School Groups

Central Coast State Parks Association


School programs are offered at the Museum of Natural History at Morro Bay State Park, the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, and at the Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center. School programs and tours are offered free of charge, and are led by our highly trained, knowledgeable, and fun State Parks docents and interpreters. Each program offers a different focus, so take some time to review all your options.


Does your school serve predominantly low-income students, and is transportation cost preventing you from accessing our free-of-charge field trips? Thanks to a generous donor, we have matching funds available for this school year to help support the transportation costs associated with our field trips. For more information, email, or click here to apply. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis, until total fund is depleted.

Museum of Natural History

  • The Estuary

  • Marine Mammals

  • Native Americans

  • Birds of Morro Bay

Pismo State Beach

  • Chumash Education

  • Monarch Butterfly Grove

  • Monarch Butterfly Bus Tour *

* Monarch Butterfly Bus Tours are for all ages, not specifically for school groups.

Museum of Natural History, Morro Bay

All four Morro Bay school programs are offered at the Museum of Natural History. Guided tours at the museum include some of the following: a hike up a volcanic plug, a trek to a bird rookery, an exploration of the mudflats, up-close demonstrations in the Learning Center, and hands-on activities. Discussions at each venue reflect the Next Generation Science Standards for grades 2 to 7. Our knowledgeable docents lead the walks.

Click here for tips on scheduling Morro Bay School Group programs.

The Estuary

Age group: Grades 2-7

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Tuesday - Friday, year round

Time: 10am - 12pm or 1pm - 3pm

What is an estuary? How does an estuary work? Choose the premier school program, The Estuary, and your students will explore and experience a range of California state science standards. Hike up White’s Point in the wind and fog (a frequent occurrence) to understand the transfer of solar energy into wind and moisture, providing mineral nutrients for plant life in the estuary. Examine life in the Windy Cove mudflats to understand the transfer of energy from plants to animals, as well as the importance of the estuary in the marine food chain. These outdoor experiences are reinforced by discussions and demonstrations in the Learning Center and by a guided tour of the highlights of the Museum.

Please note that the Estuary Program works best at low tide times when more of the Windy Cove mudflats are exposed. Consult a tide chart for the dates you are considering for your visit. Find an online version here.

Marine Mammals

Age group: Grades 2-7

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Tuesday - Friday, year round

Time: 10am - 12pm or 1pm - 3pm

The Marine Mammal program features the California Gray Whale, sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions while emphasizing the relationship between the success of marine mammals and a healthy estuary.

Why does the Morro Bay Estuary host so many marine mammals – playful sea otters, shy harbor seals, and noisy sea lions? Examining various organisms hidden in the Windy Cove mudflats, students will understand the reason that these top predators are attracted to the estuary. Surveying the estuary complex and the Pacific Ocean from White's Point, students will see the pathway taken by migrating California Gray Whales. While these outdoor excursions do not guarantee sightings of marine mammals, inside the Museum there are animal specimens, some skeletal specimens, and other displays to illustrate the fascinating details of these animals. Docents use these materials to focus their discussions on the characteristics of mammals and how these characteristics are adapted in marine mammals for survival in the sea. In particular, they focus on the  vertebrate body plans of marine mammals and compare them to those of  land mammals.

Native Americans

Age group: Grades 2-7

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Tuesday - Friday, year round

Time: 10am - 12pm or 1pm - 3pm

The Native American program provides students with an appreciation of Chumash and Salinan ingenuity in successfully modifying and adapting to the natural setting of the Morro Bay Estuary.

Visit the native plants garden, a kitchen midden, ancient grinding holes, and view the wide sweep of the Morro Bay Estuary from the top of White's Point. Students will learn about the ingenuity of the Chumash and Salinan cultures in modifying and adapting to the local environment. In the Learning Center, docents display and discuss many artifact replicas to explain the everyday activities of Central Coast Native Americans.

In the Museum's habitat exhibits, students will examine the four ecosystems influencing the lives of the local Native peoples. In addition, students will try their hand at Native American crafts. In small activity groups they may grind nuts, play games, or add designs to a wooden medallion.

Birds of Morro Bay

Age group: Grades 2-7

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Tuesday - Friday, year round

Time: 10am - 12pm or 1pm - 3pm

The Bird Program focuses on the birds of the Morro Bay Estuary and their adaptations to the estuarine environment.

The stately Great Blue Heron and the gawky-looking Double-crested Cormorant are just two of the many shoreline birds “junior birders” may see in their natural setting as part of the Bird Program. The main focus of this program is the special adaptations birds have undergone that allow them to survive in environments like the Morro Bay Estuary. Using a great variety of live mounts and other specimens in the Learning Center, docents present the concept of adaptation by comparing bird adaptations such as feathers, skeletal structure, bills, and feet. It is desirable for adults and older students to bring binoculars for better viewing of the estuary birds.

The Bird Program is especially recommended from April through June, when herons and egrets nest and raise their young at the Rookery.

Select only one program for your visit. View currently available dates on our Morro Bay School Groups calendar and then send your request.

For more information about Morro Bay school group programs: 

Contact Sue Fong at (805)548-0385 or

Pismo Beach Programs

Three programs are offered at the Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center including programs on Native Americans for 3rd grade students, monarch butterfly life cycle field trips for 2nd grade students, and monarch grove field trips for all ages. The scheduling process is different for each of the Pismo program options, so note the contact information for the program you select.

Chumash Education

Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center

(formerly Pismo Beach Nature Center)

Age group: 3rd grade studying local Native Americans

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Wednesdays, throughout the school year

Time: 10am - 12pm

This school group program focuses on the Native American culture and way of life in the local geographic area. It is designed to complement a unit of study about local history and is presented by knowledgeable docents.

Students experience a rotation through three activities meant to deepen their understanding of the Chumash culture and their use of natural resources. Each rotation lasts approximately 30 minutes.

  • Activity one: a talk about Chumash village life including music, stories, and natural resources used.
  • Activity two: playing Chumash games, making acorn mush, and creating rock art.
  • Activity three: a walk around the Oceano lagoon with emphasis on plants, animals, and water resources utilized by the Chumash.

Two activities are outside and one is inside the Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center.

For more information or to schedule a Chumash education field trip: Contact Kalleen Corley at (805) 548-0394 or

Monarch Butterfly Grove

Age group: 2nd grade studying a life cycle of a monarch butterfly

Group size: 60 students

Dates: Late October - February

Time: 10:30am- 11:30am

Content: Students will have an outdoor experience through three activities. These activities will help students better understand the lifecycle of an insect and see thousands of monarchs in their natural habitat. Each rotation lasts about 10 minutes.

  • Activity one: a talk about monarch’s life cycle, anatomy, migration and senses.
  • Activity two: viewing monarchs clustering through a telescope
  • Activity three: coloring project of a monarch life cycle

All activities are outside. Please take weather into consideration. Rain would cancel this field trip.

For more information or to schedule a Monarch Butterfly Grove field trip: Contact State Parks at (805) 474-2664

Monarch Butterfly Bus Tours

Age group: All ages

Group size: 25 or more

Dates: Late October - February

Time: Between 10 am - 4 pm

Cost: per person.

For more information or to schedule a Monarch Butterfly Group Bus Tour: Contact Mallory Claassen at (805) 474-2664 or

Bus parking information will be provided upon reservation.

Nature Notes

One of the perks of CCPSA membership is receiving our gorgeous, full-color, quarterly newsletter, Nature Notes, in your mailbox four times a year. If you aren’t receiving this docent-designed & written piece of beauty, become a CCSPA member now!

Click here for the current edition of Nature Notes.