Bayventure program lets kids explore New Hampshire's 'hidden coastline'

Lucas Fast, 7, hums to get a periwinkle out of its shell during the Bayventures program at Great Bay Discovery Center in Greenland.

GREENLAND — Children in the Bayventures program at Great Bay Discovery Center are learning about the creatures and plants along New Hampshire’s “hidden coast” this summer.

On Wednesday morning, a group of 12 students entering third to sixth grade were capturing periwinkles, shrimp and jellyfish as they explored in shallow water during high tide.

“This is how you start appreciating things, by exploring,” said Beth Heckman, who is an assistant education coordinator with 23 years of experience at the center.

Heckman got into the water with the children to help them use a seine, or large fishing net. The students were each equipped with their own nets as well.

Chloe Campano, 10, said her favorite part of the summer program is “finding stuff.”

“I like horseshoe crabs,” Campano said.

Celine Ames, 9, said this is her first year in the Bayventures program.

“It’s really neat and interesting,” Ames said.

Carol Tordoff is a volunteer at the discovery center. She helps Heckman out on Wednesdays.

“I like it. It’s fun,” Tordoff said. “She has a different program each week and she changes it from year to year.”

This year, students in the Bayventures program will learn about eelgrass beds and what it is like to be a lobsterman, among other things, according to information provided by New Hampshire Fish and Game officials. Great Bay Discovery Center is operated by the fish and game department.

Kelle Loughlin is the director of the discovery center. She explained that Great Bay was designated as a National Estuarine Research Reserve in 1989 and is federally protected.

Loughlin said the center is dedicated to research and stewardship, as well as programming for children and adults. About 70,000 school-aged children have visited the center with about 5,000 coming through each year.

In addition to the Bayventure summer program, there is a Junior Bayventure program for children entering first to fourth grade.

Close to 2,800 children have participated in the Bayventure programs over the years, Heckman said.

“It is important to me. This is what I’ve spent half my life doing now,” Heckman said about teaching children about the natural habitat around them.

For more information about the Bayventure programs at Great Bay Discovery Center, call 778-0015.