Middle School


Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Maritime Field Trip 45 Minutes

Private Pilgrim Tour
All Ages

Step back in time and explore the journey around Cape Horn as described by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast.

What you’ll see: View the galley, stern, and bow of the ship before heading below decks to the main hold, where the ship’s cargo would have been stored. Explore the ship in detail while learning about the shipboard life of sailors of the past.

Outdoor Education Field Trip 5 hours

A Day in the Chaparral (NEW)
Grades 4-12

Spend a day in a remote corner of Caspers Wilderness Park exploring Southern California’s wilderness while building a strong learning community. This program inspires an interest in science and a passion for the natural world through  guided nature observation.  Specific activities will depend on seasonal weather conditions and student grade level, but every participant will leave with a deeper understanding of our natural world and how every person is connected to it. 

Science Field Trip 17 hours

Advanced Life in the Abyss Overnight
Grades 7-8

This overnight adventure combines our Advanced Living Systems Lab/Cruise with an in-depth study of the unique ecosystem of the abyss. Students examine how animals have adapted to the extreme conditions of the deep through a series of inquiry-based activities. They will also dissect a cow eye, study the physics of light through a bioluminescence experiment, and investigate the food chain of a hydrothermal vent community.

Science Field Trip 2-4 hours

Advanced Living Systems Lab/Cruise
Grades 7-8

This is an advanced version of our Living Systems program. The lab includes a fish dissection, water chemistry, invertebrate classification, and Jelly biology. Aboard the R/V Sea Explorer, students examine benthic and pelagic habitats by deploying oceanographic sampling equipment to collect a variety of marine specimens.

Lab and cruise may also be booked separately.

Maritime Field Trip 1-2 days

Catalina Island Ecology Safari
Grades 4-8

This program is an educational adventure offering participants an opportunity to explore the ecology of Catalina Island, both on land and in the surrounding waters.  Students will develop a unique perspective and gain in-depth knowledge of this popular Channel Island.

Maritime Field Trip 3-5 days

Catalina Odyssey: A Voyage of Discovery
Grades 4-adult

Embark on an exciting voyage to Catalina Island. On this dynamic sailing adventure, students are trained to work as crew of a 100-ton schooner Spirit of Dana Point. They explore Catalina and surrounding waters while they snorkel, hike, and live the life of a tallship sailor. This program is adaptable to fit curriculum needs in the fields of ecology, water quality, oceanography, biology, and history.

Outdoor Education Field Trip 2-3 days

Chaparral to Ocean Science School
Grades 4-6

At the Lazy W Ranch, students use hands-on data collection and analysis to study the relationships between living and non-living components of six unique California ecosystems (riparian, oak woodland, chaparral, intertidal, benthic, and pelagic). Evening activities include a nocturnal investigation and campfire skits and songs. Then, a trip to the Ocean Institute concludes the experience and allows students to explore food webs, water quality, life cycles, and tide pools, with an optional trip on our research vessel.

Science Field Trip 4 hours

Earth’s Changing Climate Lab/Cruise
Grades 8-12

Students conduct an in-depth study of the relationship between Earth’s dynamic geologic history and global climate change. They investigate the creation of the Isthmus of Panama and its effect on global currents and climate, look for clues in deep-sea sediment cores, and explore the effects of the burning of fossil fuels on ocean acidity and marine ecosystems. Onboard the R/V Sea Explorer, students use marine sampling equipment to retrieve a sediment core, conduct water chemistry testing, and investigate plankton productivity.

Science Field Trip 1 hour

Ocean Institute Tidepool Junior Naturalist Program
Grades Pre-K - 6th

A one hour lab program ideal for small groups (up to 25 participants) including homeschools, scout troops, and special education groups. The curriculum is based on good tide pooling rules.

Distance Learning Site visit

If a Dolphin Were a Fish
Grades 2-6

Students investigate how a dolphin might be similar to a human, but different from other marine animals. Live animals, artifacts, and interactive activities allow the students to discover which characteristics are unique to mammals.

