Outdoor Education


Outdoor Education Programs

Since the 1980’s the Ocean Institute has partnered with the Lazy W Ranch to offer unique residential outdoor education experiences for students.

The Lazy W Ranch has accommodations for up to 140 people and is located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains outside of San Juan Capistrano. Surrounded by the Cleveland National Forest, it provides a remote wilderness setting while being easily accessible from Orange, LA, San Diego, and Riverside Counties.

We offer a variety of standards-based science and social studies programs ranging from 1 to 3 days in length. These programs may also be designed to include a tour of Mission San Juan Capistrano, a cruise on our research vessel, a tour or a sail on our historic ships, and/or visits to the labs and tide pools at our main campus in Dana Point Harbor.

Outdoor Education Field Trip 2 days

“By the Great Horn Spoon”
Grade 4

In this exciting program, students travel from the “Eastern Seaboard” to the “Gold Fields” of California to seek their fortune. Students must band together to fulfill their dreams as they re-live the Gold Rush on this educational journey! This overnight adventure takes students on a “voyage around the Horn” sailing on our historic tallship, the Spirit of Dana Point. The students then travel to our mining camp at the Lazy W Ranch to barter for supplies and pan for gold in a mountain stream.

Outdoor Education Field Trip 6 hours

California Time Capsule Day
Grade 4

At the Lazy W Ranch, students explore California’s cultural time periods (Native American, Spanish, and Gold Rush) through hands-on, interactive activities including adobe brick making, identifying uses of native plants, and panning for gold. This program dynamically examines social, political, cultural, and economic change throughout California’s rich history. 

Outdoor Education Field Trip 2 days

California Time Capsule Overnight
Grade 4

At the rustic Lazy W Ranch, students investigate the cultural eras of California’s history. Students step into the lives of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo people to learn about daily life, customs and cultural practices. Activities include building a Native American shelter, making tortillas and candles, and panning for gold in a mountain stream!

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.