Education Programs

In a coastal community such as ours, the ocean provides a common thread through the study of diverse disciplines: history, science, literature and math. It is the stories of people, explorers and researchers, that bring the ocean to life for students. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is here to tell these human stories, from earlier Chumash seafaring to deep-sea diving and exploration.

We look forward to working with you to design experiences that truly enhances your classroom study.

To become a sponsor or supporter of these programs please contact Greg Gorga at ggorga@sbmm.org or call (805) 962-8404 x103



Our Third Thursday lecture program features a wide variety of speakers covering all facets of our maritime history and culture. From rowing across the Northern Atlantic, to the Great White Fleet visit to Santa Barbara, to stories of the Chumash tomol, our presenters provide an insider’s perspective featuring rare, unique photographs of our past and present interactions with the seas.

Maritime Museum members receive free admission and are invited to a special pre-lecture reception with the guest speaker. Admission for nonmembers is $10.


The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 10am to discuss maritime themed books. Highlighting both fiction and non-fiction, the diverse selections always bring lively discussion to this group.


Chart your own course! Self-guided tours allow groups to explore specific subject matter and experience the museum at your own pace.

To aid in student discovery, treasure maps are available for group or individual visitors.

Admission ONLY


During a docent-guided tour, our trained volunteer educators engage visitors in active viewing and discussion of topics relating to the Museum’s exhibits and maritime history. Reservations for docent guided tours must be made at least two weeks in advance of your planned visit. Tours typically require 45 minutes but can be adapted to fit needs of the group.

TEACHERS: Working to meet the educational goals of your class, we tailor tours to the age level, learning styles and curriculum connections of your group. Workshops, storytelling or sing-a-longs can be added to any tour program.


(4th–5th Grade)

“This was an awesome experience. I had one group of students who I felt concern about their ability to work together. They took their jobs seriously, became a cohesive unit, and were commended by the captain at the end of program. The first mates have developed lasting leadership skills, and my classroom as a whole now listen and follows direction better.”- Jeannie Harris, Teacher at Santa Barbara Academy

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum has been bringing the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point up from the Ocean Institute in Dana Point since 2001. This program brings history alive for students, allowing them to spend the night aboard a tall ship living the life of an 1830’s sailor. Thanks to the support of our donors and local foundations, this program is provided free of charge to low-income, Title I schools.

Based on Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s book Two Years Before the Mast, local fourth-graders, who are studying California history, become immersed in the unique world Dana faced as he rounded Cape Horn on his voyage to Alta California, headed to Santa Barbara to trade hides and tallow.

Students explore man’s relationship with the ocean, gain an appreciation for our maritime heritage, and learn the concepts of ‘historical perspectives’ and ‘interpretation’. Through challenging hands-on activities students develop problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, communication, and teamwork skills.

The program curriculum offers interdisciplinary lessons in math, science, language arts, social studies, and music. Additionally, the professionally developed curriculum is aligned with the California State Content Standards and highlights California’s rich maritime history. Students demonstrate improved listening and speaking skills, better teamwork, increased self-esteem and class participation, and new leadership abilities.

The Spirit of Dana Point Tall Ship Education Program runs during the month of October and features a special community day and public dockside tours of the tall ship. Sign up your class for an overnight adventure of a lifetime!

Discounted tuition and bussing for Title I schools depends on available funding.

“Your program brings this book to life and offers our students a very unique, authentic opportunity to discover what life was like aboard a merchant ship in the mid 1800s. Students are expected to push themselves beyond their comfort zone as they experience the hard work of life at sea, as they stand watch at night, and as they learn to work together as a crew. This is an experience these nine and ten year olds will never forget!”- Barbara LaCorte, Principal, Hope School

18-hour program (3 pm-9 am)
For pricing and scholarship information please contact Emily Falke at efalke@sbmm.org or (805) 962-8404 x111
Up to 30 participants per overnight

