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history and nature

History and Nature Classes

Sea Otters, the California Coast, and So Much More


Otters are amazing and adorable, they are vitally important to our coastal ecosystems, and their story is captivating! Join Kim Steinhardt, author, photographer, and dedicated coastal storyteller, to discover the sea otter survival story, and explore the beautiful otter habitat in Moss Landing with an expert guide.

This updated version of our ever-popular annual Sea Otter Adventure begins with a presentation and photographic journey in class, including the latest sea otter conservation news, then a break for lunch on your way to Moss Landing to search for the otters. This annual adventure always yields rich photo opportunities and the chance to view the otters live and in-person(otter)!

Kim will also discuss some of the topics from The Edge: The Pressured Past and Precarious Future of California’s Coast, a new book he has co-authored with local marine expert Gary Griggs.

The afternoon includes about a mile of light hiking and students should bring a lunch. Detailed directions to the field trip location are provided in the morning lecture portion of class.

Sat., March 17
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Room: 2501 and Moss Landing
Register before Jan. 29: $68
Register after Jan. 29: $72

Register 2 or more: $65 each


register online

Kim Steinhardt is an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University, and a former Administrative Law Judge, who now writes about the coast and photographs marine wildlife. He is currently working with National Geographic Books on publication of a collection of his sea otter images and coastal storytelling.


"I am a state park ranger and the course was invaluable to both my career, and my personal development. I have a much greater appreciation for the plight of our sea otters, and I wish everyone in the community could attend Mr. Steinhardt's program. He is an excellent presenter, and extremely knowledgeable about the habitat, environmental impacts, and life cycle of the sea otter. What loving little creatures they are to grace this planet. "

- Sea Otter Adventure student



Big Creek Reserve Day Hike in Big Sur





Big Creek Reserve is a protected, natural reserve that is only available to researchers and educators. This day hike will consist of a ten mile round-trip strenuous hike with an elevation gain of approximately 1000 ft. We will spend our day hiking through shady redwood forests, across forested mountain streams, along deep v-shaped canyons, and across high slopes of open grassland with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean far below.

Don’t miss this opportunity to witness the natural wonder of this unique reserve!

Details about meeting place, suggested attire, and other important information about the day are posted on the Extension Class Resources web page.

Please see Extension’s Class Resources web page for a detailed map, directions, meeting place, and information about what to wear, what to bring and other details to make your day enjoyable!

Sat., May 19
8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur
Register before Mar. 26: $58
Register after Mar. 26: $65

Register 2 or more: $55 each

register online


Gary Marcoccia teaches in the Kinesiology Department at Cabrillo College and is a Certified Wilderness First Responder.

"The class reinforced and enhanced my personal beliefs about the out of doors. (The instructor) knew a lot about the history of the place, and about the native American stories"

-Big Creek Reserve Day Hike student


Elkhorn Slough Wildlife Safari - Spring Wildlife

elkhorn sea lion




Spend a day at Elkhorn Slough learning about and viewing wetland wildlife at close range aboard a comfortable, easily boardable boat, floating on calm inland slough water. This day trip will offer a unique spring-time spectrum of wildlife, including shore bird species. Join two experienced naturalists as we see sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters during the otter and seal pupping season. There will be a significant variety of aquatic birds, and close-in views of a thriving heron and cormorant rookery shore side. We rarely record fewer than 50 bird species on our trips, including many northbound migrants, during the three-hour outing. This trip offers a view of the Elkhorn slough, and the wildlife that live there, that is only visible when you are moving through the slough on a boat!

Please bring $8 for parking meters, in $1 bills, or change. These meters do not give change!

Dress warm, and wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Please visit our Class Resources page for maps and directions! 

Sat., April 7
8:30 - 11:30 am
Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing
Register before Mar. 26: $78
Register after Mar. 26: $85

Register 2 or more: $75 each


register online


Bruce Elliott - see bio

"Bruce Elliot is excellent; he's an expert in Natural History, excited about his subject and a good instructor."

