California Coastal Commission Resources and Programs
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.
Schoolyard Cleanup Program
Want your students to participate in Coastal Cleanup Day but can't get them out on a field
trip to a beach or local waterway? Want to show them that environmentally responsible behavior
can begin at their school and in their own neighborhood? Interested in a real world data collection
and problem-solving experience that takes place right on school grounds and supports your Next
Generation Science Standards? You can organize a Schoolyard
Cleanup and accomplish all of these goals.
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.
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 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 on our online Order Form.
Measuring a Blue Whale in the Schoolyard
Blue whales are the largest animals known to have lived on earth, and they can be seen right off
the coast of California! Just how big are they? Could a blue whale fit in your schoolyard?
This schoolyard activity offers three methods of increasing complexity
for comparing length and height of large objects.
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 (see image)
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
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
Coastal Stewardship Pledge
The Coastal Stewardship Pledge is a
way for Californians of all ages to
commit to protecting our coast and ocean.
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.
The following videos, DVDs, and CDs
are available for online viewing or 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.)
VIDEO - Recommended Online Viewing and to Borrow from our Library:
General ocean and marine species:
- Between a Rock & a Hard Place - 17 minutes. Grades 2-6. Prepares students
for an ecologically responsible tidepool visit. Recommended for viewing before a field trip.
2002. Request VHS or DVD from Order
- The Biology of Seashores - 30 minutes, subtitled enabled. 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 DVD from Order
- Invaders from Around the World - 6:25 minutes. Grades 4 to 6. Explanation of
invasive species, from USC Sea Grant. Watch online in English or
- Know Your Ocean - 2:37 minutes. All ages. Some general ocean info and fun facts from
NOAA. Streaming, downloadable
- Return Flight - Restoring the Bald Eagle to the Channel Islands - 24 minute
version and 14 minute version with 6 bonus clips. Grades 6 and up. Chronicles how biologists worked
for decades to bring the bald eagle back to the Channel Islands in the face of pervasive DDT
contamination. 2011. Watch 14 minute version online. Download a free Classroom Study Guide for Grades 6 to 12 from NOAA Montrose Settlements Restoration Program.
Request DVD from Order Form.
- Sea of Sound - 30:45 minutes feature, 21 minutes 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 DVD
from Order Form.
- Secrets of the Bay - 28 minutes. All ages. Reveals the magnificent wildlife
hidden in the San Francisco Bay Area. 1990. Request VHS or DVD
from Order Form.
- Surf, Sand, and Silversides - the California Grunion - 20 minutes. A documentary
about the natural phenomenon of midnight runs and the challenges a native fish species faces on
southern California's most popular urban beaches. 2011. Request DVD from Order
- The Adopt-A-Beach® School Assembly Program - 21 minutes.
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 DVD from Order Form.
- Gyre: Creating Art From a Plastic Ocean - 20:14 minutes. Grades 7 and up.
National Geographic program shows an artists' expedition to Alaska with the goal to make art from the trash
found on the beaches. Watch online.
- Midway Journey - Bottle Caps - 4:18 minutes. Grades 4 and up. Examining the
carcass of a Laysan albatross, and the plastic contents of its stomach, with the Deputy Wildlife
Manager of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Watch online.
- Midway Journey - Plastic Beach - 2:25 minutes. The seemingly endless
deposition of plastic debris onto a single beach on Midway Island. All ages, however this does
not present any solutions, just the problem. Watch online.
- Ocean Heroes: The Plastics Problem - 5 Gyres Institute - 2:17 minutes. Grades 9
and up. One World One Ocean interview with Anna Cummins and Marcus Erickson about plastic pollution
in the ocean. Watch online.
- Our Debris Filling the Sea - 2:36 minutes. Grades 4 and up. NOAA presents
the marine debris problem. Streaming, downloadable and captioned.
- Saving Inky - 20:25 minutes. 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 VHS or DVD from
- Synthetic Sea: Plastics in the Ocean - 9 minutes. Grades 7 and up.
An alarming look at the role plastics is playing in our waters, specifically the Pacific Ocean.
