Pre-trip lessons: The OSO experience can build upon lessons and vocabulary introduced prior to the field experience. We encourage teachers to help orient and prepare their students with the lessons included in the Teacher Packet and Expand Your Knowledge section of our website.

Select your chaperones: Chaperones are critical to the overall success of the OSO experience. Chaperones should come prepared to assist students in having a successful experience throughout their OSO trip. We require a minimum of three chaperones to rotate with their assigned group through each learning station. We ask that there be no more than eight adult chaperones (including the teacher, aid, group leader). If more than eight adults arrive on the day of your trip, we will ask for volunteers to remain dockside. This process can take away time from the students participating in the boat program. 

What to bring: See our list of helpful tips and information about what to bring.

Special education trips: Please notify our staff of the number of wheelchairs, the spectrum of student needs, and any special requests. There is a maximum capacity of 12 students per trip and we kindly request that each student bring their one-on-one aid. It is also helpful for group leaders to break students up by cognitive level/function and our educators will adjust their instruction accordingly. Our education center is accessible by elevator. Wheelchairs can remain dockside or be brought onboard and our Captain and crew are prepared to assist. In the event of an unlikely emergency, once boarded onto the boat, aids will need to unclip students from their wheelchairs.

Seasickness: While the boat is incredibly stable, there is always the chance that a student may get seasick. Students should hydrate well the night before and the morning of their trip. Ginger chews are helpful during the program—although we ask that students be very mindful of losing wrappers to the ocean. The medication route (Bonine (meclizine) and Dramamine (dimenhydrinate)) is also an option if parents/guardians so choose. Parents/guardians may opt to trial the medication beforehand to ensure that the child can tolerate the side effects. OSO instructors are not permitted to carry or administer student medications. Our instructors will utilize chaperones to assist with seasick students. 

Lunch locations: There is no snack or lunch break during our packed three hour program. Please plan on eating before or after your scheduled trip. There are a number of lunch spots at the Santa Cruz Harbor. Students can eat directly on Twin Lakes Beach or the public benches outside of Java Junction, El Palomar, or the Crow’s Nest Beach Market. Please avoid sitting at tables designated for patrons. Chaperones are asked to supervise students at all times and to keep their voices low to not disturb other businesses.

Photo release: Teachers may be contacted prior to their trip to distribute youth photo release forms for parents/guardians to sign. OSO utilizes photography to help promote the program for fund development purposes. Photos are not saved or shared on personal devices.  

Youth Photo Release Form

Formulario de publicación de fotos para jóvene

COVID-19: Participating teachers are required to perform a symptom check/health screen on participants prior to leaving their school campus. OSO is aligned with the California Department of Public Health and all OSO staff are fully vaccinated. Should a teacher, student, or chaperone test positive in the 14 days following their field trip with OSO, we respectfully request you notify us ASAP. If there are students, teachers, or chaperones that are immunocompromised, please communicate any special COVID-19 requests to OSO staff prior to your trip date. We are committed to the health and safety of our community!

Cancellation Policy: Class cancellation due to poor weather conditions is at the discretion of the captain and will be communicated to teachers 24 hours before their OSO trip. The teacher will be responsible for communicating this information to their chaperones and class. If the teacher has to cancel their trip, please communicate this to our staff ASAP. We kindly request 30 days’ notice for cancellations

Location: We are located at 2222 East Cliff Drive, Suite 222, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Our education center is located on the second floor above the Java Junction coffee shop in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, next door to the Crow’s Nest restaurant. 

Download a map and directions to OSO

Arrival time: Please arrive 10 minutes early. Morning classes coming from South Santa Cruz County and Monterey County will experience traffic delays. Please plan accordingly and keep in close communication with OSO staff if your class is behind schedule. Late arrivals result in an abbreviated program. 

Divide into groups: Classes with 24 students or less, please divide the class into two groups. Classes with 25 students or more, divide the class into three groups. We recommend that students are assigned into these groups prior to meeting our educators. We require one or more chaperone(s) to be assigned to each group. 

Directions & parking: For classes arriving by bus, once the bus turns onto Lake Ave, the bus parking lot is the second right next to the giant Eucalyptus tree (Google pin). Our educators will meet your group in that lot. If arriving by carpool, there is free parking along Lake Ave parallel to the harbor. Paid parking is located at the end of Lake Ave. There is a kiosk at the roundabout and parking is $1.50/hour or $15 for the day. For those arriving by carpool OR afternoon groups, our educators will meet your group at the public restrooms across from the Crow’s Nest restaurant. 

Trip itinerary: The OSO program is 3 hours (1.5 hours on the boat and 1.5 hours in the education center) with no snack or restroom breaks. Educators will bring students to the public restrooms before the program is underway. The schedule of activities for our AM and PM trips is listed below.  

FALL 2023

Class 1: Morning Trip (8:30-11:30 AM)

8:30 AM: Welcome and orientation 

9:00 AM: Board the Team O’Neill Catamaran/OSO Onboard Learning Stations 

10:30 AM: Return to the Santa Cruz Harbor 

10:30-11:30 AM: OSO Education Center Learning Stations


Class 1: Morning Trip (9:00 AM-12:00 PM) 

9:00 AM: Welcome and orientation 

9:30 AM: Board the Team O’Neill Catamaran/OSO Onboard Learning Stations 

11:00 AM: Return to the Santa Cruz Harbor 

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: OSO Education Center Learning Stations

Class 2: Afternoon Trip (12:00-3:00 PM)

12:00 PM: Welcome and orientation 

12:30 PM: Board the Team O’Neill Catamaran/OSO Onboard Learning Stations 

2:00 PM: Return to the Santa Cruz Harbor 

2:00-3:00 PM: OSO Education Center Learning Stations

Activities while you wait: If your class arrives before or stays beyond their scheduled OSO field experience, we ask that your students be respectful of our neighbors. This includes not congregating near the entrances of businesses, keeping voices down on the sidewalk directly next to businesses, and picking up trash left behind on the beach. If you plan to extend your visit, explore this list of Santa Cruz Harbor Activities

Student Action Project (SAP): We require that teachers/group leaders select from one of the five approved Student Action Projects listed on our the SAP webpage.  Please submit the requested documentation of your SAP to our staff on or before the end of the school year. Future participation in the OSO program is contingent upon completing an approved SAP and submitting the required documentation. Find out more about Student Action Projects.

Review trip data: Data taken in OSO’s three learning stations during the program is recorded in our online database, which can be used as a post field trip activity in class or assigned as a homework.  View student data.

Transportation scholarship: If you received confirmation that your class has been awarded an OSO transportation scholarship, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Every effort must be made to find the most affordable bus, such as a district bus, Michaels Transportation, First Student (ask for the 10% off OSO non-profit rate), or similar in order to help stretch our scholarship fund.
  • The bus must be billed to your school or district. Do not bill OSO directly.
  • Scholarship checks must be made out to your school, district, or school transportation fund. Please provide payment instructions so that we make the check payable to the proper entity.
  • For fall trips, invoices must be received by the end of December. For spring trips, invoices must be received by the end of June. Late invoices will not be paid. 
  • If you arrive at the OSO office with your transportation invoice on the day of your trip, we will issue your scholarship check within 1-2 weeks. 
  • Scholarship funds can only be released after your trip.