The 3-year-old girl and her 18-month-old brother stood transfixed as they watched the crash of a simulated ocean wave in the tank at the Cabrillo Marine Museum in San Pedro. The visible habitat beneath the wave was momentarily disturbed and then went back to a resting state before the next wave crashed down.
Many Southern California parents feel there are few excursions more fun than a day at the seashore with the children. And the nearness of the ocean offers an opportunity to use the seaside as an educational tool.
The closure of Marineland was a disappointment to many families that regularly went to get a close look at a wide variety of sea creatures.
However, there are many other facilities that offer classes year-round, should there be a budding oceanographer in the family. (Many of the classes mentioned here are popular and might be filled; call in advance to learn registration procedures.)
Cabrillo Marine Museum, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro, (213) 548-7562. "Museums and marine centers are a wonderful way to introduce children to the fascinating marine environment," says Susanne Lawrenz-Miller, marine museum administrator. The exhibits and aquariums are designed and arranged so that even the very young can enjoy them. Also offered are workshops for older youth, families and adults--workshops such as "Tidepool Critters," "Rambles Between the Waves" and "Mud Walks and Bird Talks." The museum has a touch tide pool, a hands-on experience for people of all ages.
Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes, (213) 377-5370. A small museum and whale-watching site at one of the most beautiful spots for ocean-gazing on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Co-director Shannon Smith says the museum and its guided tours are popular with families. Whales are the focus of the center, and, for children, there is a booklet available that contains puzzles, drawings and word games about the great sea mammals and other sea life.
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 744-3535. The museum offers an extensive selection of nature classes for children and families. The new Children's Discovery Room permits youngsters to touch marine life. Older children and adults may take one of the boating expeditions that focuses on whale watching or observing, collecting and identifying other marine life.
Sea World, 1720 South Shores Road, San Diego, (619) 226-3834. Parents and children ages 3 and 4 may take such classes as "Touch the Sea," "Shamu's Noisy Friends" and "The Undersea World of Arthur C. Turtle." A Youth Award program features animal shows, slide and puppet shows, hands-on experiences and a chance for children to earn patches. Student groups should ask about "Exploration Breach," Sea World's unusually-named educational program, which is designed "to introduce students of all ages to the ocean world and the animals that live there."
Scripps Aquarium/Museum, 8602 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, (619) 534-4087. Scripps features a 20-foot, man-made tide pool and 22 tanks of Pacific Ocean specimens. The staff
conducts many classes on marine life for preschoolers and children through high school age.
Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab, Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, (213) 379-8117. Children from kindergarten to second grade can take part in "Whales, Tails and Fish Scales." There are also classes for grades three to eight, where children can study marine biology and marine animals on boat trips and in a lab setting.
William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, (213) 858-3834. Parents participate in "Babes at the Beach," an outdoor class with children up to 3 years of age. Children may experience tide pools, sea plants and sea animals through games, painting, sand sculpting, collage and similar activities.
Art at the Beach, Santa Monica, (213) 392-2975. Artist/instructor Judy Leventhal bases her outdoor classes on her belief that nature is a key source of inspiration. Children as young as 4 years old and their parents may explore art and creativity at the beach.
The Oceanic Society, Los Angeles chapter, (818) 340-0094. The purpose of the Oceanic Society is to educate about conservation of the ocean and its resources. The society also supports conservation research activities. Students from kindergarten through the ninth grade may participate in sessions such as Sea Camp '87 (late July and August), a science-oriented class in marine biology and oceanography. Instructors have extensive science and marine biology backgrounds and students take daily field trips.
Whale-Watching expeditions, From December to April, charter expeditions leave regularly from Marina del Rey, Long Beach/San Pedro, Redondo Beach and Newport Beach. Dress warmly and take binoculars. Chambers of commerce in these areas should be able to refer you to specific companies.