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School Field Trips

Due to COVID-19, many of our programs have been placed on hold or gone virtual. You can find more information at thelivingcoast.org/coronavirus.


 Virtual Animal Encounters for Classes    We Still Offer Outreaches

Field Trips 

The Living Coast offers a variety of options for you and your classes to choose from when you come to visit us on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, Sweetwater Marsh. To find out more, call the Education Department at 619-409-5908 or email education@thelivingcoast.org

Educational Tours
Learn from the best! Your group will be led by 20160720_155346a Living Coast interpretive guide! Depending on your guide’s expertise, he or she may choose to emphasize key topics such as watershed protection, recycling, pollution, native plants and animals, as well as practicing responsible outdoor recreation. We encourage teachers to voice their needs so our interpretive guide can cover topics your classes are studying. Ratio limits include 50 students per tour. 


Educational Tours include admission to the Living Coast all day, a 1-hour tour for 25 students (groups of 26-50 students will rotate between the 1-hour tour and 1-hour exploration of the aquariums), an assigned lunch space, teacher led trail-backpacks, and more.

$7.20 / student                                           Free for one adult (per 10 students)
$11.20 / extra adults                                   $25 Docent Guide Fee (per 50 students) 


Living Labs
Become the expert! We have numerous educational classes that are designed to be fun, engaging, educational and meet the new Common Core State Standards and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. Program descriptions are listed below. Ratio limits include minimum 15 students and a maximum 50 students per program.

 Grades K-2

Crawling Crabs (K)
Come crawl into the world of crabs and other crustacean relatives. Learn about adaptations with fun hands on exploration. Students will enjoy touching and observing crustacean molts. Students will also meet and hold real live crabs and crayfish.
             Kindergarten Standards
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 3, 6; L – 5c, 6 
             NGSS: LS1-1, LS1.A, LS1.C    

Slithering Snakes (K)
Slither yourself into the world of reptiles. Learn, through hands on exploration, the adaptations that make snakes a successful predator. Students will get to have an up close encounter with a snake and explore various biofacts that are found in a snake’s home.
           Kindergarten Standards
           CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 3, 6; L – 5c, 6
           NGSS:  ESS3-1 

Arthropods All Around (1)
Arthropods are all around, just waiting to be observed by bug eyed scientists. With microscopes and magnifying glasses, the small world of arthropods will come alive. Students will explore around the nature center looking for bugs in their natural habitat and collect samples to study under a magnifying glass.
            1st Grade Standards
            CCSS: ELA-SL – 1, 3; L – 6
            NGSS: LS1-1, LS1.A, LS1.D, LS3.B

Beaks and Feet (1)
Come soar into the world of birds and find out what structures they have to help them survive. Students will get to “try out” different beaks to see how successful they are and handle bird biofacts. Students will also take a short hike and use binoculars to identify some birds’ special structures. Best times for this program are in the Summer or Spring.
          1st Grade Standards
          CCSS: ELA- SL – 1, 2, 3; L – 6; Math-Content-OA.C.5  
          NGSS: LS1-1, LS1.A, LS1.D, LS3.B

Budding Botanists (1)
Dig into the world of plant adaptations. Students will learn what it means to be a plant growing up in a dry place and how best to survive the hot conditions of Southern California. An engaging lab, where students will get to practice their observation skills and study the leaves of real native plants found right here on the Sweetwater Marsh Refuge!
         1st Grade Standards
ELA- SL – 1, 2, 3; L – 6  
LS1-1, LS1.A, LS1.D, LS3.B

Footprints on the Marsh (2)
Tread lightly – our impact can be bigger than we think. Students will get to observe native wetland plants and animals in their marshy habitat. Following the example of the instructor, students will record and tally different species observed while hiking through the wetland. A focus on bird species will be emphasized with bird beak and feet comparisons.
         2nd Grade Standards
         CCSS: ELA- SL – 1, 2, 3; L – 6; Math-Content-NBT.A.2
         NGSS: LS4-1, LS2-2, LS2.A, LS4.D 

Perfect Pollinators (2)
What could be more perfect than learning about pollinators in a living garden? They’ll get hands-on with pollination and discover its importance to native species. Through fun, interactive role-play the students will get hands on with the entire pollination sequence!
         2nd Grade Standards
         CCSS: ELA- SL – 1, 2, 3; L – 6; Math-Content-NBT.A.2
         NGSS: LS2.2, LS2.A

