BRUNSWICK — Did you know Brunswick has an outdoor classroom? If you’ve ever headed out Maquoit Road past the high school far enough to reach the water, you have seen Wharton Point. You might not have thought much about it – especially if you have seen it at low tide when it looks like a big mud flat.

If you look out onto that mud, you’re likely to see small figures in the distance – shellfish harvesters digging for clams often with a sled nearby to pull in their bags at the end of the day or a small boat they can float back along the tidal creek. And, if you stick around for long, you might see an air boat coming or going on the ramp, carrying harvesters to and from their digging sites.

Now, there is something new to notice. There is a strange array of posts and nets laid out over the surface of the mud close to the shore, and round mesh traps spaced out across the entrance to the bay.

This is the outdoor classroom.

For an explanation of what is going on here, you can refer to the kiosk in the parking lot where Brunswick High School students have displayed posters they made with the assistance of Sea Grant to describe the green crabs they are studying in those round traps and the clams they are growing under those nets.

The kids are both student and teacher at the same time. They are out there working for people to see and understand the value of this otherwise seemingly empty mud flat. And they are educating people about the species that live there and the potential for aquaculture to provide new economic opportunities in the town.

Their educational impact extends beyond just the Wharton Point site. The students’ posters are also on display at Paul’s Marina, where they are growing oysters off the floats. In fact, just a couple of days after students seeded the Wharton Point site, several classes of junior high students spent much of the day at Paul’s where they learned about oyster aquaculture, lobsters, and how to sample the intertidal and water column. This is part of the seventh grade’s Casco Bay Unit that is made possible with support from the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. It is neat to see how these two projects are interweaving.

The outdoor classroom began as a partnership between the town, and two teachers at the high school who were interested in exploring ways to teach students about marine resources. A grant from SEANET, obtained by the Tidelands Coalition, a local non-profit dedicated to promoting the value of marine resources, helped equip students with boots and waders to start the project last fall with site assessment and crab trapping.

And, another grant from Brunswick Community Education Foundation provided funds to purchase clams this spring. Just a few weeks ago, the students seeded the site with 10,000 seed clams from the Downeast Institute and another 1,000 wild seed clams collected at Thomas Point Beach. They also got to test their mud-slogging skills by dragging large nets out over the flats to protect the clams from predators.

Now, they get to test their scientific skills by seeing how well the clams grow under different conditions over the summer. Thanks to support from the town’s Marine Resource Department, two high school students will intern over the summer to continue to check the traps and monitor predation using remote cameras.

The outdoor classroom at a public site like Wharton Point is a simple way to expand the educational impact to the community. Through the recent workshop for Brunswick teachers, which I wrote about last week, schools are also exploring ways to incorporate marine-related content into more of their classrooms.

So, next time you visit Wharton Point, take a look out over the mud and observe what is going on there. And, if you’re interested in learning more about this project and would like to see a great video describing its evolution, please visit ilovemudflats.wordpress.com.