Hands-on Learning in Science


Central California features a large number of scientific research institutions, mostly because of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the unique features of the Monterey Canyon. Many of them are open to the public to learn about the unique ecology, amazing marine life, and current scientific studies. Talk with your teacher about how you can earn credit by visiting one of them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Seymour Center: Science Sundays happen once a month and feature scientists presenting about a variety of interesting and unusual topics. Check out their scheduleCost is $6 for students, $8 for adults, and free for members.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium: See Tamara’s activity sheet (in treasure hunt style) to guide you in a deeper study of marine life at the Aquarium. Be sure to watch one of the videos and attend feeding time at one of the tanks! 
  • Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center: Tour the center (it’s free!) to learn some interesting facts about the Monterey Bay and what you can do to help protect it. It’s located across from the Boardwalk, with special events throughout the year. Check out this calendar to learn about other special events and what’s happening each month in the bay to help you create your own unique field trip.   
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Take the self-guided nature trail to learn about the unique natural history of the tallest trees in the world! Be sure to bring a flashlight (or check one out at the nature center) so you can go in the General Sherman Tree to see what it looks like inside. Great nature center, too- check out the video on salmon ecology, or use it as a resource for learning about local history- especially logging. 
  • Moss Landing Marine Lab: Interested in underwater robots and the weirdest and newest wildlife to be discovered in the Monterey Canyon? Check out the Open House at Moss Landing Marine Lab on April 30-May 1. 
  • Ano Nuevo State Beach: Watch elephant seals breed, females nurse their pups, and males fight for territory mid-December through the end of March. Make reservations early for a guided tour.  
  • Museum of Natural History: Special events and exhibits are offered throughout the year, including scientific illustration, birdwatching, etc. Wonderful exhibits to learn about Native American lifestyles before the arrival of Europeans.  
  • Elkhorn Slough Safari: Take a relaxing 1 ½- 2 hour ride on a pontoon boat while watching sea otters, harbor seals, and hundreds of bird species. Learn about estuary ecology and local history with the guidance of a naturalist guide. 

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Mailing address:
Santa Cruz County Office of Education 
400 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060  |  831.466.5600  |  Fax: 831.466.5607