 Grades 3-5

Crustacean Lab (3)
Ever wonder what it means to be a crab? Get up close with crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans as you explore the world of arthropods. From exoskeletons to real live animal encounters, students will learn what it means to be a marine invertebrate. Your students will be excited about their crabbing adventures and all that they learned in the crustacean lab.
           3rd Grade Standards
           CCSS: ELA-SL – 1b, 1c, 1d, 3, 6; L – 6  
           NGSS: LS3-2, LS-2, LS3.B, LS4.B  

A Shark’s Tail (3)
From kelp forests to open oceans, students will become shark experts on local species and YIKES may even get to meet a shark up-close! This interactive lab teaches students about the many adaptations these top predators have to survive in the open ocean.
           3rd Grade Standards
           CCSS: ELA-SL – 1b, 1c, 1d, 3, 6; L – 6  
           NGSS: LS4-2, LS4-3, LS4.C, LS4.D  

Survivor in the Saltmarsh (4)
Why do birds fly, fish swim, and crabs crawl? Discover, through up close encounters, what structures help saltmarsh organisms survive. Students will observe real wildlife found right here on this south bay wetland! Students become experts of the structure and function of saltmarsh organism adaptations.
            4th Grade Standards
            CCSS: ELA-SL – 1, 2, 3; L – 6  
            NGSS: LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1.A, LS1.D 

Fish Dissection (4-5)
Get your hands all scaly and slimy with this dissection. Students will learn about the ins and outs of what makes a fish a fish. Through this fun, interactive dissection, students explore the internal and external parts that help a fish survive its marine habitat.
             4th Grade Standards
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1; L – 6  
             NGSS: LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1.A, LS1.D 

             5th Grade Standards
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1; L – 6 
             NGSS: PS3-1; LS2-1, LS1.C, LS2.B 

Squid Dissection (4-5)
There is something squidy about this dissection. Students will learn about the internal and external parts that help a squid survive its ocean habitat. From three hearts to a reduced shell, the squid is a fascinating mollusk to scientifically study.
             4th Grade Standards
             CCSS: ELA- SL – 1; L – 6  
             NGSS: LS1-1, LS1-2, LS1.A, LS1.D 

             5th Grade Standards
: ELA- SL – 1; L – 6 
             NGSS: PS3-1, LS2-1, LS1.C, LS2.B 

Food Chain Hunt (5)
Kick start your ecology knowledge with a fun exploration of the Sweetwater Marsh Refuge. What better way to study ecology, then become an ecologist yourself? Students will study important aspects of ecology such as adaptations, predator-prey relations, and the recycling of organic matter. Then students will apply their new knowledge by looking for evidence of different animal species while hiking the trails around the refuge.
             5th Grade Standards
             CCSS: ELA- SL – 1; L – 6 
             NGSS: LS2-1, LS2.A, LS2.B

 Grades 6-8

Watershed Chemistry (6)
Learn what it is like to be an ecologist monitoring the state of local waterways. This lab will include a variety of real experiments and tests such as salinity, pH, and oxygen levels that are sure to get students excited about science! Students will practice their scientific skills, work in teams and experience real-life hands-on science on a local watershed.
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6;
GSS: MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-5, LS2.B, LS2.C

Eat, Don’t Get Eaten (6-8)
Do your students have what it takes to be a field biologist? This program is a perfect introduction to everything ecology. Students will get to explore a native San Diego wetland looking for evidence of organism interactions and food chains. Come be challenged by the delicate balance of an ecological food web that must overcome disasters, natural and man-made alike.
             MS Standards
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6 

             NGSS: MS-LS2-1; MS-LS2-3; MS-LS2-4, LS2.A, LS2.B, LS2.C, LS2.D

Fish Dissection (6-8)
Can fish tell us something about being a human? Through a fishy and fun dissection, students will compare what parts of a fish are similar to humans and what parts are very different. Fish provide an excellent model for scientific exploration and comparison of vascular systems.
             MS Standards
             CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6  
             NGSS: MS-LS1-2; MS-LS1-3; MS-LS1-5, LS1.A, LS1.B, LS1.C, LS1.D

Squid Dissection (6-8)
Do squid and humans have anything in common? Compare the anatomical parts of a squid and learn how its physiology is designed to help it survive a habitat very different than ours! This squidy dissection will have your students talking about the importance of adaptations to the survival of any species.
              MS Standards
               CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6 

