Santa Cruz District Field Trips

The Santa Cruz District of California State Parks is offering live interactive videoconference programs and traditional in-person field trips at most of our parks for the 2022-2023 school year. The free 30-45 minute virtual field trips are aligned to academic content standards, customizable to teachers’ needs, and available on any videoconference platform, although Zoom is recommended for the best experience. In-person field trips will follow all required COVID-19 safety protocols. To request a virtual or in-person field trip or for more information, click on any of the park unit links below.

| Año Nuevo | Castle RockCastro Adobe | Forest of Nisene MarksHalf Moon Bay |
Henry Cowell 
Natural Bridges | Rancho del Oso |Santa Cruz MissionSeacliffWilder Ranch |

 

Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo

Please note: Guided tours during the breeding season are limited to grades 4-12 with a total of 20 students maximum accompanied by a maximum of 2 chaperones per tour. We accept homeschool groups with group sizes of 10 or more students. If registering for a large group of students, please select multiple tour times to accommodate your group size. For questions or concerns, please call (650) 879-2032 or email anonuevostatepark@ports-ca.us.

In-Person Programs:

Breeding Season Guided Walk: State Parks Docents introduce students to the evolutionary history and adaptations of the northern elephant seals of Año Nuevo State Reserve with a rookery visit during the busy winter breeding season. Tours are required for viewing the seals December through March due to high park visitation. Please read the confirmation email and ensure students are prepared due to tightly scheduled seal tours. This 2.5-hour program is appropriate for grades 4-12 and available December through March.

Spring Season Guided Walk: Join a State Parks Docent for a guided walk through the reserve to learn about a different part of the northern elephant seal lifecycle. During the spring, adult and juvenile seals cluster along the beaches and molt their skin and fur while weaned pups prepare for their first ocean migration. Spring wildflowers and wildlife are also abundant. The spring season receives fewer park visitors and allows more flexibility for school visits. This 2-hour program is appropriate for grades K-12 and available in April and May.

Spring Season Self-Guided Walk: Explore the reserve on your own and discover a different part of the northern elephant seal lifecycle. During the spring, adult and juvenile seals cluster along the beaches and molt their skin and fur while weaned pups prepare for their first ocean migration. Spring wildflowers and wildlife are also abundant. Docent guides may be available upon request. Once registered, please follow the instructions in your confirmation email to request a guide at no cost. The spring season receives fewer park visitors and allows more flexibility for school visits. This 2-hour program is appropriate for grades K-12 and available in April and May.

Virtual Programs:

Elephant Seal Tour: Discuss the behavior, lifecycle, and adaptations of the northern elephant seal. These unique animals spend the majority of their lives at sea where they forage for food to bulk up for time spent on land. Elephant seals visit Año Nuevo State Park twice a year to breed and molt. This program is appropriate for grades K-12. 

Visit Ano Nuevo's School Group Walks page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (650) 879-2032 or email anonuevostatepark@ports-ca.us

Register for a Breeding Season Año Nuevo Program by calling 1-800-444-7275.

The Reserve California call center is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm, except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Reservations open on Saturday, October 8 at 8 am. When calling to make a reservation, be prepared to share your contact information, number of students and chaperones, grade level, and any special needs for students. The cost is $21 per school group plus $7.99 reservation fee. There are no ticket refunds or exchanges for cancellations, no shows, weather, or late arrivals. Refunds are issued only when the park staff must cancel a walk. As much notice as possible will be given in the event of a cancellation.

Register for a SPRING SEASON Año Nuevo Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Año Nuevo Program!

Additional Digital Resources: 
Año Nuevo Flipgrid
Elephant Seals Padlet
360 Park and Año Nuevo Island Tours


 

Geology at Castle Rock 

In-Person Program
During this three hour program, students will learn about the natural wonders of Castle Rock State Park by hiking the trails. The hike will focus on the park's distinctive geology, but will also touch on other subjects including Native American peoples, local wildlife, and modern human impacts to our ecosystems. All attendees should be prepared for a 1.5-mile hike up to Castle Rock, the park’s namesake feature, so be sure to bring water and a bag lunch and wear close-toed shoes or hiking boots. The maximum group size is 30 students per program with a preferred adult to student ratio of 1:8 (not including park staff).

Virtual Program
Students learn about the natural wonders of Castle Rock State Park on a virtual guided hike to Castle Rock, the park's namesake. The program focuses on the park's distinctive geology, but will also introduce other subjects including Native American peoples, local wildlife, and modern human impacts to our ecosystems. 

