Sea Star Ocean Classroom

Information for Teachers

The Sea Star Ocean Lab Teacher’s Manual!

The following excerpts from the SS Ocean Lab Teacher’s Manual are meant to be a greater and more detailed introduction to the hours of fun, learning and exploration that takes place not only in the bigger, comprehensive 34-page Instructor’s Guide that will be sent to every Group Leader, but as well as onboard during the entire Sea Star Ocean Classroom experience! Upon receipt of confirmed reservation, the Sea Star will provide all Group Leaders/Project Managers with this manual and the other tools necessary to make this hands-on learning experience not only amazingly fun, but one of the most memorable seagoing trips ever for our Ocean Explorers!


Welcome to the Sea Star Ocean Classroom! This oceanographic expedition is certain to be a fascinating learning experience and adventure for you and for your Student Ocean Explorers. This is an excellent opportunity for every student to get their hands wet sampling and measuring local marine environmental conditions and examining coastal habitats. Students will be challenged to interpret their observations and to learn about the connections among our daily lives, the sea, the land and the atmosphere. They will learn how our local environment is connected to the conditions in the rest of the world.

In the most basic sense, the coastal marine environment is another world, one we must understand greatly in order to protect and preserve it. As our population grows, our effect on it and it’s life increases. Actions we take today will determine whether Earth will be preserved for ourselves, future generations and for other species with whom we share this planet. Only through such understanding will we be able to develop successful management programs for our activities and our use of coastal resources.

Your expedition will be a safe one. The 60 foot Sea Star is fully licensed and complies with all US Coast Guard regulations, maintaining the highest standards of safety and preparedness. These standards include regular maintenance inspections, annual certifications, and ongoing training of the captain and crew. All ship personnel are required by the Coast Guard to undergo random drug testing. If there is a chance that the ocean weather may be inclement, the hands-on expedition of discovery will be conducted within the protective and calmer waters of Oceanside Harbor (this may affect some activities). Please click here to see a picture of the Sea Star.


In Southern California, the Pacific Ocean plays a vitally important part in our lives. It determines our climate, provides vital resources, and offers recreational and commercial opportunities that fuel the regional economy. The Pacific Ocean connects us to the global atmospheric and ocean circulation patterns in ways we are just beginning to understand. The California Current, a massive oceanic river, flowing southward from the North Pacific past our shore, creates a complex pattern of ever-changing conditions. In turn, it is part of the ocean-wide circulation of water, over 50 times greater than all of the earth’s rivers combined.

We are fortunate that it is also one of the most studied of the ocean’s currents and regions. In the 1950’s, scientists launched the California Cooperative Oceanographic Fisheries Investigation (CalCOFI) to investigate the collapse of the sardine industry in Central California. Since then, CalCOFI has been collecting data each year, creating an invaluable set of long-term data on California coastal conditions.


The goal of the Sea Star Ocean Classroom is to provide students with tools and observation skills that can be used to invesigate the ocean environment and interpret the information they gather. Inspired in part back CalCOFI, the Sea Star Ocean Classroom and similar programs in other California communities provide an excellent opportunity for students of all ages to participate in the ongoing monitoring of our local marine waters. Each class will come away with a data set from their day’s activities. This will be a “snapshot” of the animal activities, weather and water conditions on that day.

The program provides a first-hand opportunity for students to experience conditions under which oceanographic observations are made at sea. They will use real oceanographic equipment to conduct an investigation of the local marine environment. Students will also get a glimpse into one aspect of a career in oceanography and related fields.

The Program

Teachers will be able to integrate the expedition into their curriculum or develop a curriculum segment around the field trip. The Ocean Classroom is designed to provide a floating laboratory for students. The expedition is designed to challenge their curiosity, stimulate their interest, provide them with a data set, and prepare them for follow-up classroom sessions. Prior knowledge of oceanography is not needed.

To be prepared for the day’s activities, students receive classroom information regarding the basic goals of the expedition and a brief overview of the sampling and scientific methods they will be using. They will also be given the basic rules of behavior including etiquette, safety, and appropriate clothing to bring in case of inclement weather.

The Expedition

The day’s adventure begins before the boat leaves the dock. The expedition leader will brief students on boat etiquette, safety and use of the equipment. Once underway, the boat will head of out Oceanside Harbor and proceed to the first station, located by our Global Positioning System (GPS) software. At the first station, the crew will deploy an otter trawl and plankton nets that the vessel will tow until we reach the second station.

Throughout the expedition, especially while the boat is under way, there will be ample opportunity to observe sea life including birds, seals and sea lions. Occasionally we may also see jellyfish, whales, dolphins, and Mola Mola (giant ocean sunfish). Less frequently we do see other animals. Students will learn how to identify these animals and will keep records of their sightings, including species, location, estimated count, and behavior.

When we reach the second station, we will retrieve both nets, empty the catch and then travel back to the calmer waters of the harbor. Once back at our working dock, the entire class will gather to observe and identify the plants and animals collected in the otter trawl.

The plankton lab will follow with the entire class viewing samples taken from the plankton trawl net. A color video microscope and LCD screen will vividly reveal the remarkably detailed structures of the zooplankton and phytoplankton captured. A discussion of these results will follow.

During the return trip, there will be further opportunities to observe marine life and record observations.

Come and Visit!

The Sea Star is conveniently located close by in the south marina of Oceanside Harbor in Oceanside, CA. Oceanside is easily accessible from any major Southern California freeway, and there is abundant free parking adjacent to the boat.

315 Harbor Drive South, Oceanside, CA 92054

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