The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History is a leader in environmental education in Santa Cruz County, serving more than 30,000 children and adults each year.

Lessons | Field Trips | Kits | Digital Resources


Get access to free, downloadable lesson plans for grades K-5. Fill out the form below to receive instant access.

These free lesson plans include teacher guides and student guides for asynchronous learning, with narrated slides to support students who are learning to read. 

Map of Bay Area Native people and their languages

First Peoples of Santa Cruz
Grades K-2 and 3-5

These lesson sequences center around Indigenous culture and the relationships between people, plants, and animals. Students learn about the original human inhabitants of Santa Cruz through videos in our native plant garden, listening to stories, exploring artifacts, and seeing different tools and practices used to survive and take care of the land.

Our Animal Neighbors
Grades K-2

This lesson sequence is designed for K-2nd grade students and focuses on biodiversity, animal adaptations, and habitats. Through making observations, nature journaling, and comparison, students come to understand how patterns of diversity change across landscapes, and how structure and function relate to one another.

A duck and duckling in a lagoon

Wondrous Wetlands
Grade 3

This lesson sequence explores the importance of wetlands, tying together themes of conservation and preservation through the phenomenon of migration. Students will connect their own ability to navigate from place to place by memory with how birds migrate, conduct a mini research report, and consider potential threats to wetlands, culminating in taking an action to protect them.

Nature Detectives
Grade 4

This four-part lesson sequence centers around the natural history of Pogonip open space, and how humans have used resources and affected the area throughout history, from Indigenous times to the present day. Students make observations, share predictions, and learn about how animals and plants can be affected by the actions of people.

Field Trips

Outdoor Field Trips are Available!

Home-school, private groups, and classes may reserve these field trips that take students outside to engage in hands-on exploration, observation, and field-based learning. Program fees are waived for public elementary schools.

Onsite Ohlone and Our Animal Neighbors field trips are not currently available.

Students with binoculars

Wetland Walk | 3rd grade

Students explore the wetlands of Neary Lagoon and use binoculars to spot and record wildlife along a one-mile hike. By collecting data on their observations and comparing them to past data, students find patterns of seasonal change, migration, and human impacts. Learn more.

Students on a field trip in Pogonip

Nature Rangers | 4th grade

Students practice being naturalists by making observations and comparing natural communities and different ecosystems as they go on a 2-mile hike through Pogonip Open Space Preserve. Thinking about nature as a system, physically connecting these ecosystems by walking through them and collecting data to compare them, help students better understand the environment. Learn more.

Students performing water quality tests

Watershed Walk | 5th grade

Through scientific assessments, this field trip at Neary Lagoon helps students build an understanding about their role in maintaining the integrity of their watershed. Combining field observations with water quality testing and data analysis, this field trip gives students the opportunity to not only develop skills but to experience and enjoy a unique habitat. Learn more.

Students doing landscaping

Earth Stewards Project | High School

The Earth Stewards Program is a service learning project for high school students focused on practicing stewardship and cultivating interest in green careers relating to natural resource management, parks and recreation, and the biological sciences. Learn more.


Rent a variety of kits complete with specimens and curricula. Individual specimens are also available. Explore.

Digital Resources

The Museum At Your Side

The Museum At Your Side is a collection of hands-on activities, informative articles, and engaging videos to connect you with nature and science wherever you are!

Ohlone Basket

Virtual Exhibit: The First Peoples of California

In this virtual exhibit, explore the many ways Native Californians have survived and thrived through their knowledge and use of the natural landscape. Text, video, slideshows, and learning extensions bring the Museum’s physical exhibit to life in the digital realm.

Recommended Reading

Explore our list of suggested resources to further your knowledge of Indigenous California, local natural history, and environmental education. Learn more.


Thanks to our school program supporter, the City of Santa Cruz.

City of Santa Cruz logo featuring lighthouse