UPDATE: Ecology's new website will be live on Monday morning! Our official web address will be https://ecology.wa.gov

Programs for schools, Pre-K through 12th

Padilla Bay can handle groups with a minimum of 10 and maximum to 60 students.

The Preschool-Kindergarten program

  • Includes basic estuarine awareness and vocabulary development through story, body movement (Estuary Aerobics), and a seven-minute video.
  • This is a 1 to 1.5-hour indoor program.
  • Estuary Guide Level 1 may include activities applicable to teachers of this age group.

Kindergarten through third grade

  • This is a 1.5-hour indoor program which includes an introduction to estuarine ecology through interactive creative dramatics (the Estuary Soup Chef skit), the Padilla Bay film, and a tour of the exhibits. The conclusion includes a presentation about appropriate behavior at the beach.
  • Estuary Guide Level 1 is intended to support this program.

Fourth through eighth grade

  • These grades are eligible for a four to five hour program (long program)which includes work both indoors and in the field. This full-day program may include the Estuary Soup Skit, the Padilla Bay video, exploration of the mud flats, plankton sampling, and the "chalk talk" showing how estuaries have changed in Puget Sound over time due to human development.
  • The "short program" takes about an hour and a half, is entirely in the building and includes everything that the long program has except the visit to the beach and use of the classroom with microscopes.
  • Estuary Guide Level 2 is intended to support this program.

High School

  • High school students visit our facility for a field trip led by our high school specialist. Lessons on variety of subjects and activities are available to meet your educational objectives.
  • Please contact the Reserve to discuss how our special skills can meet your needs.
  • This nearly 200-page text includes a section with student reading assignments with questions at the end of each chapter.
  • There are also ideas for student activities and other resources such as an annotated field guide to animals found at the beach in Padilla Bay.
  • Estuary Guide Level 3 is intended to support this program

Home School Groups

  • Home School groups can schedule a program with a minimum of 10 students.
  • We recommend you begin with an introductory program as described above in the Preschool to high school section. Then if you want more depth of study in subjects such as eelgrass, crabs, migration, echinoderms, water quality monitoring, etc. we have a wide selection of lessons to choose from.
  • Home scholars acquire all three levels of curriculum because each has activities that may be applicable to younger students.
  • We also have a curriculum library and can provide specialized expertise to home educators.
  • You should also get your name on our teacher automated email list for information about workshops and special student activities.

Other Groups

  • Groups include scouts, summer youth programs, ESL, and those with special needs.
  • We can design an educational program that meets your needs.
  • Usually these groups select a Mud Flat Safari.
  • This is a two to four-hour program including an introduction in the theater, tour of exhibits and a guided visit to the beach.
  • This program is best when the tide is 3 feet or lower (tide predictor)
  • College classes usually request a brief lecture on eelgrass ecology and the geologic and human history of the area before a visit to the eelgrass beds.
  • We are capable of addressing other more specific scientific subjects.
  • We also have a 15-minute video that includes interviews with several researchers.
  • Please contact the Reserve to discuss your specific needs.

How to schedule

  • Group scheduling for each calendar year begins in September of the preceding year.
  • The spring season fills quickly with school groups and is usually full by the end of September. (We do keep a waiting list).
  • Please call the Reserve at 360-428-1558 to find out about available dates and times (It's easiest to schedule a program on the phone because there are so many variables but it can be done via email).
  • You probably want to schedule your visit around the tide. Any tide less than +3.0 feet will begin to expose mud flats around the edges. Any tide less than zero empties the bay.
  • To find out what the tide is doing during your visit, contact the Reserve or go to the tide predictor.


Student Letters

Involve students writing about what they learned in the form of a thank you letter to Padilla Bay. Teachers can edit, add, or delete questions to make them more appropriate for their class

Resource documents


All programs are free, though donations are gladly accepted. Checks can be made out to the Padilla Bay Foundation.


For more information about Padilla Bay's Teacher Programs, please contact Susan Wood at (360) 428-1066 or Susan.Wood@ecy.wa.gov