Visit Castle Rock's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 291-8273 or email portolacastlerock@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Castle Rock Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Castle Rock Program!


 

Life at Rancho San Andres and the Castro Adobe

In-Person Program: Life on the Rancho
Step back in time and learn about the Castro family, who traveled from Sinaloa Mexico to settle in Alta California. During this two-hour program, students (grades 3-4) will have an opportunity to practice their diseno (map) making skills, learn about Spanish music, fandango dancing, tortilla making and life on a cattle ranch during the Mexican Rancho period of the 1800s. They will also discover how this 170 year old adobe hacienda was built while touring the interior. This field trip is limited to only one class at a time with a maximum of 30 students.

Virtual Program: Growing up on a Mexican Rancho
Imagine growing up on a cattle ranch raising your own food and living in a two-story adobe building during the mid-1800s. During this virtual 45-minute presentation students (3-4 grade) will discover the challenges of growing up on a rancho, welcoming guests with a fandango and having vaqueros capture wild bulls and grizzly bears for competitive fights. They will learn about the Castros, who were one of the first European families to settle in this area, and the famous two-story adobe hacienda they built over 170 years ago.

Visit Castro Adobe's Teachers paqe for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 226-9669 or email castroadobe@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Castro Adobe Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Castro Adobe Program!


 

Resilience and Regeneration in the Forest of Nisene Marks  

In-Person Program: Redwood Tour
Come listen to the language of the forest while walking among giant coast redwood trees in The Forest of Nisene Marks. Discover what makes redwood trees such great survivors. Be on the lookout for a slimy yellow animal (banana slug) that calls this forest home. Also, we will discuss why there are marine fossils in the middle of the forest. This field trip is suitable for K-12 students. 

Virtual Program: Redwoods, Waterfalls, and Banana Slugs, Oh my!
During this live virtual field trip experience, you and your students will have the chance to explore the Forest of Nisene Marks! This program is designed for students of all ages and provides students the opportunity to learn about the Forest of Nisene Marks and the many unique natural, cultural, and historic resources that call this place home.

Visit The Forest of Nisene Marks' Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 685-6444 or email seacliff@ports-ca.us.  

Register for an IN-PERSON Forest of Nisene Marks Program! 
Register for a VIRTUAL Forest of Nisene Marks Program!


 

Shore and Ocean Life at Half Moon Bay

In-Person Programs:

Birding at Francis Beach: Explore sandy Francis Beach (in Half Moon Bay State Beach) and the birds that call it home, including the threatened Western Snowy Plover. Learn to use binoculars and how you can help protect our birds, too! This program is for grades 3-6. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-35.

Geology of the Rocky Shore: Experience the excitement of discovery like real geologists at Pebble Beach in Bean Hollow State Beach! Learn key geologic features and explore the rocky shore through activities, a guided hike, and a geology lab. This program is for grades 2-5. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-120.

Marine Mammal Adaptations: Discover which marine mammals live along our local shoreline and learn how they are adapted to life in the ocean. Explore and examine blubber, skulls, fur, and ocean food webs at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. This program is for grades K-6. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-90.

Gray Whale Cove Trail:
Witness unforgettable views of the Pacific coast, Gray Whale Cove, and rugged coastal hills in Montara State Beach! Come explore both history and science along the California coast on this 2-mile guided hike. This program is for grades 3-6. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-35.

Pescadero Marsh Wildlife: Explore the largest coastal wetlands in our area on a guided walk through the march in Pescadero State Beach. Learn about marsh ecology, historical uses, and why wetlands need to be protected. This program is for grades 2-12. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-35.

Sandy Beach Habitat:
Explore the ecology of the sandy beach habitat through a variety of guided activities at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. Learn about where sand comes from and what organisms live on (or under) the sand! This program is for grades K-6. The number of students who can participate per program is 20-120. 

Virtual Programs:

Geology of the Rocky Shore: Learn how scientists uncover the long and active history of the earth by studying rocks and the formations along our coast.

Tide Pool Invertebrates: Examine the many species of invertebrates that live in the intertidal zone that cannot be found anywhere else, and the adaptations they need to survive in this harsh and constantly changing environment.

Animal Habitats and Adaptations: Investigate how State Parks protect many animals from the beaches to the ocean, how they are adapted to their environment, and what we can all do to help preserve their homes for the future.

All Virtual Programs are for grades K-5 and customized based on grade levels.

Visit Half Moon Bay's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (650) 726-8814 or email halfmoonbay@ports-ca.us

Register an IN-PERSON Half Moon Bay Program!  
Register a VIRTUAL Half Moon Bay Program!


