Alfond Center & Bass Institute

For over a decade, Governor’s science department has brought classes to the Parker River and Great Salt Marsh to engage in hands-on learning. The Bill '67 and Peter '71 Alfond Coastal Research Center and Bass Institute create innovative opportunities to focus on student-centered learning, sustainability, and cutting-edge approaches to education.

Bill '67 and Peter '71 Alfond Coastal Research Center

Experiential learning is about learning by doing, and the Alfond Coastal Research Center allows students in every grade to immerse themselves in nature with real-world data and projects. Designed in partnership with scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, the Alfond Coastal Research Center includes an aquatic laboratory fed by water drawn from the river, a workshop, classrooms, and accommodations for a scientist-in residence. The 6,800-square foot, state-of the- art facility capitalizes on our unique location and deepens our commitment to experiential learning.

The Alfond Coastal Research Center provides a home for the Bass Institute and deepens Governor’s focus on experiential and place-based learning, specifically in the marsh ecosystem. At Govs, we believe that students learn best when they conduct meaningful research and thereby understand how the principles of scientific inquiry can help solve real-world problems.


The aquatic laboratory features four state-of-the-art tank systems, including a 500-gallon touch tank, that can host a variety of aquatic organisms. With the ability to bring up brackish water from the Parker River, faculty can introduce students to saline, fresh, or estuarine environments.


The workshop serves as a flexible lab and classroom space. With an expansive view of the Great Marsh and a deck off the main teaching area, it’s the perfect space for Biology and Environmental Science classes to look out over the very ecosystem they are studying.


Whether broken into two classrooms or one, the seminar rooms offer teachers in all departments opportunities to bring their classes to the Alfond Center for a day, a week, or an entire unit. Student events, like club meetings, can take place in this comfortable space, too.


Bass Institute

The Bass Institute is the intellectual center of experiential teaching and research initiatives at Governor’s. Learning deeply about the place where our school is located allows students to develop complex questions, design research, collaborate with organizations in the larger community, and develop a greater appreciation for our school’s unique location. The Bass Institute's potential reach stretches far beyond our science curriculum to all academic departments at the Academy--an English class might read and discuss a novel set on a New England tidal river, a mathematics class might partner with an art class to design and build a boat, and a photography class may learn about the sun's reflection on a waterway.  

science teacher at the governor's academy smiles near the parker river in byfield ma
Erika Mitkus

Director of the Bass Institute 

Experiential learning is about learning by doing, and the Alfond Center will allow students in every grade to “get their hands dirty” with real-world data and projects. And this isn’t limited to science - there are countless ways to weave in all of our current departments and even create brand new multidisciplinary courses.

Erika Mitkus has taught at Govs since 2018. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from McGill University and a master’s degree in secondary science education from the University of Pennsylvania. She also recently received her National Board Certification in Science - Adolescent and Young Adulthood. Mitkus is an experienced classroom teacher, an effective developer of innovative curricula, and an accomplished researcher. She helped redesign our biology curriculum, working to integrate principles of project- and place-based learning into our curriculum.


view from the dock of the alfond center