Four Decades of Ocean-based Learning
Inspiring Children using the Ocean as Classroom for 40 years


One of the most iconic and beloved organizations in Southern California turned 40 this year, and what a year it’s been! Widely recognized for its hands-on marine science, environmental education and maritime history programs, Ocean Institute earned ‘Non-Profit of the Year’ and was awarded a resolution supporting 40 years of excellence from Senator Pat Bates and the City of Dana Point. Renowned for exceptional children’s camps, Ocean Institute can also now add another esteemed designation to its resume with the American Camp Association Accreditation, further establishing its programs among the ranks of the highest quality world-wide. This year has also brought exciting new partnerships with other with leaders in ocean science and environmental issues such as Surfrider, Patagonia, the California Coastal Commission, Hobie, and The Ecology Center. Ocean Institute has also continued its research partnerships with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, contributing valuable data about our local environment. With a clear vision and strategy to impact future generations, Ocean Institute will work together with these and other like-minded organizations to create new citizen science opportunities and to teach children the importance of conserving life in California’s unique ecosystem.

Many hold special memories of field trips, summer camps, family visits, weddings, or even prom nights at the Institute’s beautiful campus that sits on the edge of the Pacific at Dana Point Harbor. Breaking ground in 1977 as the ‘Marine Institute’ was only the beginning of a legacy of ocean education and maritime history programs that have enriched the community for multiple generations, as parents are now bringing their children to participate in the same life-changing field trips that they enjoyed in their youth. Most programs last for several hours, with one of the favorite experiences being an overnight on the historic Brig Pilgrim tall ship or on the surf science deck overlooking the open ocean. This year alone, over 52,000 students participated in Ocean Institute field trips, many of whom had never seen the ocean with some travelling from outside the state. However, programs still only make up one part of the diverse range of learning opportunities offered, with over 23,000 people visiting the campus in 2017 to participate in activities and events or to explore the marine science exhibitions. With a 35,000 square-foot facility on 2.5 acres and 500 feet of deep-water dock space there is certainly plenty to see, including two tall ships and a research vessel, ROVs, and hands-on learning centers dedicated to serve 43 STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education programs

As a special recognition for their years of work driving experiential, ocean-based learning, the local government declared September 9th ‘Ocean Institute Day’ as a yearly reminder of what an important role they play in our community by inspiring students through the decades to become leaders, future scientists and ocean advocates. Ocean Institute looks forward to the next 40 years of sharing the gift of ocean literacy to enrich, engage and inspire young and old in California and beyond. In celebration of their 40th, Ocean Institute will be offering kids’ admission for only 40 cents with a paid adult from December 18th through January 5th on Mondays through Fridays.