 

Redwood Ecology at Henry Cowell Redwoods

In-Person Program: Under the Redwoods 
During this experience, you and your students will walk the Old-Growth Redwood Loop Trail with an interpreter and learn about coast redwood life history, physiology, adaptations, ecosystems, and more! Program specifics differ depending on age group (grades K-2, 3-6, 7-12).

Virtual Program: Why Do Redwoods Live Here?
In this program, students will gain exposure to the wonderful redwood habitat. Students will discover why redwoods live in the Santa Cruz Mountains while learning about what redwoods need to survive and how they use adaptations to obtain the things they need to stay alive.

Visit Henry Cowell Redwoods' Teacher Page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 335-7077 or email henrycowell@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Henry Cowell Redwoods Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Henry Cowell Redwoods Program!


 

Invertebrates at Natural Bridges State Beach

In-Person Progam: Monarch Butterflies
During this one hour field trip you will be introduced to the amazing monarch butterfly. Students will learn about the monarch life cycle and migration and why the monarchs overwinter at Natural Bridges. Students will also learn what they can do to help with monarch conservation. This program involves a brief presentation followed by a short walk to our nectar garden and then down a wooden boardwalk to the Monarch Grove.  NGSS standards that are typically covered with this program include: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-11-LS1-22-LS2-23-LS3-2, and 4-LS1-1. This program can be adapted to be NGSS appropriate for your K-12 classes. A maximum of 35 students and chaperones per class or 70 students for multiple classes can participate per program. Multiple classes will need to reserve multiple tours if visitng on the same day. 

In-Person Program: Tidepools
On this 1.5 hour guided field trip to the rocky intertidal zone, you will be introduced to the species and habitat of the tidepools through games and activities before venturing out into the tidepools to explore. Students will learn the importance of Marine Protected Areas for conserving tidepool life and how they can make a difference in protecting our environment. The 15 minute walk to the tidepools includes sand and slightly uneven rocks. NGSS standards that are typically covered with this program include: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-11-LS1-12-LS4-1, 3-LS4-33-LS1-1,  4-LS1-15-PS3-1, 5-LS2-1MS-LS1-1, MS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6, and HS-LS4-5. This program can be adapted to be NGSS appropriate for your K-12 classes. A maximum of 35 students and chaperones can particpate per program. Groups of more than 35 students will need to reserve multiple tours if visiting the same day. 

Virtual Program: Monarch Butterflies
During this program, your students will have the chance to discover the life cycle, migration, adaptations, and conservation of monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges and all across the state. This one hour program is facilitated by California State Park interpreters live from the park. NGSS standards that are typically covered with this program include: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-11-LS1-22-LS2-23-LS3-2, and 4-LS1-1. This program can be adapted to be NGSS appropriate for your K-12 classes.

Virtual Program: Tidepools
During this program, you and your students will discover tidepool adaptations and zonation at Natural Bridges State Beach. This one hour program will guide you and your students through the intertidal zone and the unique species that call this place home. NGSS standards that are typically covered with this program include: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-11-LS1-12-LS4-1, 3-LS4-33-LS1-1 4-LS1-15-PS3-1, 5-LS2-1MS-LS1-1, MS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6, and HS-LS4-5. This program can be adapted to be NGSS appropriate for your K-12 classes.

Visit Natural Bridges' Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 423-4609 ext. 1 or email naturalbridges@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Natural Bridges Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Natural Bridges Program! 


 

Fire Ecology at Rancho del Oso 

In-Person Program: Seeds: Nature's Stowaways 
During this two hour field trip, you will visit the Nature and History Center and then see Waddell Creek and portions of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burn scar. Students will learn about the effect of wildfires on several ecosystems. Students will also learn what they can do to help nature recover after a wildfire.

Please note: Chaperones are responsible for supervising the students' behavior and keeping the group together and focused on the program. We require a ratio of 1:7, adult to children.The maximum number of students per trip is 50. If you have a large school group (25+), we will split students into smaller groups of 20 or less. One group will begin in the Nature Center while the other joins our interpreter for a guided walk. Groups will switch halfway through your visit to explore both areas. 

Virtual Program: Burn Zone Biology
How do things look years after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire? What’s the same? What’s different? What animals survived? What animals are doing better than before? All these questions and more will be answered as you examine items found at Rancho del Oso after the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in a 45 minute virtual field trip.

Visit Rancho del Oso's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 218-5650 or email ranchodeloso@ports-ca.us.

Request an IN-PERSON Rancho del Oso Program!
Request a VIRTUAL Rancho del Oso Program!


 

Indigenous History at Santa Cruz Mission

In-Person Program: Mission Day
The Mission Day program takes students from the life of the Ohlone people in their village to their life in the Santa Cruz Mission with the Spanish.Students will understand how the California Mission System changed traditional Indigenous life forever. They will consider ways in which Native people responded to this change resulting in cultural continuity and cultural change. This program has a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 39 students. We have a required total of 6-9 chaperones.

Please note: The themes and discussions that we approach in our program with students may be challenging for some communities or individuals.

In-Person Program: Mission Rotations
For larger school groups, this program is available to fourth grade teachers and students with a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 90 students. During this program, you and your students will participate in several stations illustrating daily life in the Santa Cruz Mission, including an adobe tour. To book a Mission Rotations program, please call (831) 425-5849 or email santacruzmission@ports-ca.us.

Please note: The themes and discussions that we approach in our program with students may be challenging for some communities or individuals.

Visit Santa Cruz Mission's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 425-5849 or email santacruzmission@ports-ca.us.

Register for an IN-PERSON Santa Cruz Mission Program! 


 

Fossils and Marine Life at Seacliff

In-Person Programs:

Fossils, Floating, and Fauna: Explore Seacliff State Beach and discover a secret that is 2.5 to 5 million years old. During this two hour long program, students (grades 2-4) will have the opportunity to practice their paleontological skills by brushing for fossils…an activity that can only be done on a field trip! Students will then dive into how a ship made out of concrete can float and what animals call this ship home.

Marine Sanctuary Exploration: Seacliff State Beach is located in the heart of Monterey Bay. This bay is a very special place as it is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. During this 60 minute program, K-1 students will design a marine sanctuary and then travel down to the beach to look for evidence of plants, animals, and people.


Virtual Programs: 

Seafloor to Seashore: How did fossils from the seafloor end up in the cliffs at Seacliff State Beach? During this 45-minute virtual program, students (grades 2-4) will become paleontologists and investigate how fossils are made and how the beach has changed in the last 5 million years.

Float a Concrete Ship?: The S.S. Palo Alto attracts visitors from all over the world. This unique ship is made out of something that’s surprising to many people…concrete! How can a concrete ship float and why is a broken ship still at the end of the pier at Seacliff State Beach? During this 45-minute program, students will explore the physical forces that determine what floats and what sinks. There will also be discussion around which animals call the ship home.

Marine Sanctuary Exploration: Explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary during a 30-minute program. Students (K-1) will help build an ocean sanctuary by taking a look at what does and does not belong in safe places for marine life. There will also be discussions about the different habitats that are found within the sanctuary.

Avian Adaptations: Birds are a common sight at Seacliff State Beach. During this 45-minute program, students (grades 2-4) will learn how adaptations, specifically beaks and feet, of birds allow them to make themselves at home in almost any habitat, including some surprising places at Seacliff.

Visit Seacliff's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 685-6444 or email seacliff@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Seacliff Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Seacliff Program!


 

Ranch History at Wilder Ranch

In-Person Program: Ranch History and Farm Animal Encounters
Travel back to the year 1900 here at Wilder Ranch and discover what it was like to live and work at a dairy ranch on this program designed for grades 2-4. Join California State Park interpreters during this two-hour-long program while we explore the essentials to making a successful dairy ranch. Students will meet our farm animals, learn how to do the jobs necessary to dairy ranching, and explore what everyday life would be like for someone their age at Wilder Ranch over 100 years ago. The number of students who can participate per program is 15-35 students, with a 1:2 ratio of chaperones to students. This program takes place outdoors, so please be prepared for varied weather conditions and bring water. 

Virtual Program: A Hard Day's Work on the Ranch
Living on a dairy ranch in the year 1900 took a lot of hard work and required working together as a team to be successful. This one hour program, designed for grades 1-4, explores some of the tasks and responsibilities that children would have been expected to help with. Follow along with our interpretive staff as they showcase our volunteers demonstrating some of the work that kids were expected to help with while we discuss and learn all about a kid's role on the ranch.

Visit Wilder Ranch's Teachers page for more information on school programs. For questions or concerns, please call (831) 426-0505 or email wilderranch@ports-ca.us

Register for an IN-PERSON Wilder Ranch Program!
Register for a VIRTUAL Wilder Ranch Program!

Additional Digital Resources: 
Wilder Ranch Flipgrid
Wilder Ranch YouTube Channel