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Heal the Bay: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium (Scantlin)

Reviewed by: Shayleen Scantlin Biology Teacher at Panorama High School 

Heal the Bay

1600 Ocean Front Walk

Santa Monica, CA 90401


Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is located beach level at the historic Santa Monica Pier.The Aquarium’s vision is "to inspire understanding and conservation of the Santa Monica Bay and its watersheds through hands-on education, environmental stewardship and discovery. They have started many educational programs. offer many activities and special events dedicated to pollution prevention, marine conservation, biodiversity and environmental education."

The aquarium is very small with 4,500 square feet of different areas with touch tanks and information. However, in this small area are countless pieces of information. 

It is owned by Heal the Bay which is an organization that was founded in 1985 by a group of Los Angeles residents who were tired of the pollution in Santa Monica Bay. In 2003, Heal the Bay opened the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, bringing the Santa Monica Bay to life for more than 70,000 people each year.

Audience: Who should take a field trip to this location and why?  Be specific and explain how a particular student or teacher might benefit.  For example, 
  • A biology teacher would benefit visiting the Heal the Bay aquarium because they could see the evolutionary relationships and symbiosis. This would be a great place to visit during evolution, ecology, or anatomy units. 
  • A marine Biology teacher see the anatomy of marine wild life and see the different species...
  • An AP biology teacher would also benefit because students must learn the anatomy and behavioral science of animals. 
  • An environmental science teacher would benefit by a visit to Mount Wilson because it provides local examples of chaparral and mixed coniferous forests, air and light pollution, inversion layers, mountain building (transverse ranges), earthquake faults (San Gabriel fault), rock cycles, and many other phenomenon.
Science Concepts Addressed: Give examples of specific science concepts that may be addressed by visitng the field trip site and explain how they are addressed.  For example, the following science concepts can be addressed by a field trip to the Mount Wilson Observatory.
  • Physiology: The students can observe and touch many animals found in tide pools. 
  • Ecology/ Habitats: There are many habitats on display such as  Rocky Reef, Kelp Forests, Open Ocean, Pier, Tide pools.
  • Behavioral Ecology:  The students can observe the different organisms behaviors in the tanks especially the shark tank with swell sharks.
  • Human Ecology:  The students can view the effects of human pollution by visiting the different areas. They can see this in the water table area. 
  • Hydrological Cycle:  The students can view the water cycle at the water table demonstration.
  • Community Ecology:  Students can view the interactions between species within a niche. 
Study Guide:  Linked below as PDF. 

Curriculum Study Guide: • 


1. Intertidal Zonation: (Low tide, middle, and high tide) Explain what adaptations are necessary for survival for each zone. What do the animals at each location have in common? Draw each level and draw the organisms you find at each level.

2. Visit each of the environments: Rocky Reef, Kelp Forests, Open Ocean, Pier, Tide pools. Describe each habitat. What plants and animals do you find at each. Plot them on a world map.

3. Find each of the root words and describe what they mean:

Arthropoda, Mollusca, Echinoderm, Chordate, Cnidaria. Find organisms that are in each category and explain how their name is related to them.


1. What does the trash remind the sea turtles of?

2. What is displayed in the open ocean and what other animals are listed?

3.What preserved turtle is found in the Taper Science Lab and what is their habitat?

4. How old is the molt from the California Spiny Lobster in the Taper Science Lab?

5. What animals are found at the Rocky Reef exhibit?

6. What do seahorses feed on?

7. What part of a sea horse is as unique as a human fingerprint?

8. What do swell sharks do when they feel threatened?

9. What do the swell shark eggs look like and why?

10. What does a sea cucumber have that looks like it will protect them but does not.

11. How long does it take for a sea cucumber to grow back its guts after it releases them for protection?

12. What does a decorator crab do and why? 

13. Measure yourself and tell what shark you would be?

Higher Order Questions / Activities

1. Compare and contrast the thresher shark jaw with the bull shark


2. Hypothesis why all of the MPAs are found on the coasts and why do we have them?

3. Create a plan that your school can use to help heal our oceans? Also list things you can do everyday that can make an impact.


For additional information:  

Shayleen Mallick,
Oct 26, 2011, 8:17 PM
Shayleen Mallick,
Nov 15, 2011, 9:08 PM