(You can view a 2010 version of this video online.) 2001. Request VHS, DVD, or Spanish DVD from
- Trash in the Deep Sea: Bringing a Hidden Problem to Light - 4:12 minutes. Grades 4
and up. Describes Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's research into debris in the deep ocean.
- The Trash Troll - 12:30 minutes. Grades K-5. Teaches children the impacts
of beach trash on marine animals. 1993. Request VHS or DVD
from Order Form.
- Troubled Waters: Plastic in the Marine Environment - 28:30 minutes. Grades
7 and up. This 1992 video from the Center for Marine Conservation (now The Ocean Conservancy)
addresses marine debris issues with a focus on ocean-based sources. 1992.
(Watch this video online.) Request VHS
or DVD from Order Form.
- Plastics at SEA, North Pacific Expedition - Grades 7 and up. Several short videos
documenting a research voyage of the Sea Education Association. Watch online.
- Carbon and Climate Change in 90 Seconds - 2:21 minutes. Grades 4 and up. Climate change explained
in simple animation, from NASA. Watch
this video online.
- Keeping Up with Carbon - 5:39 minutes. Grades 7 and up. The carbon cycle, as it relates to the ocean,
and climate change, from NASA Watch this video online.
- Oceans of Climate Change - 2:21 minutes. Grades 4 and up. An oceanographer discusses the heat
capacity of water, performs an experiment to demonstrate heat capacity using a water balloon and describes how
water's ability to store heat affects Earth's climate. NASA. Watch this video online.
- The Role of Ice in the Ocean: Shrinking Ice: Impacts - 2:26 minutes. Grades 7 and up. Streaming, downloadable and captioned.
- The Role of Ice in the Ocean: What is Sea Ice and Why Is It Shrinking? - 2:09 minutes. Grades 4 and
up. Streaming, downloadable and captioned.
- The Acid Ocean - 3:00 minutes. Grades 7 and up. Explanation of ocean acidification
with a visual demonstration of coral in vinegar and a discussion of real world impacts. From
Hopkins Marine Station. Watch
- 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 DVD from Order Form
- Ocean Acidification - 3:01 minutes. Grades 7 and up. Animated explanation of ocean acidification
by the Alliance for Climate Education. Watch
- Ocean Acidification - 1:49 minutes. Grades 7 and up. The chemistry of ocean acidification,
from North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Watch online.
Community engagement and coastal management:
- California Coastal Trail videos - Multiple videos of around 5 minutes each. Grades 4 and up.
A series of short videos tell the story of segments of the California Coastal Trail, including what
visitors experience there and the journey to getting the trail built. 2016-2017 Watch these videos online.
- Coastal Clash - 60 minutes. 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 VHS or DVD from Order Form.
- Heroes of the Coast - 52 minutes. Grades 9 and up. Recounts the political campaigns in the 1970s that
passed the California Coastal Act and created the California Coastal Commission, told through interviews
with activists and political leaders of the movement. 2013. Request DVD from
- A Sheltered Sea—The Southern Passage - 26 minutes. Grades 9 and up. Addresses
the challenges in creating Marine Protected Areas along southern California's coast. 2009. Watch this video online or
request DVD from Order Form.
Coastal processes, watersheds, and tsunami:
- Can the Oceans Keep Up with the Hunt - 30 minutes. 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 DVD from Order
- Empty Oceans, Empty Nets - 55 minutes. 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 VHS or DVD from Order
The following curricula were developed by other organizations with the support of the
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.
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.
MARE Program (Marine Activities, Resources, & Education)
The Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley developed teacher's guides to marine
environments for grades K-8, with each grade focused on a particular habitat. Students
at entire schools can participate together for an "ocean immersion" experience. A WHALE
TAIL® grant funded aligning the units for kindergarten and 1st grade with the Next Generation Science Standards as well as Common Core standards.
Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science Educator Guide
YESS developed a series of sea level rise lessons for high school students through a WHALE TAIL®
grant to the County of Marin. This series involves hands-on, experiential learning and covers: an
introduction to sea level rise causes and impacts; how to collect data, including collecting photographs
through the California King Tides Project
and interviewing community members; and sharing the results of student research. Includes links to
many related resources.