston's Intertidal Zone

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The Intertidal Experimentation Workshop will take place September 29 and 30 (9am to 2pm) at the MIT Media Lab, open to students ages 8-14. To register, please visit this link

Field Exploration in Boston's Intertidal Zone is a two-day, hands-on educational workshop for neurodiverse youth in the Greater Boston area, in which participants will use the city of Boston as a classroom, laboratory, and creative playground. Together, scientists, engineers, and artists will take to the field as explorers in order to answer questions related to ecology, biology, chemistry, art, and more. 

Workshop sessions will take place from 9am to 2pm on September 29 and 30, 2018. We will gather at the MIT Media Lab (75 Amherst Street, Cambridge) prior to traveling to field sites located within Greater Boston. 

Day I. Introduction to Intertidal Ecology and Experimental Design.
Day I of this workshop will take place at the MIT Media Lab, where students will learn about the ecology of rocky intertidal zones as well as experimental design. Students will additionally work collaboratively in small groups to develop hypotheses about the phenomena occurring in Boston's urban intertidal zones which they will subsequently test on-site during Day II. 

Day II. Data Collection, Interpretation, and Presentation.
On Day II, following the field investigation, students will regroup at the Media Lab to get a crash course on data interpretation and visualization. Thereafter, they will present their work to classmates as well as parents and community members through text, graphics, and more. 

Participation is free of charge, and all materials and meals are provided. For questions, or opportunities for involvement, please contact Avery Normandin ( 

Why Urban Oceans?
Presently, over 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coastline, often in seaside megalopolises. While it is known that urban-adjacent marine ecosystems are subjected to unique stressors—namely unparalleled amounts of pollution stemming from urban runoff—efforts related to ocean conservation, as well as marine ecological investigation, most frequently concern the open sea, beyond the immediate reaches of urban ecosystems.

To better inform regulatory actions related to urban ocean protection, we must understand the unique qualities of these ecological bodies—the seas of cities—particularly as global changes (climate change, rapid urbanization) increase strain on these fragile systems.

In parallel, given technological-driven paradigmatic shifts in our ability to characterize the unknown world, we are driven to generate innovative and novel platforms for education in the environmental sciences: experiential, instructional excursions which will empower and inspire urban populations to spearhead efforts to sculpt the future of their territories.

Ideally, these sorts of experiences will cater to all individuals, regardless of gender, race, or cognitive differences.

A Workshop for Neuroinclusivity 
"Citizen science" (or Open Science) movements have generated robust momentum for allowing communities to delineate the natural world—or speculate on its future—in hands-on and creative ways. As part of a larger effort to cultivate a future generation of environmentally engaged and justice-focused citizen scientists—and in line with the outreach efforts of the Media Lab's Open Ocean Initiative—we have developed Field Experimentation in Boston's Intertidal Zone: a two-day pilot workshop for Boston-area neurodivergent (e.g., autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, ADD, ADHD) youth, in which participants will learn about the ecology of rocky and intertidal systems, develop a hypothesis surrounding these bodies, and subsequently execute a field investigation to test this hypothesis. Students will have the option of approaching fieldwork as a scientist (or engineer), an artist, or a writer (poet, journalist).

We envision that use of easy-to-access, public sites for the pilot workshop will further democratize the potential to recapitulate similar endeavors in ecological exploration and immersive learning.