- Elkhorn Slough Safari student


Owls of Santa Cruz County





Owls are some of the most magical, powerful creatures on earth. The sound of an owl can stop you in your tracks, and their gaze is mesmerizing. Fortunately for those of us residing in Santa Cruz County, the coast and mountains of Western Santa Cruz County host as many as seven species of owls, often vocal during their pre-breeding courtship in late winter. This two-part class will provide an opportunity to learn about these fascinating creatures, then venture out into their habitat for an evening walk.

We begin on-campus with a lecture in the afternoon, full of “old-school” slides from photographs taken by the instructor during his decades of studying these beautiful birds of prey.  We will review biology, species identification and habitat for our local owls. Students will learn species identification by silhouette and their unique calls. After a dinner break, the class will meet again for an evening of nocturnal searching in Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center.

Students should dress warm, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a flashlight!

Please visit our Class Resources page for maps and directions! 

Fri., April 13
2:30 - 9:00 pm
Room: 403 & off-site at the Rancho del Oso Nature & History Center

Register before Mar. 26: $78
Register after Mar. 26: $85

Register 2 or more: $75 each

register online


Bruce Elliott - see bio below

" The class was wonderful, Bruce Elliott was a wealth of knowledge and we had a lot of fun under the moonlight calling for owls"

-Owls of Santa Cruz County student


Pinnacles National Monument – East





The Pinnacles Monument is one of our newest National Parks, and for good reason!  The Pinnacles were once part of a huge volcano that migrated from southern California over 23 million years ago. The location presents a fascinating platform for a day of tectonic plate geology, diverse and active wildlife, brilliant wildflowers, Native American history and the recent re-introduction of the majestic California Condor. Join us for a day in the East half of the park during the peak of the annual bird migration and the spring wildflower display.  

A letter and directions to the East Side Monument is on the Cabrillo Extension Class Resources web page. Our early meeting time puts us in the park when parking is easier to find and closer to our trailheads, so be sure to plan for travel time.

There is a $5 park entrance fee, unless you possess a National Park Service annual pass or a Golden Eagle Passport.

Sat., April 28
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Pinnacles National Monument - East Entrance

Register before Mar. 26: $78
Register after Mar. 26: $85

Register 2 or more: $75 each

register online


Bruce Elliott is a retired senior Biologist Supervisor for the California Dept. of Fish and Game. He is a skilled field trip leader who conducts a variety of tours and explorations of the area's natural resources.


"Bruce is a great instructor with a depth of knowledge. Highly recommend this class. I look forward to whatever he offers next. "

-Winter Wildlife with Bruce Elliot student


Bee-Friendly Garden - How to Create a Bee Sanctuary in Your Backyard

bee friendly

Would you like to create a beautiful garden and also do your part to save the bees, all in one? A huge part of keeping honey bees healthy is to ensure they have the plants they need to survive available to them year round. Join Emily for this one-day workshop on bee-friendly gardening by starting the day at Cabrillo for a discussion and presentation on native plants, drought tolerant plants, perennial and annual flowering plants and basic bee-friendly landscape design. We’ll then break for lunch and make our way to Native Revival Nursery, just a few minutes from campus, where we will walk the grounds to see, smell and touch some recommended plants for your very own Bee Friendly Garden. This class helps us all save the bees and make our gardens more beautiful at the same time!

Students go home with a small bee-friendly garden starter kit from Native Revival Nursery, a plant list that breaks down the best bee plants by size, annual blooming schedule, place of origin and water needs.

Sat., February 24 - NEW DATE!
1:00 - 4:00 pm
Room: 1605 and Native Revival Nursery in Aptos. Click HERE for an interactive campus map.

Register before Jan. 29: $58
Register after Jan. 29: $65
Register 2 or more: $55 each

plus $25 materials fee payable at registration

register online


Emily Bondor - see bio below



Beekeeping Basics and Honeybee Biology


Whether you are interested in learning sustainable backyard beekeeping practices or just want a better understanding of how these delicate, intricate creatures benefit us and our planet, you will leave this class a-buzz with new energy!

