Richard C. Wheeler Bay Learning Center

Richard C. Wheeler Bay Learning Center
Richard C. Wheeler Bay Learning Center (Image:

Discover your Buzzards Bay at the Richard C. Wheeler Bay Learning Center, a free environmental exploration center located in downtown New Bedford’s Historic District. The Bay Learning Center is your destination to learn more about our local waters and how you can protect and enjoy them.

Features of the Bay Learning Center

The Bay Learning Center is home to a variety of unique, informative and interactive exhibits that help guide your discovery of Buzzards Bay.

3-D Buzzards Bay Map

People gathered around 3-D Buzzards Bay watershed mapThe centerpiece of the Bay Learning Center is a beautiful, colorful 3-D map of Buzzards Bay. The map, measuring approximately 12 feet by 10.5 feet, gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Bay and southeastern Massachusetts.

Visitors can reach out and touch the map’s surface to feel the contours of the land and the reefs and ridges below the water. The map even lights up, showing the buoys and lighthouses that help boats navigate safely through the Bay.

The map also helps visitors understand how people use the land that drains to the Bay, known as the Buzzards Bay watershed. A thick blue line frames the boundary of the Bay’s 17-town watershed, and bright colors show where forests, beaches, salt marshes, cranberry bogs and developed areas are located.

Water Quality Tanks

Student peering through fish tankThe difference between clean water and polluted water is clear when you gaze through the Bay Learning Center’s side-by-side water quality tanks.

On the left, the healthy Bay tank shows what Buzzards Bay should look like: crystal clear water and healthy eelgrass growing at the bottom. The healthy Bay tank includes a variety of native Buzzards Bay species, including mummichogs, whelks, hermit crabs and sea stars.

On the right, the polluted Bay tank shows what many parts of Buzzards Bay actually look like: cloudy, murky and slimy. This is due to nitrogen pollution that flows from our homes, lawns, farms and roads. Very few plants and animals can live in this dirty water.

Interactive Screens

Students using computer in Bay Learning CenterTwo interactive screens on either side of the Bay Learning Center allow visitors to explore Buzzards Bay through photos, videos and online content.

Photos and videos loop on one screen, showcasing the beauty of Buzzards Bay. On the other screen, a computer allows visitors to seek out beaches and walking trails throughout the Bay watershed. The computer also points visitors to a real-time map of boats cruising through the Bay.

Informational Panels

Informational panels on the walls of the Bay Learning Center
Informational panels (Image:

Informational panels line the Bay Learning Center’s walls, offering visitors the opportunity to read about Bay-related topics such as:

Habitat Sculptures

Habitat sculptures outside the Bay Learning CenterStep outside the Bay Learning Center to discover Habitat, an artistic celebration of clean water in Buzzards Bay. The seven steel sculptures lining the walkway in front of the Buzzards Bay Center depict eelgrass, an underwater plant that is essential to life above and below the Bay. Learn more about Habitat.


A friendly educational docent staffing the Bay Learning Center front deskHave a question about Buzzards Bay? Ask one of our volunteer educational docents at the information desk. A docent is always available to speak with visitors about the Bay and the Coalition’s work.


Don’t leave the Bay Learning Center without purchasing a souvenir! The Coalition store offers hats, t-shirts, bags and more merchandise that will help you show your love for Buzzards Bay.

Visitor Information


Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Open for AHA! Night (second Thursday of the month), 5-8 p.m.


114 Front Street, New Bedford, MA
Main entrance on Hamilton Street
(Get directions and parking info)



Buzzards Bay Coalition

School and Group Programs

The Coalition offers guided programs for schools and groups visiting the Bay Learning Center. Group programs run approximately 45 minutes and must be booked in advance.

For more information about programs, fees and scheduling, visit our School and Group Programs page.

Become an Educational Docent

Discover Bay Side Bar docent imageAt the heart of our learning centers are our volunteer educational docents like Rhea Teves-Cate. Docents are always on hand to answer questions, encourage visitors to explore our exhibits, and help people discover Buzzards Bay.

Contact Alicia Pimental at (508) 999-6363 x226 for more information about becoming a docent.