               NGSS: MS-LS1-2; MS-LS1-3; MS-LS1-5, LS1.A, LS1.B, LS1.C, LS1.D

The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre (7-8)
Discover the animal “gene pool lottery” that will produce good adaptations, bad traits, and bizarre appearances for wild animals. Students will model dominant and recessive traits with a chance to create an ultimate animal or be stuck with a bizarre organism. Students will be asked to critically discuss whether such mutations are harmful, beneficial, or neutral to their animal, as well as real life examples found right here on the marsh!
              MS Standards
               CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2, 4; L – 6 
               NGSS: MS-LS3-1, LS1.B, LS3.A, LS3.B

 Grades 9-12

Jr. Ichthyologist (9-12)
The fish off the California coast are all dying and it is up to you, a fish scientist, to help save them! Jr. Ichthyologists will dissect fish to learn about their internal systems and discover what may have caused their mysterious death. Learn about the importance of protecting whole ecosystems, studying causes of population die offs, and why science is really important for meeting human needs.
              9th – 12th Grade Standards
              CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6
              NGSS: HS-LS1-2;HS-LS1-3, LS1.A, LS1.B, LS1.C

Where’s My Shell? (9-12)
Mollusks are soft bodied animals with shells. But there is one mollusk that is missing its shell! Through this program, students will dissect squid and discover the answer to the mystery of a shell-less mollusk. Students will look for patterns and compare-contrast squid to other living mollusks.
              9th – 12th Grade Standards
              CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6
NGSS: HS-LS1-2, LS1.A, LS1.B, LS1.C

A.W.E. Chemistry! (9-12)
Experience real-life chemistry with Advanced-Watershed-Ecosystems (A.W.E.) Learn the importance of variables such as salinity, pH, turbidity, and oxygen when it comes to monitoring the health of an ecosystem!  Students will compare recorded data from their field work experience to current trends and scientific data.
               9th – 12th Grade Standards
               CCSS: ELA-SL – 1a, 1c, 1d, 2; L – 6
               NGSS: HS-ESS3-4; HS-ESS3-5, ESS3.A, ESS3.C, ESS3.D                                                          

 Compost Program for Grades 3-8

kids-compostingNew! Get dirty in our outdoor compost and worm gardens. You and your students will have an opportunity to learn about the “Whats, Whys, and Hows of Composting” with our master composters. Add ingredients, turn piles, and sift through finished compost in this exciting lesson of turning waste into a natural fertilizer. This program offers great lessons to bring composting back to your school!


Living Labs include admission to the Living Coast all day, a 1-hour tour, a 1-hour CCSS & NGSS based educational program, an assigned lunch space, teacher led trail-backpacks, and more.

$10.00 / student                                                  Free for one adult (per 10 students)
$12.00 / extra adult                                       $25 Docent Guide Fee (per 50 students) 

*CCSS: Common Core State Standards, CASS: California State Standards, NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards
**Programs include scientific & engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas that prepare students for success in the above listed performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards.


Preschool Programs
Begin exploring the natural world! We have numerous educational classes that are designed to be fun, engaging, and age-appropriate learning. Program descriptions are listed below. Ratio limits include minimum 10 students and maximum 40 students per program. 

 Program Descriptions

Move It! (PreK-TK)
Animals slither, swim, jump, and fly in very interesting ways. Students will learn about local animals that call San Diego home. Through fun dance moves and up-close animal encounters, children will walk away knowing how to crawl like a tortoise and slither like a snake.

Hooterific (PreK-TK)
Ever wonder what it is like to walk in the shoes of an owl? Learn about the unique adaptations an owl has to help it survive. Students will learn about the beak, feathers, and wings as they dress up a classmate. And your class is sure to have a hooterific time meeting one of our owl ambassadors through this program!

Totally Tidepools (PreK-TK)
Life is tough in the tidepools! Children will discover some of the crazy ways animals stay safe. We will put on our claws, suction cups or feet and walk, swim or crawl to discover what amazing adaptations help animals survive. Full of movement, animal encounters and a discovery table, your families will be sure to “dive” into the world of tidepools.

Storytime (PreK-TK)
Come have a fun adventure with the Living Coast Discovery Center. Through stories, songs, and crafts we will learn all about amazing animals of all shapes and sizes! Preschoolers are sure to have a memorable experience encountering sea creatures, meeting reptiles, or watching birds fly around the Living Coast. Available themes: Octopus, Owl, Sea Stars, or Sea Turtle


Preschool program fees include admission to the Living Coast all day, a 45-minute animal and craft program for 20 students (groups of 21-40 students will rotate between the program and exploration of the aquariums), an assigned lunch space, and more.

$8.00 / preschooler                      Free for one adult (per 6 preschoolers)
$10.00 / extra chaperone                                                                              



Questions? Contact our Education Department: