Aquarium Express Outreach

Plan Your Aquarium Express Outreach

Through the generosity of our donors, our Aquarium Express van can travel to your school. Students in grades K-12 will experience a variety of hands-on Discovery Labs in the comfort of their own classroom. All Birch Aquarium programs are Next Generation Science Standard aligned. Available through financial aid only. 

Aquarium Express Outreaches are fully booked for the year. We are no longer accepting financial aid applications for the 2023-24 school year.

Financial Aid

We will reopen financial aid applications for the 2024-2025 school in late summer 2024. Join our Teacher Email list to receive information about upcoming programs, financial aid, and more!



Review complete program information and policies before booking an Aquarium Express Outreach.

Read Policies

Program Travel Distance

We are unable to provide programs that involve transportation of live animals outside of a 30-mile radius. The following programs can travel outside of 30 miles: Deep Sea Debris, Diving into DNA, Fish Diversity, and Fish or Squid Dissection.

Teacher and Room Policy

Our programs involve the transportation of many materials and sometimes include live animals. To reduce set up time and stress on the animals, one consistent space/classroom is required for all sessions. Instructors cannot go classroom to classroom. At least one supervisory teacher must be present during the entire outreach program. Parent volunteers are encouraged to help.


Cancellations, changes and rescheduling must be made 4 weeks in advance so that we may provide other schools in need with this outreach opportunity. If you cancel your program within 4 weeks of your scheduled date, you forfeit your financial aid offer for the year. 

Learning Resources

Explore our Pre and Post Program Resources that will enhance several of our NGSS-aligned Aquarium Express programs

Pre and Post Program Resources

Discovery Lab Programs by Grades

sea squirts

Grades K-2

Explore the wondrous ocean habitats of the Kelp Forest, Sandy Shores and Tide Pools. Students in the early elementary grades put their observation skills to use to understand patterns of how different animals survive in these unique habitats.


Colossal Kelp (Grades K, 1)

Dive into the wonderful world of kelp as students learn about the kelp bed habitat and meet the amazing critters that call this underwater forest habitat home. 

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: LS1.C: Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms, ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • CCC: Structure and Function, Patterns, Systems
  • SEP: Argument from Evidence, Constructing Explanations
Tide Pool Treasures (Grades K, 1)

Students explore the world of tide pools and learn how tide pool creatures find food, protect themselves and move in this dynamic habitat.

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms, ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • CCC: Structure and Function, Patterns, Systems
  • SEP: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Argument from Evidence
Sandy Shores (Grade 2)

How does water affect the sandy shore habitat? Students explore what sand is made of, how it is created, and the animals that live in the sand.

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans, ESS2.A: Earth Materials
  • CCC: Cause and Effect, Stability and Change
  • SEP: Argument from Evidence, Constructing Explanations

Students pull kelp out of a bowl of water to study.

Grades 3-5

Let your students get their hands on an understanding of structure and function with our Dissection Discovery Labs, or learn how we are connected to and impact the creatures of the ocean.


Fish Diversity (Grade 3)

Through hands-on exploration of biofacts and specimens, students will develop an understanding of the roles that adaptations in body shape, coloration, and teeth play in enabling fish to survive in diverse habitats.

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: (Gr. 3) LS4.C: Adaptation
  • CCC: Patterns, Cause and Effect
  • SEP: Constructing Explanations, Argument from Evidence
Creatures of the Kelp (Grades 3, 5)

Discover an underwater forest and its importance to marine organisms. How can changes in the environment affect this ecosystem?

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: (Gr. 3) LS2.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience, (Gr. 5) LS1.C: Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
  • CCC: Systems and System Models
  • SEP: Developing Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Fish or Squid Dissection (Grades 4, 5)

Examine fish or squid inside and out through dissection of the animal.

  • Grade 4 students will discover the structures that help the animal to swim, eat, and protect itself in the open ocean habitat.
  • Grade 5 students will explore the role of the animal in the food chain based on their body structures and functions.

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: (Gr. 4) LS1.A: Structure and Function, (Gr. 5) LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, LS2.B: Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
  • CCC: Systems, Structure and Function
  • SEP: Constructing Explanations, Argument from Evidence

Students at table learn how to dissect a squid.

Grades 6-8 and 9-12

Let your students become scientists through a dissection or exploration of an ocean phenomenon, learning about structure and function through an organism or systems approach. 


Fish or Squid Dissection (Grades 6, 7 and 9-12)

As scientists, students use the mackerel or squid as their model subject.

  • Grade 6 students will identify animal structures and their functions, as well as determine the system to which they belong.
  • Grade 7 students will explore how the adaptations of the animal help them avoid predation and compete for resources within their ecosystem.
  • Grades 9-12 students deepen the exploration of animal structures and their functions to discuss how the interactions of their systems help the animal survive.

NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: (Gr. 6, 9-12) LS1.A: Structure and Function, (Gr. 7) LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • CCC: Structure and Function, Systems, Cause and Effect
  • SEP: Constructing Explanations, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Diving into DNA (Grade 8)

How do scientists use genetics to help seahorses? Through an introduction to gel electrophoresis, students will explore how Birch Aquarium aquarists and Scripps Oceanography scientists work together to create successful breeding plans for seahorses in aquariums around the world.

NGSS Alignment

  • DCI: LS4.B: Natural Selection
  • CCC: Cause and Effect
  • SEP: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information; Developing and Using Models
Deep Sea Debris (Grades 9-12)

Discover how human activity is impacting deep sea ecosystems. Students will collect data on the prey and plastics found in the stomachs of a deep sea predator, the longnose lancetfish, to understand how pollution impacts every part of our ocean planet.

NGSS Alignment

  • DCI: LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
  • CCC: Asking Questions and Defining Problems; Analyzing and Interpreting Data; Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • SEP: Cause and Effect; Stability and Change