Education and Outreach

Local students learn about seastars at The REEF touch tanks.

SBC LTER Schoolyard Program

The SBC LTER Schoolyard (SLTER) focuses on improving ocean science literacy by supporting teachers and students in hands-on educational activities at our UCSB educational aquarium and through our partnerships with:

  1. The American Association of University Women’s (AAUW): Tech Trek Program
  2. Math-Science-Partnership (MSP) Project: Pathways to Environmental Literacy
  3. Kids In Nature (KIN)

SBC’s Schoolyard LTER (sLTER) program is organized around a theme of kelp forest ecology in the context of the SBC LTER. Curriculum is developed around and delivered through the Research Experience & Education Facility (REEF), UCSB’s teaching aquarium and the Marine Science Institute’s Oceans-to-Classrooms curricula. Our focus is on long-term connections with local, regional and state schools through a number of partnerships that include both on, and off, campus programs. Our approach also allows for an integrated program that spans both academic year activities, as well as summer programs, and includes undergraduate and graduate students, K-12 teachers, K-12 students, the UC Community and the general public. Through Oceans-to-Classrooms and the REEF, SBC LTER-based curriculum, rich in STEM content that supports California State Science Standards, Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, is presented to over 20,000 visitors each year. This includes continued outreach visits to schools, community events and on-campus programs from many schools outside Santa Barbara Countyw which allows SBC sLTER specific program content to reach thousands of students in grades 6-12. We continue to develop and adapt marine science lesson plans that engage students with learning about the local environment in the context of SBC LTER. These lessons incorporate ongoing SBC research that includes working with project data. The program is developed to build student skills in scientific inquiry through activities that move from structured or guided investigation to open-ended inquiry and experimentation. Our program includes a combination of school-based activities, field trips, and on-campus experiences that immerse students in the environment of a college campus. With the infrastructural support of APEO, the SBC SLTER program engages middle school students and teachers in local schools through the academic year and summers, and throughout their secondary school education.

Curriculum Development: The SBC LTER Schoolyard program promotes integrating coastal watershed and marine science topics into classroom teaching through the development of standards-based curriculum, particularly for grades 6-8. Our program develops and adapts marine science lesson plans that engage students with learning about their local environment. These lesson plans incorporate ongoing SBC LTER research and include working with data generated by monitoring and experiments. The program is designed to build student’s skills in scientific inquiry through a series of activities that move from structured or guided investigation to open-ended experimentation. We work with teachers and partners including the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and others. Teachers interested in working with the Schoolyard program to develop lesson plans should contact us at

Arroyo Burro Virtual Tour: One of our SLTER products is a five week curriculum with a focus on the Arroyo Burro Watershed, which includes a computer-based module on the area's natural history and interactive simulations of runoff conditions. The entire program is available on DVD, by request. Lesson plans also are available for individual download at our Resource page.

touch tank
Undergraduate docents lead tours of The REEF.

Field Experiences and Trips: Our Schoolyard program offers two exciting field trip experiences for students – The REEF and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary LiMPETS program.

The REEF (Research Experience and Education Facility) is an interactive, educational aquarium managed by the Marine Science Institute (MSI) located at Campus Point Beach on the University of California Santa Barbara main campus. The REEF offers educational aquarium tours that include our popular "touch tanks" program to school and community groups led by UCSB marine science undergraduate interns. Tours can include guided nature walks around the Campus Lagoon and the beach. Tours are offered 3 times a day, Tuesday through Thursday. There is no fee to visit The REEF. To book a tour for your class or group, please contact The REEF directly at 893-8765 or by email at

LiMPETS: (Long-term Monitoring Program & Experiential Training for Students) is also supported by the SLTER and our undergraduate marine science interns. LiMPETS was designed by the National Marine Sanctuary Program to train middle and high school students and other volunteer groups how to monitor the biological communities of rocky intertidal, sandy shore and offshore areas of the five west coast National Marine Sanctuaries, including our local Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Teachers and their students collect sandy beach and rocky intertidal monitoring data and share it with other LiMPETS site teams via a program website. Data are available for download in order to promote data literacy activities. Workshops train teachers to lead groups out to various coastal sites to conduct monitoring. In collaboration with SBC LTER and UCSB, two LiMPETS monitoring sites are located on or near SBC LTER research sites. For more information about LiMPETS, please visit their webpage at