Get Involved With Key to the Sea

Key to the Sea is Heal the Bay’s marine environmental education program for teachers and elementary school children (K-5) throughout Los Angeles County.

The program focuses on watershed stewardship, stormwater pollution prevention, and marine conservation. Key to the Sea endeavors to promote environmental stewardship by stimulating students’ sense of wonder, learning and empowerment through key environmental experiences. Engaging hands-on educational activities for students, including a field trip to the beach, as well as exciting professional development opportunities for teachers are hallmarks of the program.

Plus, all of this is FREE*!

Program Components

Professional Development and Classroom Enrichment

Key to the Sea gives teachers the tools to conduct both pre- and post-field trip educational activities in the classroom and to prepare students to get the most out of the field trip.

Teacher Professional Development Workshops

Workshops are required to participate in the Key to the Sea program. These outstanding workshops prepare teachers with the knowledge and tools to be leaders of environmental stewardship with their students.

In Year 1 of the Key to the Sea program, teachers attend Workshop I. In Year 2, teachers attend Workshop II. At the workshops, each teacher receives a multi-disciplinary, standards-aligned guide and complete ready-to-use curriculum kit.   Testimonials we’ve received show teachers find the trainings especially rewarding and well done! In addition, lunch is provided.

After completing Workshops I and II, teachers may continue to participate in the Key to the Sea program as “Veteran Teachers” for many years to come with no further workshops to attend. Veteran Teachers attend field trips with their students and receive supplies for classroom activities.

Beach Exploration Field Trip

The heart of the Key to the Sea program for your students is a field trip to a local marine science center (Field Trip Options). The field trip includes an exciting Beach Exploration environmental education program on the sand. Children use scientific equipment to explore the beach and do hands-on, fun, educational activities.

*Note: Some field trip locations may have additional costs associated with them. Please refer to the Field Trip Options page. Buses are not provided; however, some funding may be available. Please call 310-393-6149 x108 for more information.

Enviro-frames & Photos

While on the beach, pictures are taken of each student. Back in the classroom, each child receives a special “enviro-frame” for his/her photo to color and personalize with memories of the Beach Exploration. This personal memento helps to anchor the outdoor learning and the children are thrilled to be able to share their experience on the beach with their families. According to the teachers, the enviro-frames and photos are one of the most popular components of the Key to the Sea program!

Why Key to the Sea?

Young people, as future stewards of the environment, need to become aware of how stormwater pollution affects the beaches and marine environment, how they can protect themselves from the health risks of exposure to polluted waters, and how they and their families can make a difference by preventing pollution. Simple behavioral changes in our everyday living can make a positive impact on the problem. Children must be empowered to know that one person can make a difference.

It is to these ends that the Key to the Sea program aims. Key to the Sea makes it possible for children to experience nature and to learn about the important responsibility we all share in taking care of our coastal environment.

For example, the Beach Exploration portion of the field trip is designed to encourage students to use their senses, increase their observation skills and develop their sense of wonder. Children smell the salty air, hear the roaring surf, use binoculars and birdguides to observe bird behavior, and often see dolphins! They survey the organisms of the “wet zone” and “dry zone” of the beach, dig for sand crabs and bean clams, and examine beach wrack with magnifying lenses. The children see first hand the marine pollution and debris, learn how it impacts marine life, and make the connections to pollution prevention behaviors.  In fact, many children who attend our Key to the Sea programs have never been to the beach, even though they may live within a few miles of the coast. This is the kind of direct experience with the natural environment early in life that is essential to caring about the environment as an adult.


In 1999, Heal the Bay established the Key to the Sea program in response to requests from Los Angeles County marine science centers and teachers for assistance in expanding their environmental education programs. Each year, Key to the Sea serves up to 10,000 students and 400 teachers. Reaction from teachers and students has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic!