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Science-Based Education Programs for Grades 9-12

Explore Human and Wildlife Connections at Bolsa Chica!


The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is an excellent place for high school students to get outdoors, and experience wetland science and history first hand! The Bolsa Chica Conservancy offers a full spectrum of educational opportunities and activities for students in high school. Our programs align with California State Standards and are tailored to suit the age, grade and maturity level of our participants. We cover all aspects of wetland ecology, watershed protection, biology and history, with an emphasis on conservation and restoration. Through our It’s All Connected programs, we provide visitors with an understanding of the importance of the unique wetland habitat as well as the role it plays within the larger water cycle. We encourage our learners to consider the role they play in maintaining the health of our watersheds, wetlands, and oceans, and how ultimately, It’s All Connected!

Program Activities:

Programs listed below can be combined to create a tailor-made experience for your students!


*The Bolsa Chica Conservancy is committed to providing access to all, and the suggested donation is in no way required.


Guided Hike of the Wetlands

Description: Explore the many wonders of the wetlands!  Visitors get to experience the wetlands first hand during a guided nature hike and tour of our interpretive center.  Coyotes, reptiles, and birds, oh my!   There is always something exciting on our trails, and participants will get to see some of the diverse wildlife living at Bolsa Chica while learning about wetlands and their importance worldwide.  Issues specific to Bolsa Chica are covered.  Topics include, but are not limited to, wetland ecology, plants and animals, adaptations, watersheds, and importance of wetland habitats for migration and flyways, California endemic species, abiotic and biotic factors, flood control, pollution control, and endangered species.

Total Time: Varies from 1-2 hours

CA Science Standards:   

Grades 9th-12th

Cell Biology 1f

Ecology 6a, 6b, 6e-g

Evolution 7d, 8b

Earth Sciences 9c

Next Generation Science Standards:

Grades 9th-12th

LS1-5, LS2-(1-8), LS4-(4-6), ESS2-5, ESS3-1, ESS3-3

Suggested Donation:
$5.00 / Student, up to 2 hours
$1.50 / Student, each additional hour


Laboratory Activities

Activities listed below will complement any of our program activities and help to reinforce concepts discussed during the visit. Please note: costs listed are flat fees; we do not apply an hourly rate. Total time varies from 1-2 hours.

Plankton Lab

Suggested Donation: $3.00 per student
Description: Through this lab students will learn about the importance of plankton in wetland ecology.  They will have the opportunity to collect plankton samples from the wetland using a plankton net and observe organisms under microscopes while identifying the various types of plankton.

Total Time: 60 minutes

Plant Communities Lab

Suggested Donation: $3.00 per student

Description: Students will discover the different plant communities at Bolsa Chica, and learn about special adaptations plants have to enable them to survive in these communities.  They will also learn about native versus non-native vegetation and the impacts of invasive species on plant communities.  Students will study plant composition in these communities using either the quadrat method (Pound & Clements, 1898) or transect method.

Total Time:60 minutes

Soils of the Wetland

Suggested Donation: $3.00 per student

Description:  After an introduction on soil analysis, students will collect and extract soils from a variety of locations in the wetland.  Once soil extraction is complete, students will run a series of tests to determine grain size, pH, salinity, and nutrient levels of the soils.

Total Time: 60 minutes

Water Quality Lab

Suggested Donation: $3.00 per student
Description: This program introduces students to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and water quality data monitoring.  Students are introduced to the basics of wetland ecology and hydrology.  Students will then gain hands-on field experience and will be introduced to water quality monitoring using LaMotte tablet kits.

Total Time: 60 minutes

What’s in the Mud? Invertebrate Lab

Suggested Donation: $3.00 per student
Description: This lab is designed to give students the chance to identify and learn about many different tidal marsh invertebrates at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in a fun and interactive way. Students will be able to go out in the field to search for tidal invertebrates and view microscopic mud-dwelling animals in the classroom as well. Topics discussed include adaptations, feeding habits, and basic taxonomy.

Total Time: 60 minutes

Wetland Exploration Program - Advanced Placement Classes


This long-term research program is designed to provide Advanced Placement science students with hands-on field research experience. During an initial visit, students take part in a guided hike along the trails where they are introduced to wetland ecology, Bolsa Chica history, hydrology and other topics (see Guided Hike of the Wetlands on page 1). Following the tour, students choose an area of concentration that they would like to do their research on. Topics include: Plankton, Water Quality, Soils, and Plant Communities. Students will be grouped based on their chosen topic, and will collect data at the Reserve four times over the course of several months. Once data collection is finished, students will analyze their data and create a formal research paper, to be presented at the end of the year.

Service Component


Any visit can be coupled with a service component, as part of our Restoration Program. This activity may include: removal of invasive plant species, installation of native plant species, and/or trash removal from the Reserve. Service projects can last up to one hour.

To schedule a visit, please visit:

BCC Program Interest Form

*Use the download link below for a complete PDF version of our programs:

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