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Ocean Institute

Mission Statement

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.


  1. Be a leader in science and history education, by providing the most engaging, relevant, innovative, and inquiry-based educational experience

  2. Teach the importance of our ocean’s health, using programs that foster an in-depth understanding of and appreciation for, the connection between the ecosystems of the land and sea

  3. Be financially strong, to ensure achievement of our educational goals.

The Ocean Institute has become nationally known for its hands-on marine science, environmental education and maritime history programs. More than 115,000 K-12 students and 6,000 teachers annually participate in the Institute's 61 award-winning, immersion style programs.deep sea fish

To learn oceanography and science, students voyage onto the ocean to feel and taste the salty sea spray, sort through live specimens, sea creatures, and deep sea fish, observe migrating whales and collect scientific data.

To learn maritime history and literature, students spend an entire night aboard the brig Pilgrim - each student hauling lines, hoisting sails, standing night watch and swabbing decks.

Furthermore, students develop further appreciation for ocean issues facing our world today.

Our Facility

We are an educational facility specializing in innovative marine and social science programs. Though not a museum nor an aquarium, you will find a collection of artifacts and animals on this campus.

Educational Facilities: Primary Teaching Facilities

Ecology Learning Center and Children's Theater
This center is primarily for students in grades K-3. Teaching stations include marine life tanks, wet-tables with video-microscopes, and a digital imaging lab. The facility also contains a children's theater that supports virtual or interactive presentations on the marine environment.

Folino Center for Technology and Communications
The Folino Center uses the most modern technology including videoconferencing equipment for distance learning programs to enhance the education of students nationwide.

Lazy-W Ranch
Located in the Cleveland National Forest, the Lazy-W Ranch is a residential camp where students spend their days and nights experiencing California history or investigating different ecosystems.

Maddie James Seaside Learning Center
A new “on the water” facility featuring a 300’ Ocean Science Landing that provides several new learning stations and mooring for the Ocean Institute’s R/V Sea Explorer and tallship Spirit of Dana Point. The Seaside Learning Center also includes a 100’ Historic Maritime Pier with additional maritime-themed learning stations.

Marine Protected Area
The Marine Protected Area is a natural intertidal ecosystem of 8 acres adjacent to our site.

Maritime Center
Our Maritime Center is a hands-on teaching facility built in 1997 for exploration of maritime history.

sea plants"Ocean in Motion" Van
The Ocean in Motion is a mobile laboratory for outreach to special needs and underserved students.

Packard At-Sea Learning Center
This teaching laboratory houses tanks of local marine life including a jellyfish grow-out station. This facility is used primarily for grades 4-6.

The Pilgrim is our 130-ft. historic tallship made famous by Richard Henry Dana in his book 'Two Years Before The Mast.' marine instituteSince 1981, students have been living as sailors in the 1830s during overnight and daytime dockside programs that bring history to life.

R/V Sea Explorer
The R/V Sea Explorer is our 70-ft. marine science research vessel with state-of-the-art oceanography equipment where students become oceanographers for a day.

Spirit of Dana Point
The Spirit of Dana Point is our 118-ft. topsail schooner used for living history and at-sea maritime adventures; it joined our fleet in 2001.

Surfscience Learning Center and Sleeping Deck
The Surfscience Center capitalizes on California's rich surfing history to interest students in the sciences of the surf zone. Teaching exhibits include an Oceanography Test Tank, Wave Tank, Shark and Ray Pool, and Shipboard Research Station. The second story is a sleeping deck, with a National Weather Service Coastal Observation Station, and expansive views of the open ocean.

Ocean InstituteLaurena G. Chambers Gallery Book and Gift Store

The Chambers Gallery carries the latest educational materials and ocean-themed items with proceeds benefiting Ocean Institute programs.

Samueli Lecture Hall and Conference Center
This is a unique setting for events with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. The center is also used for a variety of educational programs.

Student and Teacher Services Building
This building houses the administrative center with an open, two-story lobby.

All Ocean Institute programs are designed to maximize immersion, inspire deep commitment to learning and spark curiosity, questions and future discovery. The programs have received the inaugural Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education from the National Maritime Historical Society and the Sea Education Program of the Year from the American Sail Training Association. In addition, the Weather & Water 5th Grade Program was recognized by the National Science Teacher Association as an Exemplary Science Program in an Informal Education Setting.

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Our Supporters
View descriptions of our talented and valued supporters.
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Miocean continues to partner with the Ocean Institute for Watershed programs.
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