Tag Archive: outdoor curriculum



Our group of Mt Modonna Students were thrilled to learn about the California Sea Hare during our kayaking field trip to Elkhorn Slough. Sea hares, a large marine slug can emit a midly toxic purple dye as a defense. Slow moving grazers, they are simultaneous hermaphrodites and are sometimes found in large mating masses known as daisy chains or roman circles


We also found the gelantious Ctenphore or comb jelly which empowers sicky cells rather than  stinging cells like the true sea jellies (cnidarians) employ. IMG_0692

Mt Modonna’s Pal program matches a senior as a role model with a 3rd grader during adventures throughout the school year. Super cool and highly effective concept.

Teachers, join us on a naturalist-led field trip with bluewaterventures.org. We love our outdoor classroom!



Imagine a huge egg cracked over an indigo blue fry pan the size of a trampoline and you have found Phacellophora camtschatica, the egg yolk sea jelly! A savory meal for the oddly shaped Mola Mola sunfish, other gelationous creatures and sea turtles, this fascintating sea jelly resides in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. While out looking for humpback whales this morning by kayak, we paddled by numerous gelantionous species such as Chrysaora colorata, formerly Pelagia colorata and commonly known as the Purple sea jelly.

Acting like a submerged spider web, the egg yolk sea jelly’s  convoluted tangle of tentacles serves to snare its prey.
Join Blue Water Ventures through-out the year as we kayak in the Elkhorn Slough and beyond. www.bluewaterventures.org

Join Blue Water Ventures as we explore the incredible  diversity of California’s rocky intertidal.  Wetsuits are recommended to “go extreme” in comfort as we scramble along the rocky nooks, crannies and caves of our coastal waters.

This is a great outing for groups or schools  looking for an adventurous and  informative day with a naturalist guide. You will learn about  the amazing adaptations of our intertidal inhabitants such as the feeding habits  of sea stars and the mating strategy of barnacles.
Contact Kim Powell, Owner at: bluewaterventures@sbcglobal.net  or  give us a call at ( 831) 459 8548 or explore our website further  at: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
And remember….Adventures are for Life!

It started with an excited cry from Biology Teacher, Jane Orbuch ” Kim, there’s a whale”. I had just led 14 San Lornezo Valley High School students by kayak to the kelp beds edging a surf break known as Indicators in Santa Cruz. We were just about to begin a lesson in Kelp Forest Ecology. Slipping off of their sit on top style boats and into the invigorating 55 degree water, the students were anticipating an eye level encounter with sea otters, harbor seals, top snails and other wonders of this remarkable marine ecosystem. Humpback Whales were not in the lesson plan.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has recently been coined the "Serengeti of the Sea". The Sanctuary lies within a biologically rich pathway intersecting the migration patterns of an array of marine mammals, sea birds and even our planet's most elusive and largest sea turtle, the Leatherback. 26 species of marine mammals are found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest federally protected marine reserve in the United States.

Jane's discovery was the beginning of one of the most unique 12 days of wildlife observation in my 27 years as a naturalist. Humpback whales, weighing 80-90,000 pounds and reaching a length of 50 feet rarely meander close to our shore where water depths average 30-40 feet. Their visits to shallow water are more typically ethereal, making an appearance for a few hours or a day. Humpbacks are filter feeding whales that use their fringed plates of baleen to sort out krill, a small crustacean that congregate over the plankton rich Monterey Bay Canyon. Humpbacks are known to switch their food selection to larger bait fish such as anchovies and sardines when the situation presents itself. Our visiting whales developed quite a taste for anchovies that were schooling close to shore. The magical 12 day journey had begun.

As the students slowly paddled offshore, I glanced at my fore arm and noticed that every hair stood erect. I was virtually speechless, a condition that my students have rarely witnessed over the years of my interpreting ocean wonders. The four instructors managed to share a few Cetacean facts and viewing etiquette. In truth, it was an extraordinary educational moment that required no words. The whales were centered stage and the students witnessed an array of behaviors from pectoral fin slapping to the most impressive behavior of all, a breach, when a whale propels its body out of the the water followed by a dramatic plunge downward. Lingering in our memory bank will be the unforgettable scent of anchovy breathe expelled through the blow hole of an exuberant whale. As we paddled back to shore, one student proclaimed: "This had been the best day of my life".

One of the most profound experiences of my life occurred several days later. Launching from the Santa Cruz Wharf, a friend and I made our way by kayak toward an area where we had seen a few spouts. As we neared the vicinity where the whales were last spotted, we stopped paddling and drifted. Without much warning, we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of very energetic sea lions. We observed them quickly alter their course and leap out of the water, a behavior known as " porpoising" which occurs when seals pursue prey or are being pursued by a predator such as a White Shark or Orca. The prey, in this case were anchovies feeding on a rich soup of plankton.

