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Marine Studies

Photo By Naomi Blinick

Engaging high school students with hands on study of marine ecosystems

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Class with Bottlenose Dolphins - Photo by Zeke Smith

The Prescott College Kino Bay Center offers individualized marine studies courses for high school groups.  These courses are designed for small groups of ambitious students motivated to learn about the marine environment.  Tailored to compliment each individual school’s curriculum, the Marine Studies courses foster self-direction and personal growth through experiential learning and exploration of the Gulf of California coast. Courses can vary in duration based on the needs of individual schools and focus on the different coastal habitats of the region. These include mangrove estuaries, rocky shores, islands, rocky reefs and mudflats.  Curriculum is designed to address topics including sea floor topography, ocean zonation, marine mammals, shorebirds, wind waves and tides, taxonomy, island ecology, invertebrate phyla, deep-sea biology, fishes and more. Students participate in a variety of experiential field activities, discussions, library research projects and presentations.  Through this program students gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of marine and coastal environments.


The High School Marine Studies Courses are based out of the Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies, Prescott College’s field station in Sonora, Mexico. The Kino Bay Center is located on the edge of the Central Gulf Coast Subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, and on the shores of the Midriff Island region of the Gulf of California. This area represents a transition zone between the temperate and subtropical portions of the Gulf. The surrounding desert, marine, and island ecosystems are incredibly rich, diverse, unique, and ecologically important. The cultural landscape has a long and troubled history that is inextricably interwoven with the natural endowments of the region.  Our field station is an ideal base to provide students with the work space, computers and library facilities a school group would desire while researching the marine environment. Living and working 100 yards from the shoreline ignites personal creativity, motivation and learning.

Courses can be designed for the months of October, November, February, March, April or May.  For more information please contact Director Lorayne Meltzer at lmeltzer@prescott.edu 

Sample Schedule:

DAY ONE:  Orientation: “Gaining a sense of place”

o   Sensory, creative writing exercise

o   Hike up Punta Ignacio

o   Map exercise.  Identifying coastal habitats from aerial view

o   Introduction to ecology and natural history of marine and coastal ecosystems


DAY TWO: Rocky Intertidal Explorations

o   Tides. The effects of the moon and the sun.

o   How do the tides affect marine life, especially intertidal organisms?

o   Introduction to Taxonomy, “Why do we categorize things?”

o   Phyla presentations

  • Common Intertidal invertebrates characteristics



o   Island Formation, ecology and conservation

o   Marine Mammal Spotting and Identification

o   Snorkeling

  • Fish Identification


DAY FOUR: Geography and Geology of the Gulf of California

o   Geology lesson

o   Map drawing

o   Building the Gulf of California in the Sand

  • Conceptualizing trenches, islands, upwelling

o   Afternoon free time


DAY FIVE: Estuarine Explorations

o   Ecology of estuaries

o   Seabird and shorebird identification

o   Cultural exchange activity (Seri or Kino Ecology Club)

o   Human use of estuaries