Welcome to the

Marine Protected Area Exploration!

During this virtual marine science education program, middle school and high school students take part in ecological monitoring in the Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area, helping us understand how the underwater ecosystem there is changing!

The MPA Science Cruise originally launched in 2012 as a partnership between Crystal Cove Conservancy, Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Landing Sportfishing, marine researchers, local teachers, and students to monitor the Crystal Cove SMCA and see how it is changing over time.  Since then, student-analyzed data has become an integral part of our monitoring efforts every year.

In the 2020-2021 school year, our updated version of the MPA Cruise is now designed for students to participate from home or in hybrid classrooms.  The educational curriculum is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards for middle and high school. The curriculum includes ten lessons, each lasting 45-60 minutes.  It challenges students to work in research teams to help us protect our local State Marine Conservation Area.  During the program, they’ll learn more about California’s Marine Protected Area system, design a collaborative model, help record and analyze data for several monitoring projects, and then use science communication skills to share their findings with different audiences.

Depending on COVID restrictions, you can also join our Teacher Learning Community and book a boat excursion field trip with our partners at Newport Whales to take part in on-the-water monitoring.

If you would like to apply to our Teacher Learning Community and scholarship fund for the MPA Cruise field trip, please complete this form.


 How to Join

The virtual version of the MPA Exploration program is free for everyone! If you are a teacher or homeschool educator and would like to join the MPA Exploration for the 2020-2021 school year, please complete this survey and let us know.  

If you have any questions about the program or would like to schedule a COVID-safe field trip, feel free to contact Holly Fletcher, Education Manager, by emailing holly@crystalcove.org.

Curriculum will be added December 1, 2020!


Teacher Professional Development

We highly recommend that all teachers, educators, and parents who will be facilitating the Marine Science Exploration attend an online professional development session.  This training gives an overview of the program, an introduction to the different lessons, and walks you through general teaching logistics.  We will also offer specialized trainings focused on aspects of the program, such as building computer models or analyzing data.

Upcoming Training Dates:

  • December 10, 2020 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM
  • January 13, 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM
  • February 16, 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM

If you would like to attend a training, please register here.

If you cannot attend a training, we will post recordings afterwards to watch at your leisure!


Have any other questions?  Please contact Holly Fletcher by emailing holly@crystalcove.org for more information!

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