Book a Program at the Aquarium

Discovery Labs

Our instructor-led, hands-on Discovery Lab programs are held in classrooms at Birch Aquarium and are available weekdays. Aquarium admission included in program fee.

Discovery Labs are offered September 30, 2019-June 5, 2020.

Classes by Grade

Ages 2-TK   Grades K-2   Grades 3-5   Grades 6-8   Grades 9-12

All Birch Aquarium classes are Next Generation Science Standard aligned, those marked with an asterisk indicate that the class has been updated with the new standards in mind. 

2019-2020 School Programs Brochure


Pricing 

All ages: $11/student

Program Size

To best serve your students, we require that your class size remains below the maximum number of students per program. Small classes are welcome, but please note that you are required to pay for the student minimum per program.

Chaperone Policy and Ratios

All teachers, staff, counselors, and parents with your group are categorized as chaperones. Chaperones are required for the purpose of supervising students. Chaperones within the recommended ratios will be given free admission. Extra Chaperones are $16 each, and this admission can be purchased in the Visitor Services Office. 

  • Ages 2-TK: One chaperone per two students (1:2)
  • Grades K-12: One chaperone per five students (1:5)
  • All aides and nurses are given free admission during field trips.

How to Register

Reservations can be made online, by phone at 858-534-7336, or by email.
Reservations are required four (4) weeks in advance and are on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend that you register as soon as possible to ensure a visit on the date of your choice.


Ages 2-TK 

Student min/max: 15 students minimum, 24 students maximum
Program Duration: 50-minute lesson
Chaperone Ratio: One chaperone per two paid students (1:2)
Start Times: 9:45 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:15 p.m.

Introduce pre-Kindergarten students to ocean habitats and organisms. Through guided explorations, students observe how animals feel, move, and behave while building investigation skills. 

Meet and Greet the Sea 

Swim, crawl, walk: there's a lot of ways to get around in the sea. Learn how different animals move through play and live animal interactions.
Science Concepts: 

  • Properties and Characteristics of Living Things
  • Observation and Investigation

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Grades K-2

Student min/max: 20 students minimum, 25 students maximum
Program Duration: 60-minute lesson
Chaperone Ratio: One chaperone per five paid students (1:5)
Start Times:

  • K-1: 9:45 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:15 p.m.
  • Grade 2: 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 1 p.m.

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
  • SEP: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Engaging in Argument from Evidence 

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: Patterns, Structure and Function
  • SEP: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Engaging in Argument from Evidence 

Fascinating Fish (Grade 1) 

What makes a fish a fish? Through dress-up and exploration of real fish, students will investigate the unique characteristics of fishes. 
NGSS Alignment: 

  • DCI: LS1.A: Structure and Function
  • CCC: Patterns, Systems
  • SEP: Constructing Explanations

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: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Structure and Function, Stability and Change 
  • SEP: Argument from Evidence, Constructing Explanations

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Grades 3-5

Student min/max: 20 students minimum, 36 students maximum
Program Duration: 60-minute lesson
Chaperone Ratio: One chaperone per five paid students (1:5)
Start Times: 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 1 p.m.

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 (Grades 3, 4)

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, (Gr. 4) LS1.A: Structure and Function 
  • 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. 4) 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

Sensational Sharks (Grade 4)

Discover the body structures that have helped sharks thrive in the ocean for millions of years. Students will explore data from local scientists to understand how these adaptations can impact shark behavior.
NGSS Alignment:

  • DCI: LS1.A. Structure and Function
  • CCC: Cause and Effect, Structure and Function
  • SEP: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations, Obtaining, and Engaging in Argument from Evidence

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, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

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Grades 6-8 and 9-12

Student min/max: 20 students minimum, 36 students maximum
Program Duration: 75-minute lesson
Chaperone Ratio: One chaperone per five paid students (1:5)
Start Times: 9:45 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 1 p.m.

We’ve lengthened our middle- and high-school Discovery Labs to deepen the learning, so now students can explore ocean science and engineering concepts for 75 minutes. 

Shark Science (Grades 6, 7)

For over 50 years, locals have observed the phenomenon of large numbers of leopard sharks gathering off of La Jolla. Students become the scientists, as they explore this phenomenon and understand why sharks are our yearly visitors.
NGSS Alignment: 

  • DCI: (Gr.6) LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms, (Gr. 7) LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • CCC: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Structure and Function, Systems and System Models 
  • SEP: Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information, Analyzing and Interpreting Data 

Energy Engineering Challenge (Grades 6, 8, 9-12)

Examine the use of natural resources for energy and the impacts of human activities. Students investigate alternative energy sources and engineer solutions for the energy needs of a growing world.
NGSS Alignment: 

  • DCI: (Gr. 6, 8, 9-12) ETS1.A: Defining an Engineering Problem, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions, ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution, ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • CCC: Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World, Cause and Effect, Scale, Proportion, and Quantity, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function
  • SEP: Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Fish or Squid Dissection (Grades 6, 7, 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 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

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Thank you to our Education Donors! With their continued support, Birch Aquarium is able to promote ocean literacy in the classroom and in the field.