This course covers hive structure, colony dynamics and delve into basic honeybee biology. We will discuss the history of beekeeping, from honey production to pollination contracts, and discuss current trends (and rifts) in colony management practices. Weather permitting, there will be a field trip to Emily's Apiary in Santa Cruz for a real-life "hive dive".

By the end of the course, students who are interested in obtaining their own hive will have a good working understanding of equipment, tools, management practices, bee biology, and how we can work together to support these very vital pollinators.

This class is appropriate for adults with little to no experience in keeping bees.

2 Sat., Feb. 17 & 24 - NEW DATES!
9:30 am - 12:00 noon
Room: 1605
- Click HERE for an interactive campus map.
Register before Jan. 29: $68
Register after Jan. 29: $75

plus $5 materials fee payable at registration

register online


Emily Bondor - see bio below


Intermediate Beekeeping




This class is designed for students with knowledge of beekeeping, and those who have beehives. We will discuss keeping bees locally, the way to start a hive (package versus nucleus), and different option for foundation. The class will focus on IPM approaches, different options for tackling parasitic Varroa mites, and seasonal hive management techniques. We will review natural approaches to IPM in place of harsh chemicals. Students will be encouraged to compare notes and strategies, and to foster community engage- ment and mentorship. Students will leave with detailed knowledge about treating for Varroa mites, and a seasonal outline for hive management. 

Sat., March 24
10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Room: 1605 - Click HERE for an interactive campus map.

Register before Jan. 29: $68
Register after Jan. 29: $75

plus $5 materials fee payable at registration

register online


Emily Bondor is a bay area Beekeeper and Educator. Her expertise is in promoting responsible honeybee genetics and breeding queens from locally adapted genetic stock. She works in Napa Valley managing bee-hives and is currently pursuing Master Beekeeping Classes through the Honeybee Lab at UC Davis.


"Instructor Emily Bondor is a wonderful teacher. She has a wealth of knowledge about bees and is able to convey her passion and mastery of beekeeping in a delightful way. The class was informative and fun. I highly recommend Ms. Bondor as an instructor. "

-Beekeeping Basics student




Hiking: The Path Less Traveled





Explore the greenbelts and State Parks of Santa Cruz County in this fun and challenging hiking class. You will become familiar with parts of the Santa Cruz Hiking system, learn a little natural history, identify some flora and fauna and at the same time get some great exercise. The main emphasis is on movement and fitness. Participants should have at least average fitness levels and be able to hike 5-8 miles on moderately steep terrain. We move at a fairly fast pace, about 3 miles per hour. This class is not for beginning hikers. Each week will feature a different hike on trails not commonly known. If you are new to hiking, contact Phil ( before enrolling in the class.

Many questions can be answered in our FAQs:

Students will receive upon registration information about basic dress and supplies to bring.

9:30 am - 12:30 pm
First class meeting is in Parking Lot K
Register before June 5: $98
Register after June 5: $114


Phil Kaplan has taught in the Kinesiology Department at Cabrillo for 25 years and has been teaching hiking classes for the past 12 years.


Backyard Astronomer


night sky

Learn how to identify the stars and constellations seen in our local skies in this fun hands-on workshop. Using the Cabrillo planetarium and observatory you will see the wonders of the universe and learn about astronomy history, methods, equipment, and recent discoveries. Get a sense of distances to planets, stars and galaxies. Learn about Black holes, dark matter and the expanding universe.

Participants should dress warmly for outdoor observation at the observatory. Participants should dress warmly for outdoor observation at the observatory. In case of rain or fog, class will use the planetarium sky.

This class is appropriate for students aged 10 to adult.

Coming Soon!
6:30 - 9:30 pm
Room: 707

Register before Sept. 11: $58
Register after Sept. 11: $65
plus $5 materials fee at registration


Karl von Ahnen has been an amateur astronomer and telescope user since age 12. He served as lab instructor-assistant in the Cabrillo Astronomy Department for many years, and is the Director of the Fujitsu Planetarium at De Anza College, one of the largest school planetariums in the country.




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