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Science-Based Education Programs for School Groups (TK-College)

Explore Human and Wildlife Connections at Bolsa Chica!


The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is an excellent place for students of all ages to learn beyond the classroom and experience wetland science and history first hand! The Bolsa Chica Conservancy offers a full spectrum of educational opportunities and activities for students in grades TK-College. Our programs align with the Next Generation Science 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. Visiting students will come to understand the importance of wetland habitats as well as the role they play within the larger water cycle. Students are encouraged to consider the role they play in maintaining the health of our watersheds, wetlands, and oceans, and how ultimately, we are all connected.


CA History Standards:

K - 4-1, 4-2, 6-3  
1st - 4-3, 5-2
3rd - 1-2, 1-3, 2-1, 2-2, 2-4
4th - 2-1, 2-5, 2-8, 4-7, 4-4
5th - 1-1
6th - 1-1

Next Generation Science Standards:

K - ESS2-(1-2), ESS3-1  
2nd - LS2-(1-2), LS4-1. ESS2-(2-3)
3rd - LS2-1, LS4-(3-4)
4th - ESS2-1
5th - LS2-1, ESS3-1
Middle School - LS1-6, LS2-(1-2,4-5), LS4-(1-2,6), ESS2-4, ESS3-(3-4)
High School - LS1-5, LS2-(1-8), LS4-(4-6), ESS2-5, ESS3-1, ESS3-3 

Program Activities

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


Guided Hike of the Wetlands - TK-College

Description: Explore the many wonders of Bolsa Chica! Students will get to experience the wetlands first-hand through a guided nature hike within the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and tour of the Bolsa Chica Conservancy interpretive center. Subjects covered during the program can include, but are not limited to, wetland ecology, plants and animals, adaptations, food webs/chains, watersheds, the importance of wetland habitats for migration and flyways, California endemic species, abiotic and biotic factors, flood control, pollution control, and endangered species. With hundreds of animal and plant species to be found while exploring Bolsa Chica, every visit is guaranteed to be a unique experience.

Duration: 1-2 hours Suggested Donation: $6.00 per student*


Create a Critter - TK-4th

Description: Create your own unique animal while learning about adaptations in this STEM-based craft activity! Students will learn about different types of adaptations and how they are used to help animals survive in the wild, and then create their very own animal out of oven-bake clay that they can take home and complete with their family.

Duration: 30 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Making Tracks - TK-4th

Description: Make a memorable impression at the wetlands! Students will learn all about the types of animal tracks found at the wetlands and then make some of their own! By mixing together water and plaster, students will bring home a unique animal track from the local wildlife.

Duration: 30 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Fish Prints - TK-4th

Description: Get creative while learning about marine life at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve! Students will learn about the different types of marine organisms living in the wetlands and then bring out their artistic creativity by making paint prints of a fish, shark, or ray!

Duration: 30 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Bill Nye the Science Guy - K-5th

Description: Get your students laughing and learning with Bill Nye the Science Guy and his fun‐filled educational video about wetlands! This engaging video uses exciting demonstrations and humorous images to help kids learn about wetlands. It is a sure way to get your students excited about wetland science!

Duration: 30 minutes Suggested Donation: $0


Birds & Adaptations - 3rd-6th

Description: Investigate the changing features of the wetlands and discover some of the birds that call the wetlands home! Students will learn how tides change the wetlands every day, and how low tides help create an all-you-can-eat buffet for the birds. Using binoculars, students will have the opportunity to count birds, record the numbers, and learn to identify some of the birds they see. A group discussion will be facilitated after students have recorded their sightings, so as to discuss the differences between the many bird species within Bolsa Chica.

Duration: 30 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


What's In The Mud? - 5th-12th

Description: This activity is designed to give students the chance to identify and learn about the many different marsh invertebrates living in and on the mud at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in a fun and interactive way. Students will be able to see live specimens and view them under the microscope as well. Topics discussed include taxonomy, adaptations, feeding habits, and food webs.

Duration: 30-60 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Water Quality Testing - 6th-12th

Description: This program introduces students to aspects of water quality, as well as data monitoring and comparison. Students are taught the basics of wetland ecology and hydrology, followed by a hands‐on field experiment gathering their own water quality data from 2-3 test sites within Bolsa Chica using LaMotte test kits, refractometers, and a secchi disc.

Duration: 60-90 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Investigating Plankton - 6th-12th

Description: T Dive into this program about the importance of plankton in wetland ecology and how these microscopic organisms make huge impacts on the world. Students will have the opportunity to collect plankton samples from the wetlands using a plankton tow net and observe their findings under microscopes while identifying the various types of plankton found.

Duration: 45-60 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Plant Population Diversity - 9th-College

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.

Duration: 60 minutes Suggested Donation: $4.00 per student (when combined with the guided hike; $6 alone)*


Service - TK-College

Service Get your students involved with hands‐on restoration of the wetlands! Your group can either remove invasive plants or trash and debris from the Ecological Reserve. This is a great way to become more connected with the wetlands!

Duration: 30-60 minutes Suggested Donation: $4 (when combined with the guided hike; $5 alone)*

To schedule a visit, please visit:

BCC Program Interest Form

For more information about on-site activities, please contact Whitney Thompson at (714)846-1114 or whitney@bolsachica.org.

*The Bolsa Chica Conservancy is committed to providing access and education for all, and the suggested donation is in no way required, but its greatly appreciated.*

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