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School Programs

School Programs

School Programs

Discovery Lab
Discovery Labs take place at or near our facility and allow teachers to choose from a variety of exciting and informative marine science lessons and experiences.
Floating Lab
The Floating Lab is a scientific exploration of the ocean and is, by far, our most popular offering. Students will be amazed at the diversity of life above and below the surface of San Luis Obispo Bay.
Marine Life Monitoring
Join the Central Coast Aquarium as we take part in biological monitoring studies at various habitats along the central coast. This program's goal is to actively engage students in real-life scientific investigations and the scientific process.
Pre-K Program
This program is designed to be a fun marine science introduction for three and four-year-olds. Groups are kept small to maximize the benefit of our hands on learning environment.
Tidepools On Tour
Can't make it to the Central Coast Aquarium? We'll bring our live animals to you!
Discovery Lab

Discovery Lab

Discovery Lab programs take place at or near our facility and allow teachers to choose from a variety of fun and informative marine science lessons (see list below). Along with rotating through lessons, students get an in-depth tour of our aquarium, which includes touching a selection of our rocky intertidal species and sleeping sharks.

Squid Dissection

By far one of the favorites — Students will learn about various types of mollusks (including squid of course) and their adaptations in the ocean. Working in pairs, the students will identify various organs and parts of the squid and learn how this fascinating animal lives, eats and moves.

Plankton: Sink or Float Competition

Students delve into the world of microscopic organisms as they view and learn about plankton. Students will construct their own plankton model based on the features of real life plankton and adaptations to achieve “neutral buoyancy.” Incorporating evolutionary adaptations in their models, students finish the lesson with a friendly competition of sink or float to see which plankton outperforms the rest.

Water Chemistry

Students become scientists and learn how to measure water density, temperature, salinity and pH. They’ll hypothesize how these factors will vary throughout the estuary and then go outside to sample. Students will  learn how important the ocean’s chemical balance is to the life below and how scientists keep watch on our ocean's health.

Rocky Intertidal

Invertebrates are the stars of this show. Students will have the opportunity to see and touch local tide pool invertebrates. They’ll learn about life on California's rocky shores and find out just how animals adapt to living in such stressful environments.

Marine Mammals

Students participating in this lesson learn what makes a mammal a mammal and what makes marine mammals so special. Following a slideshow that highlights the characteristics of our local species, students will have the opportunity to view and touch various real-life props from marine mammals including whales baleen, sea otter fur, and various bones from dolphins, whales, seals, and otters.

Sharks and Rays

Across the world, especially the one created by Hollywood, sharks are a favorite in this ocean of celebrities. In this class students will separate fact from fiction and learn what makes sharks so different from other fish. At the end of lesson students will have the opportunity to meet-and-greet our friendliest (and sleepiest) sharks and rays here in the aquarium.
Pricing:  
1 Hour $250
1.5 Hours $300
2 Hours $350 
3 Hours $450
4 Hours $550

If your school is interested in a Discovery Lab, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

* Pricing is per class for up to 30 students. For classes with more than 30 students, please call for pricing.

Floating Lab

Floating Lab

All aboard as we take a boat on the seas to survey and study marine life, collecting samples in tow along the way. The Floating Laboratory is a unique and memorable experience in which students embark on an exhibition in the harbor fishing for knowledge and studying their catch.

Following an introduction to the rich cultural and natural history of the area, our students help to drop a trawl net then sort, identify, and count the collected creatures which become a part of our ongoing monitoring dataset. Throughout the trip our students are encouraged to take in the sights and sounds of marine mammals and birds in their natural environment, as well as help to release the catch after the data count. To better understand this marine food web we also collect plankton samples and engage our students in water quality and chemistry testing using oceanographic sampling equipment.

The remainder of this program takes place in the labs and classrooms at the aquarium where students view and discuss the species of plankton caught from the boat, emphasizing the role these organisms play in the marine food web. Floating lab is commonly paired with the Squid Dissection, Sink or Float, and Rocky Intertidal labs, which further discuss the interconnections between the adaptations creatures make in the seas and the interdependence of life between species.

 

Single Lab (one class)

4 Hour Program ($1000)
Up to 30 students

Double Lab Discount!

2 Classes Same Day ($1500)
Up to 30 students per class

If your school is interested in a Floating Lab, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Floating Labs are available September through May, Tuesday - Thursdays only. Inquire for summer Floating Lab availability.


Marine Life Monitoring

Marine Life Monitoring

Join the Central Coast Aquarium as we take part in biological monitoring studies at various habitats along the central coast. This program's goal is to actively engage students in real-life scientific investigations and the scientific process, while also collecting data that will be used to better understand the marine communities found along our coast.

There are several habitat options for this program including:

Sandy Beach - held at the beach & Central Coast Aquarium: up to 30 students, $500

Rocky Intertidal - held at Shell Beach: up to 30 students, $500

Students participating in these programs will learn the sampling methodologies used by scientists to study the habitat of interest and the species found there. The data collected during each monitoring program will be added to our databases and will be made available to the participating classes, so that they can explore the patterns in catch. Local scientists also use this data for their own research. 

Come and join us for one of our exciting marine life monitoring programs and take science to a whole new level. 

 

If your school is interested in a Marine Life Monitoring Program, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Pre-K Program

Pre-K Program

Our Pre-School programs introduce your little explorers to the exciting world of marine life. This program is created for three and four-year-olds and groups are kept small to maximize the benefit and experience of our hands on learning environment. We focus on learning through the senses, as we explore slippery sea stars, spiny sea urchins and more! During this 1 hour program, students will have the opportunity to learn through different hands-on lessons, including marine mammals, sharks, and tidepools.

Programs last 1hr. Cost: $200 for a class of 20 students

If your school is interested in a Pre-K program, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Tidepools On Tour

Tidepools On Tour

The Central Coast Aquarium is excited to share this alternative program with you - near and far! Made possible through the development of our mobile aquarium tanks, we bring our live animals to you along with informational presentations and programs. Our travelling creatures include hermit crabs, Spiny California King Crabs, graceful crabs, decorator crabs, kelp crabs, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea anemones, gumboot chitons, keyhole limpets, sea snails, flatfish, mussels, scallops, and a variety of algae. And the best news is, all of these animals can be touched!

Typically packaging 1 - 2 lessons to accompany the Tidepool Discovery lesson, other popular classes include: Marine Mammals, Sharks and Rays, Hermit Crab Investigations, Water Chemistry, and others upon request.

Program Details

There is a minimum of 1 hour to schedule.
We recommend 1 hour per class or 30 participants.
If location is more than 10 miles away, travel fee is $0.545/mi.

School Groups

1 Hour ($450)
2 Hours ($550)
3 Hours ($650)

Non-School Groups

1 Hour ($500)
2 Hours ($600)
3 Hours ($700)

If your school or facility is interested in a Tidepools on Tour program, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(805) 595-7280

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

50 San Juan Street, Avila Beach, CA 93424