Visit the homepage of the California Coastal Commission

Right Column

Resources for California Educators

Waves, Wetlands, and Watersheds Science Activity Guide
Waves, Wetlands, and Watersheds
is a classroom and community activity guide, first printed in 2003, that addresses issues such as endangered species, marine debris, coastal geology, water use, and much more. It is carefully aligned to the California State Science Content Standards for grades 3 through 8, and includes “Community Action” lessons adaptable for all ages up to and beyond 12th grade. The guide is available for free from the California Coastal Commission. Call or email for more information or to request an orientation workshop for your area.

Our Wetlands, Our World High School Activity Guide
Our Wetlands, Our World provides information and activities to help high school students learn about the importance of wetlands and to become involved in the restoration of these valuable, unique environments. It also helps bring State Content Standards to life by linking science concepts to local resources. The focus of this 2004 guide is on Upper Newport Bay in Orange County; however, much of the information is applicable to other wetland sites. Save Our Seas Seal Poster image

Save Our Seas Curriculum
Save Our Seas
is a marine curriculum of hands-on activities to help students understand the effects of marine debris on coastal wildlife and habitats. Written in 1993, it was designed for K-12 grades and can be used in conjunction with a beach cleanup.  Request Item - SOS on our online Order Form.

Educator's Guide to Beach Cleanups
This Educator's Guide provides specific tips for teachers, parents, and youth group leaders who plan to do a cleanup with their students, whether for Coastal Cleanup Day, the Adopt-A-Beach Program, or independently, at a beach, shoreline, or inland location. It includes practical strategies, links to lessons and internet resources to enrich the experience, and more. Available as a webpage or PDF.

Kindergarten Lessons on Global Warming
Developed in 2008, these classroom activities introduce the topics of global warming (The Earth has a Fever!) and the origin of our drinking water (Our Melting Ice Cube) to a kindergarten level, with tips on how students and their families can help protect the earth.

Save Our Seas Seal Poster
Educational poster (at right) illustrating the problems that marine debris pose for marine animals. Large text reads: "Thousands of species live on the California coast. Only one is destroying it." Please limit your request to one poster per instructor/classroom. Request Item - SEAL on our online Order Form.

Creeks to Coast Directory
Creeks to Coast is designed for anybody interested in learning about watersheds and the marine and coastal environment. It describes and links to organizations throughout the state that offer education programs and other resources to the public. Search the Creeks to Coast Directory now.

WHALE TAIL®   Grants Program
Schools are eligible to apply to the WHALE TAIL®   Grants Program for funding to support coastal and marine education projects. Educators reaching underserved communities, including multicultural and inland areas, are especially encouraged to submit proposals. You may request up to $50,000 and applications are accepted once a year in the fall.

Lending Library

The following videos, DVDs, and CDs are available for loan to California educators. They are available for a two-week period and the only cost to you is the return postage. A $25 charge is applied for each item not returned.
Please fill out our online Order Form.

Please note: Some of the DVDs listed are burned discs. Please request VHS tapes if you are unsure if your player will read burned DVDs.
(If the DVD doesn't work in your DVD player, try viewing it in a computer.)


  • Saving Inky - 20:25 min. running time. A video for all ages about a pygmy sperm whale that ingested plastics from the ocean, was treated at the Baltimore Aquarium and then set free. 1994. (Video available for viewing online in three parts.) Request Item - VID/SI or DVD/SI

  • Secrets of the Bay - 28 min. running time, for all ages. Reveals the magnificent wildlife hidden in the San Francisco Bay Area. 1990. Request Item - VID/SOTB or DVD/SOTB

  • The Trash Troll - 12:30 min. running time, for grades K-5. Teaches children the impacts of beach trash on marine animals. 1993. Request Item - VID/TTT or DVD/TTT

  • Tsunamis: Know What to Do! - 8 min. running time, for grades K-8. Animated short film to educate kids about Tsunami Preparedness by Ready San Diego. 2009. (View video online with Spanish captions or without Spanish captions.) Request Item - DVD/TKWTD

  • Between a Rock & a Hard Place - 17 min. running time, for grades 2-6. Prepares students for an ecologically responsible tidepool visit. Recommended for viewing before a field trip. 2002. Request Item - VID/BRHP or DVD/BRHP

  • The Adopt-A-Beach® School Assembly Program - 21 min. running time, grades 3 and up. The Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education produced this DVD, which includes excerpts from a live assembly program for students about the sources and impacts of marine debris. 2009. This item will be yours to keep; it does not need to be returned. Request Item - DVD/AABSAP

  • California Marine Life Identification - 46 min., grades 4-12. Divers off the coast of southern California show how to identify over 80 species of marine plants and animals. 2005. Request Item - DVD/CMLI

  • Beach: A River of Sand - 20 min. running time, for grades 6-12. This classic film describes how beaches are formed and change and how sand moves along the coast. 1967. (Watch this video online.) Request Item - VID/BRS or DVD/BRS

  • After the Storm - 22 min. running time, grades 7 and up. Highlights watershed protection issues and efforts throughout the country. 2004. (Find complementary resources and online versions of this video.) Request Item - VID/ATS or DVD/ATS

  • Sea of Sound - 30:45 min. feature, 21 min. interview, grades 7-12. Dive beneath the waves to explore an emerging realm: the rich diversity of underwater sounds. Includes DVD ROM elements with classroom lessons. 2011. Request Item - DVD/SeaOS