Ditty Box curriculum provided in advance

Marine Science Tall Ship Program

“We are a Title I school with many economically disadvantaged students. Although we are located in Santa Maria, about 14 miles from the Ocean, many of our students had never been to the ocean until our trip out on the ship. The students became part of the crew, learning how to raise and lower the sails. At the end of our trip the staff talked about how it took everyone to help sail the ship, how working as a team does make a difference. Please know that our students went home with a lifetime of memories, and a life-long lesson. Know that your donation will ripple to benefit many children in our community. Thank you again for such an amazing opportunity!”- Lynn Shrogin, Liberty Elementary School Teacher

The Marine Science program allows local sixth- through ninth-graders to use their math and science skills in a real-life setting. During a two-hour cruise in the Santa Barbara Channel, students practice charting and navigation, learn about plate tectonics and how the channel was formed, study the ocean food web and the effect of species loss on other species, and then they dissect squid and sea cucumbers. This interactive program helps students learn by doing.

Run through the Ocean Institute aboard the Spirit of Dana Point, this curriculum is aligned with the California School Standards. The program is the perfect follow-up for fourth-graders who spent the night aboard the Spirit of Dana Point. Discounted tuition, including free tuition for low-income, Title I schools and after school groups, is available through the generosity of our donors and local foundations. Sign up your classroom or group now.

Programs generally runs in January. Please contact Deputy Director Emily Falke for details at efalke@sbmm.org or (805) 962-8404 x111.

“Last week, Cleveland School sixth graders boarded the Tall Ship Bill of Rights for an exciting educational trip on the ocean. The students hoisted the sails and learned that working together made the job easier. During this excursion, they dissected a squid as they learned about invertebrates, played an eco-game in which they came to realize the importance of reducing the use of plastics, and discovered how plate tectonics impacts our channel. During the trip, the students saw harbor seals, cormorants, and pelicans. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum generously made this experience possible for the sixth graders. Their teacher, Jean Rogers-O’Reilly, felt that this was a wonderful culminating science trip that reinforced many concepts learned in class.”- Santa Barbara Unified School District Website



The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s trained docents go out to local schools for Science Fairs and other events and engage students using hands on activities to teach them charting, navigation skills, and knot tying. The museum’s rolling yacht, “Merry Time”, allows youth to navigate a pre-set course, utilizing their math skills. Docents explain how a magnetic compass works, what “true north’ means, and how to read a compass. In addition, students learn a variety of sailor’s knots, what makes a good knot, and when to use different knots.

Science Fair visits are arranged through the museum’s Guest Services Coordinator, who can be contacted at (805) 962-8404, ext. 110, or at guestservices@sbmm.org.

For more information on specific workshops, call (805) 962-8404 ext.111.

Santa Barbara’s rich maritime history comes to life during our annual festivals. Each spring, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum hosts the Sea Festival, featuring hands-on activities, performances and vessel tours. Summer Celebration takes place each July, ringing in the Museum’s birthday. The activity-filled celebration includes engaging programs, art, tours and more.


The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum sponsors visiting tall ships throughout the year. These vessels serve as special temporary exhibits that the public can tour, experiencing history firsthand. Many of the visiting tall ships also provide additional education and sailing opportunities.


As a member of the Santa Barbara Educator’s Roundtable, SBMM participates in the annual Passport Program.

From November to April, Passport booklets are available for students in grades K-8. The Passport allows free admission for the student and one adult to participating museums and education sites. Each venue provides an activity for students to complete, earning stamps in their passport. After receiving eight stamps, students will receive  a special Passport T-shirt.


The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum in collaboration with Semana Nautica hosts the annual Krazy Kardboard Kayak Race. Teams of 4 are invited to challenge friends and fellow community members to a test of wits and design capabilities as they attempt to create a functioning cardboard kayak. After an hour of vessel design at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, competitors parade kayaks to the race location to find out whose design can hold up under pressure and paddling. Recruit family, friends, coworkers and neighbors, and join us for an entirely unique and zany water-sport challenge.

See Events Calendar for date-specific information.

Educator Resources:

In a coastal community such as ours, the ocean provides a common thread through the study of diverse disciplines: history, science, literature and math. It is the stories of people, explorers & researchers, that bring the ocean to life for students. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is here to tell these human stories, from earlier Chumash seafaring to deep-sea diving and exploration.

We look forward to working with you to design experiences that truly enhances your classroom study.

Interested in accessing pre-visit materials, special offers and over 100 ocean-themed lessons?