FAIRFIELD — The Plum Creek Foundation recently awarded a $5,000 grant to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to help fund LabVenture, an immersive and hands-on science education program for Maine’s middle school students, according to a Plum Creek press release.

Students visit the research facility to take part in a variety of interactive science activities ranging from microscope usage and measuring tools to viewing underwater cameras to learn about the ocean’s ecosystem.

Each year, the program welcomes more than 10,000 students that come from all 16 counties in Maine.

LabVenture aims to engage students with science and equip them with universal skills needed for success in the 21st century. According to a 2010 Education Development Center report, approximately one in seven new Maine jobs during the next decade will be in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“LabVenture is a powerful experience for students,” said Blaine Grimes, GMRI chief development officer, in the release. “They explore and discover the fascinating world of science through fun, hands-on learning.”

Students form and test their own hypotheses about Maine’s complex and changing ecosystem. After the trip, students are provided with a personalized team website that features a digital lab book of photos, videos, microscope images and other material from the day. The Plum Creek Foundation grant will help bring more than 2,000 students to GMRI’s lab in Portland.

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s mission is to catalyze solutions to the complex challenges of ocean stewardship and the economic growth in the Gulf of Maine bioregion through a dynamic fusion of science, education and community. For more information, visit gmri.org.

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