  • Synthetic Sea: Plastics in the Ocean - 9 min. approximate running time, grades 7 and up. An alarming look at the role plastics is playing in our waters, specifically the Pacific Ocean. (You can view this video online.) 2001. Request Item - VID/SS or DVD/SS

  • Trashing the Oceans - 8 min. running time, grades 7 and up. An introduction to marine debris. 1988. Request Item - VID/TTO or DVD/TTO

  • Troubled Waters: Plastic in the Marine Environment - 28:30 min. running time, grades 7 and up. This 1992 video from the Center for Marine Conservation addresses marine debris issues with a focus on ocean-based sources. 1992. (Watch this video online.) Request Item - VID/TW or DVD/TW

  • Coastal Clash - 60 min. running time, grades 8 and up. Looks at issues of beach access, development, and the many sides of the struggle for California's beaches. 2005. (Find associated lessons and further information from KQED.) Request Item - VID/CC or DVD/CC

  • Empty Oceans, Empty Nets - 55 min. running time, grades 9 and up. Examines the global commercial fishing crisis as well as exploring promising solutions to overfishing. 2002. PBS offers an online activity guide associated with this video. Request Item - VID/EOEN or DVD/EOEN

  • Can the Oceans Keep Up with the Hunt - 30 min., grades 9 and up. Discusses the exhaustion of fish populations due to over-fishing; includes exerpts from Empty Oceans, Empty Nets and information on aquaculture. PBS offers an online activity guide associated with this video. 2006. Request Item - DVD/COKU

  • The Biology of Seashores - 30 min., subtitled enabled, for grades 9-12. Includes information about abiotic and biotic factors and animal adaptations for wave shock, defense, feeding, and reproduction. An image bank teaching guide is accessible using a computer DVD drive. 2006. Request Item - DVD/BOS

  • A Sheltered Sea—The Southern Passage - 26 min., grades 9 and up. Addresses the challenges in creating Marine Protected Areas along southern California's coast. 2009. (Watch this video online.) Request Item - DVD/TSP

  • Acid Test: the Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification - 22 min., grades 9 and up. Produced by NRDC, this video raises awareness of the problem of ocean acidification, stemming from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 2009. (Watch this video online and download an ocean acidification lab kit from NRDC.) Request Item - DVD/AT

Programs & Contests

Coastal Art and Poetry Contest
The California Coastal Commission invites all California students in grades K-12 to participate in the Coastal Art & Poetry Contest. The deadline to submit entries is at the end of January.

Clarissa Wang, 2nd grade, 2009 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest

Coastal Stewardship Pledge
The Coastal Stewardship Pledge is a way for Californians of all ages to commit to protecting our coast and ocean. Individuals choose from a list of suggestions on how to protect the coast, and then pledge to follow through and complete their chosen actions. In the process, they become “Coastal Stewards.” A Coastal Steward Class Pledge is also available, which includes activities specifically chosen for the classroom and background information on each activity.

Adopt-A-Beach® is a year ‘round program that encourages the public to help keep our beaches clean. In order to "adopt" a local beach, volunteers agree to clean the beach at least three times a year. (We will accept school groups that can only make it out for one day.) Thousands of civic organizations and schools have taken advantage of this opportunity to be a part of the solution to ocean pollution. The program is free. Recycling bags and trash bags are provided. Find associated lesson plans and other tips in our Educator's Guide to Beach Cleanups. .

Coastal Cleanup Day
Every year on Coastal Cleanup Day, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide clean up debris and fill out data cards that track the types of litter collected from our beaches and waterways. This data is compiled to form a powerful statement about the quality of our beaches and oceans. In California, the cleanup takes place at over 700 sites from San Diego to the Oregon border and as far inland as Lake Tahoe. The broad scope of Cleanup Day demonstrates that marine debris and ocean pollution are watershed problems, and that litter in your neighborhood may eventually end up in the ocean. Coastal Cleanup Day is held on the third Saturday in September. Find associated lesson plans and other tips in our Educator's Guide to Beach Cleanups. Coastal Cleanup Day kicks off COASTWEEKS, an annual three-week celebration of our coastal and water resources, which includes activities such as nature walks, festivals, restoration events, and more.

Additional Resources

The following curricula were developed by other organizations with the support of the WHALE TAIL®   Grant Program.

Regina Kong, 3rd grade, 2009 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest A Guide to the Side of the Sea,
A Teacher's Guide for Field Trips to Rocky Intertidal Areas

A Guide to the Side of the Sea was produced by California State Parks. It is designed to assist teachers who will be taking their students to visit tidepools. This resource includes science background for educators as well as lessons and activities that can be used before, during, and after a field trip.

Agua Pura: Examining Salmon and Steelhead in California Communities
This Salmon and Steelhead Curriculum targets sixth-grade students both in and out of the classroom through multi-disciplinary, hands-on instruction. It covers information on these critical fish species, highlights their relationship with healthy watersheds, and explores how people affect salmon and steelhead and vice versa. The unit was created by UC Cooperative Extension and Adopt-A-Watershed.

Albatross Research and Plastic Pollution Prevention
Activities about plastics and seabirds were developed by the organization Oikonos to guide teachers of students in grades 8 - high school. Activities include dissecting an albatross bolus, categorizing the plastics they eat, learning about albatrosses, and tracking them via satellite.