Aquarium Express Outreach

Aquarium Express Outreach

Through the generosity of our donors, our Aquarium Express van can travel to your school. Students will experience a variety of hands-on Discovery Labs in the comfort of their own classroom.

Available through financial aid only.

Financial Aid and Program Size

What grades can participate in Aquarium Express Outreach?

Aquarium Express Outreach are offered for students grades K-12. All Birch Aquarium programs are Next Generation Science Standard aligned.

Financial Aid

Available through financial aid only. Submit a financial aid application before requesting your Outreach programs. Must book a minimum of two sessions per day.

Program Minimum and Maximum

Program min/max: 2 sessions, 4 sessions

To ensure the best use of our resources, we require booking at least two (2) program sessions per outreach day. Up to four (4) program sessions may be booked per day, depending on distance and length of day. Some program titles are able to be combined to serve multiple grades per day, with up to two (2) different titles per day.

    Program Polices

    Please review our complete program information and policies before booking your program.

    Download Complete Program Information and Policies

    Program Travel Distance Requirements

    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
    • Fish or Squid Dissection
    Teacher & Room Policy

    Programs involve many materials and sometimes include live animals. To reduce set up time and stress on the animals, one (1) consistent space/classroom is required for all sessions. Instructors cannot go classroom to classroom.

    At least one (1) supervisory teacher must be present during the entire outreach program. Parent volunteers are encouraged to help.

    Outreach Program Schedule Needs

    We can work with your school's bell schedule to design a program schedule that meets our instructing needs and yours! In general, we ask for the following:

    • We ask for a minimum of 15 minutes between multiple sessions for our instructors to reset the materials and maintain live organisms.
    • A minimum of 30 minutes is needed to reset materials when switching between two (2) different program topics.
    • When booking 3-4 sessions per visit, we require a 30-minute lunch break for our instructing staff (in addition to 15 minutes for reset).
    COVID-19 Policy

    If your school site has specific COVID-19 requirements that our staff will need to adhere to (i.e., vaccination policy, masking, hand washing/sanitization, etc.), please communicate this to us at least 2 weeks in advance via email to

    All Birch Aquarium staff must be in compliance with UC San Diego’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, in addition to conducting a daily self-screening for symptoms.

    Registration Policy

    How to register for an Aquarium Express Outreach

    Aquarium Express Outreach programs are available through financial aid only. Please complete a financial aid application to request your programs.
    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.

    Apply for Financial Aid

    Classes by Grade

     Grades K-2   Grades 3-5   Grades 6-12  

    Learning Resources

    Want to extend the learning for your students and connect to our programs? We have created pre- and post-programming resources that will enhance several of our NGSS-aligned Discovery Lab programs.

    Pre and Post Program Materials

    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. 

    Student max: 25 students
    Program Duration: 60-minute lesson

    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

     Apply for Financial Aid

    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.

    Student max: 36 students
    Program Duration: 60-minute lesson

    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

    Apply for Financial Aid 

    Grades 6-8 and 9-12

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

    Student max: 36 students
    Program Duration: 60-minute lesson
    Chaperone Ratio: One chaperone per five students (1:5)

    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) NEW*

    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) NEW*

    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

    Apply for Financial Aid 

    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.