Distance Learning

Invertebrate Investigation
Grades 4-8

Observe and learn about the amazing adaptations of different marine invertebrates. Hands-on activities with live animals and a squid dissection highlight the similarities between these animals. Engage in several explorations of the marine environment, emphasizing adaptations and abiotic/biotic relationships in ocean communities.

Science Field Trip 17 hours

Life in the Abyss Overnight
Grades 4-6

This overnight adventure combines our popular Living Systems Lab/Cruise with activities that explore the fascinating world of nocturnal and deep-sea animal adaptations. In the evening, students investigate shark adaptations, pilot our remotely operated vehicles, dissect a cow eye to look at low light adaptations, and visit the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center where our squid light attracts animals of the night.

Science Field Trip 2-4 hours

Living Systems Lab/Cruise
Grades 4-6

This classic program is one of our most popular and explores the relationship between biotic and abiotic components of the marine ecosystem. The lab includes a fish dissection, water chemistry, aquarium science, and studying the oceanic food chain. Aboard the R/V Sea Explorer, students examine benthic and pelagic habitats by deploying oceanographic sampling equipment to collect a variety of marine specimens.

Lab and cruise may also be booked separately.

Science Field Trip 2 hours

Marine Mammal Cruise
Grades 4-6

Dolphins, whales, seals, and sea lions are the focus of this exciting voyage on the open ocean! Students investigate the natural history of our local marine mammals using a benthic grab sampler, plankton net, and marine biofacts.

This program can be adapted for older students.

Maritime Field Trip 1 hour

Pilgrim Tour
Grades Pre-K - adult

This walking tour explains the mechanics of the vessel and the voyage around Cape Horn as described by Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast. Explore the ship in detail while learning about the shipboard life of sailors of the past.

Science Field Trip 4 hours

Sea Floor Explorer Lab/Cruise
Grades 6-8

Students study the dynamic effects of plate tectonics through the investigation of sea floor geology, sediment cores, microfossils, underwater seismology and more. Aboard the R/V Sea Explorer, students get a chance to take part in scientific sampling and exploration. Students will survey the sea floor using scientific equipment including a gravity corer, and side scan sonar.

Science Field Trip 17 hours

Sea Floor Explorer Overnight
Grades 6-8

Students become sea floor scientists and are immersed in challenging research activities that focus on coring/ micropaleontology, underwater seismology, hydrothermal vent communities, and more. They delve into deep-sea technology as they design and test their own ROV. Their experience culminates in a morning research cruise aboard the R/V Sea Explorer where students will survey the sea floor using scientific equipment including a gravity corer, and side scan sonar.

Distance Learning Site visit

Special Needs
Grades Pre K-12

Nine different programs are designed to meet your students’ interests and ability levels, whether you want the excitement of live marine animals or the challenge of a squid or fish dissection. Through observation and interaction, students will dive into the world of hands-on science! 

Science Field Trip 2 hours

Tidepool Exploration in the Dana Point Marine Conservation Area
Grades 4-6

Students measure physical factors using scientific sampling equipment, identify adaptations of local tidepool species with the aid of an experienced naturalist, and conduct population studies of hermit crabs, turban snails, and barnacles using low-impact exploration techniques.

Distance Learning Site visit

Visiting Sea Camp
Grades K-6

Available June through August – Let Us Bring the Ocean to You!

Taught by our instructors at your facility. 
Experience the fascinating marine environment with the Ocean Institute’s Visiting Sea Camp Series. The Ocean Institute staff brings our hands-on science programs directly to your school or childcare center. Each program takes advantage of small class settings to maximize the level of interaction and learning. Let us foster an awareness and appreciation of the many amazing creatures found in our oceans.

Distance Learning Site visit

Welcome to Our Watershed
Grades 5-8

Students learn about the hydrologic cycle and what lives in a watershed. A hands-on demonstration with a model of a watershed shows the effect of human impact on our fragile environment. An interactive discussion and examination of live tidepool animals reinforce the connection between pollution and a healthy ecosystem, including what can be done to maintain the health of a watershed. The program drives home why everyone needs to understand how we all affect our local watersheds.