As the sea lions rocketed towards us, our immediate instinct was to back paddle. We started tapping our plastic vessel letting any stealthy 50 ton visitor know our location. Then one of the most incredible moments of my twenty seven year career as a naturalist occurred. As we drifted and tapped, a humpback whale gently raised its head out of the water approximately five feet from us. This astounding behavior is known as "spy hopping", when a whale approaches an object such as a boat to take a better look. The whale's eye will either be slightly above water or just below as the whale glances upward through the water column. We were being checked out by a 90,000 pound creature.

As quietly as it had arrived, the whale sunk back below the blue hued sea. I struggle to find the words to express the feeling that flooded through every pore of my body. We were in awe and overloaded by the adrenaline that pulsated through us.

Several days later on a Sunday, I led my one and only commercial trip to experience the whale phenomena that was occurring in Santa Cruz through my business, Blue Water Ventures. Before launching, I instructed my group of kayakers on proper whale etiquette and informed them that they would be escorted back to shore if instructions were not followed.

The image as we departed Santa Cruz Harbor will stay with me for years to come. The interest in viewing had exploded since earlier that week when there were just three of us and the whales. It was a view of ecotourism gone astray and we were contributing to it. Federal law requires us to stay 100 yards away, the length of a football field, from any marine mammal. Just leaving the harbor brought us too close as we soon discovered that the whales were positioned just outside Santa Cruz Harbor. The horizon was hauntingly still, though noisy with the image of human bodies standing upright on boards, kayakers, boogie boarders, surfers, sail boats and motorized skiffs. Moments later a helicopter circled above. Unbelievably whale watching by helicopter had arrived on the scene. Though thrilled to share the whale experience with my respectful group of women, I was eager to get them safely back to shore and give the whales the space they required to feed. We saw very little spy hopping that day. Humans floating on some form of plastic or fiberglass vessel were no longer a novelty and perhaps more of a nuisance. I soon cancelled my upcoming plans to kayak with the whales and turned inquiring customers away.

My hope was that the whales were well fed, fat, happy and on their way to tropical seas. Forty eight hours later, the anchovies were gone and so were the whales.

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations for adults designed to be relaxing with an educational component. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. Find out more at http://www.bluewaterventures.org * photo credits to Jenna Slovis, Clarissa Flores and Kim Powell

Looking for a really unique experience for your students? During our adventurous field trip, we’ll slide off our sit on top kayaks to have an eye level experience with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Using goggles or a mask/snorkel, take a look at the kelp forest or choose to remain dry and simply glide over the forest canopy searching for sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and sea birds. Encompassing 5,322 square miles of ocean, our remarkable sanctuary supports one of the planet’s most biologically diverse marine ecosystems. The use of sit on top kayaks with the option to submerge into the water gives us an entirely different perspective on our ocean world.

This is a great fall field trip! In the spring, we’ll launch our closed deck boats searching the water for migrating California Gray Whales with their plump babies in tow.

During our naturalist-led kayaking tours in Elkhorn Slough we see the most amazing behaviors. White Pelicans, with a wing span of 9 feet are featured here foraging in the wetlands. Unlike the Western Brown Pelicans that plunged from the sky when feeding, White Pelicans scoop food without diving. They are known to work together to heard fish by forming a net with their collective bodies. Join us for an unforgettable day kayaking in Elkhorn Slough!

The key to successful kayak rescues for 8-10 year olds is making it FUN and having them feel comfortable with their gear…..jump on!
Blue Water Venture’s Marine Science and Kayaking Camp offered through Gateway School’s Summer Program, Santa Cruz CA

Join the naturalist of Blue Water Ventures as we explore and discuss the tidepools of California’s Central Coast. Discover how tides work, how beaches form and about the survival strategies of intertidal inhabitants. Activities may include collecting data from designated study sites, line transects and a beach discovery walk. As professional educators, we know how to design educational and fun activities to the appropriate age level.

Join Blue Water Venture’s Marine Science and Kayaking Camp based in Santa Cruz, California. During our daily educational adventures, we’ll explore the tidepools of Natural Bridges, hike among the elephant seals of Ano Nuevo, learn kayak rescue skills and enjoy a kayaking expedition to Elkhorn Slough. Our naturalist-led program includes a scavenger hunt through the touch tanks and aquarium of the Seymour Center, home to the stealthy Red Octupus!

Join the outdoor educators of Blue Water Ventures on a truly unique school field trip kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough, north of Monterey. Our curriculum typically includes: wetlands ecology, endangered species, natural history of sea otters, harbor seals, sea birds. etc and cultural history. Leadership and teamwork are key components of our field trips. After lunch, we will pull a large seine net and examine our catch. Our program is rich, informative and very unique as we combine learning both on and off the water.

Timing: 9:30am-2:00pm $38 per student.

Visit: http://www.bluewaterventures.org for details or call Kim Powell, owner at: 831 459 8548