Young people interested in marine science or parents who would like their 12- to 18-year-olds to get a taste of what will be in store for them if they follow this course to the college level, can get that taste at a summer camp on Mount Desert. Acadia Institute of Oceanography (AIO), at Seal Harbor, according to Director Sheryl Gilmore, offers a series of two-week hands-on field programs.

“We take 42 kids per two-week session,” she said and explained that the students spend most of their time on boats and in proximity to tidal pools, beaches and salt marshes. Each student sets up a saltwater tank, fills it with various flora and fauna and maintains it for the two weeks of his or her stay. “The older kids,” she said, “will do work [toward] careers in oceanography. They’re pretty serious about it,” she said, explaining how a faculty member will show them how to study water quality or beach erosion or aquaculture or past climates and say, for instance: “Here’s how scientists study the ocean.”

Each of the 185 students who will be attending AIO this summer has been teacher-recommended. Gilmore, a teacher and mother of three, ages 13, 9 and 2, in addition to running AIO with her husband, started teaching in 1981 and at the Institute in 1984, under founder George Hahn. Speaking with the authority of a teacher with years of experience, she said of AIO students, “What a difference, kids that want to be here.”

The Institute combines study and fun, and its faculty must find that combination good, too: one faculty member has taught for 17 years; another for 13.

Gilmore, who advertises AIO in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and various summer guides, said she gets a lot of overseas kids. She added, “A lot of parents send their kids to us so we can show kids what their options are.” Many parents have also told Gilmore that although their kids have an interest in marine science, they’d like to have the child do some serious study to see the extent of that interest.

“We give [the student] a chance to study [marine science] in a safe environment,” she said. “It’s academic, a learning environment, but it’s not too intense.”