Coastal Ecology—Tidal Flat Exploration

Summary: “A structured experience for students to investigate the life of the tidal flats of the estuary and explore the relationship between sediments, elevation, and the life beneath surface.”

Concepts to teach: Marine and Coastal Ecosystems, Habitats, Estuaries, English, Math

Goals: Students will be able to identify who lives in a watershed and explain how the watershed surrounding their school or hometown is connected to others.

3.3S.2, 4.2L.1, 5.2L.1, 5.3S.1

Specific Objectives:

  1. Students will understand that the tide flats are covered twice a day by salty estuary water.
  2. Students will understand that the tide flats are made of sediment which may be sand, mud, or gravel.
  3. Students will understand that the type of sediment and the elevation determine what lives where.
  4. Students will understand that most animals burrow below the mud to stay wet, protected, and to feed on the tidewater.
  5. Students will understand that different animals have different types of adaptations for life in the mud.

Activity Links and Resources:


  • Student-authored field guides in the TIDES “Tidal Flats” lesson plan.
  • Students create a personal meaning map for tidal flats, where they draw and label what they expect to find in the mud. After the field visit, students add to their personal meaning maps new information that they learned from the trip. The post-trip contributions can be drawn on the same page as the pre-trip map in a different color pen, or the students may make an entirely new map from scratch. Discuss the scientific process of making predictions and then collecting data to test those predictions. Evaluate pre- and post-trip contributions for detail and accuracy.