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History and Nature Classes

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. In case of rain or fog, class will assemble in the planetarium.

This class is appropriate for students aged 10 to adult.

2 Fri., April 22 & 29
6:30 - 9:30 pm
Room: 707

Register by Feb. 29: $58
Register after Feb. 29: $65


register online


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.


Impacts of the Recent California Drought on Bird Migration


It would seem intuitive that the recent drought cycle would present a significant number of challenges to the already rigorous exercise of the annual migratory movement by a wide spectrum of Northern Hemisphere nesting birds. While this is true, the overall migratory phenomenon involves many factors well removed from our local State drought area and it will be useful to consider true effects in a kind of ‘Big Picture.’

This program presents an overview of what drives our West Coast migration pattern and the probable variations to the pattern by both the drought and the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon.

Fri., March 11
7 - 10 pm
Room: 403
Register by Feb. 29: $25
Register after Feb. 29: $28

register online

Bruce Elliott - see bio below


A Wildlife Adventure Safari: Afloat on Elkorn Slough

sea lion

Observe wetland wildlife at close range aboard a comfortable, easily boardable watercraft, floating on calm inland slough water. Join two experienced naturalists as we see sea lions and harbor seals, sea otters  (all these midst of the otter and seal pupping season). There will be added a significant variety of aquatic birds, and close-in views of a thriving heron and cormorant rookery shoreside. We rarely record less than 50 bird species, including many northbound migrants, during the three hour outing.

Sat., May 21
8:30 am - 11:30 am
Elkhorn Slough Safari, Moss Landing - map and directions
Register by Feb. 29: $68
Register after Feb. 29: $75

register online


Bruce Elliott and Captain Joe Manzino of Elkhorn Slough Safari, Moss Landing.

Bruce Elliott is a retired senior Biologist Supervisor for the California Dept. of Fish and Game. Bruce has conducted dozens of natural history themed presentations at Cabrillo College over the last 30 years.


Backyard Beekeeping 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! Over the course of the class we will cover 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 we will take 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 and 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.

4 Sat., April 9 - 30
10:00 am - 11:30 am
Room: 707

Register by Feb. 29: $68
Register after Feb. 29: $72


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.


Sea Otter Adventures, A Human Obstacle Course: Lecture and Field Trip


Join sea otter photographer/lecturer Kim Steinhardt for a special day-long adventure.  We begin with a morning talk and multimedia presentation, followed by an afternoon field trip to Moss Landing to seek out otters in the wild. We can expect rich photo opportunities and a short, one-mile hike. We will discuss the relationship between sea otters and humans, and how it has been strained nearly to the breaking point during much of the last three centuries. With only 3,000 California sea otters remaining, this threatened species now faces new peril. In this class you will discover more about:
  • Why the sea otter attracts such fateful attention

  • How litigation threatens to halt the long struggle to come back from near extinction

  • What happens when law and politics clash with science and good ocean stewardship

Sat., April 16   
10 am - 5 pm
Room: 2501 - Morning lecture
Afternoon field trip to Moss Landing
Register by Feb. 29: $68
Register after Feb. 29: $72

register online


Kim Steinhardt, JD, is a former Administrative Law Judge who photographs and studies sea otters, presents popular illustrated talks, and regularly writes a column called The Sea Otter File, dealing with all things otter.  He also teaches law classes on legislative advocacy in the public interest, and leads natural and cultural history walks along the coast of Monterey Bay with a focus on ocean conservation issues and sea otters.


When El Niño Saved Santa Cruz: The Untold (and Unofficial) Story of the City’s Birth      


Does present-day Santa Cruz seem and bit unkempt and disheveled to you?  Things seem to take longer? Or never happen at all? Take heart. It’s been that way from the beginning. From the very establishment of Mission Santa Cruz in 1791, the place was known for its bickering, and contention. Even after 1850 when the Yankee immigrants broke away from much-too-Mexican Monterey County (using a forged petition), and began building their Protestant New England version of California, they continued to feud, fumble, and miss deadlines. Vigilantes, squatters mayhem, and lynchings were the norm.

Then, during the Mega Flood of 1862 (El Niño at his finest) the San Lorenzo River rose up and smacked them, almost washing the entire town into the sea.  Finally, Santa Cruz crawled out of the mud, came to their senses and putting their house in order.  Four years later, after Congress helped bail them out, Santa Cruz was able to become a city. 
What took so long?  And what are the legacies for us150 years later?

In a wide-ranging illustrated lecture, the History Dude will tell the complicated story.

Fri., May 6
7 – 9 pm
Room 454
Register by Feb. 29:  $12
Register after Feb. 29: $15



register online


Sandy Lydon - see bio below

For more infromation about these classes, please see Sandy Lydon's Central Coast Secrets web page


Re-Humanizing the Landscape: The History of Coast Dairies and Land   

coast dairies

Brand-new Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company plant, Nov. 1, 1906.  Coast Dairies and Land played a major role in the establishment and success of the plant.

The word “bucolic” is always used to describe Coast Dairies and Land because the word “dairies” conjures up an idealized rural vision filled with farmhouses and Swiss cowherds tending herds of black and white cows. Nothing could be farther from the historical reality. 

When two Swiss immigrant families combined their assets in 1901 and formed the Coast Dairies and Land Company they inspired and supported a huge industrial tidal wave that forever changed the North Coast. Then, in a reversal of the typical immigrant story where the family has financial success, puts down roots and multiplies across the land, the two Swiss families returned to Switzerland, becoming absentee landowners, managing the property and businesses from across the Atlantic for over a century.

The story of Coast Dairies and Land is a story of human ingenuity and vision repeated over and over again. It is anything but pastoral and peaceful.

In a Friday evening presentation combined with a Saturday field day, attorney Bob Bosso and historian Sandy Lydon will offer this first-ever immersion into the human story of Coast Dairies and Land. There will be some walking during the field trip. Participants will drive to a North Coast location and then take shuttle vans into the countryside for the remainder of the day.

Details about the meeting place will be provided to registrants in early April.

Because of the nature and complexity of the subject matter, children under 18 may not participate In the field trip.

Fri., April 22
7 – 9 pm
Room: 454
Fee: $15 (Lecture only)


register online


Fri., April 22
7 – 9 pm
Room: 454
Sat., April 23
9 am - 5 pm
Location: Santa Cruz County North Coast. Meeting place will be provided to registrants in early April.
Fee: $85 (Lecture and field trip)


register online


Bob Bosso, a Santa Cruz native (Santa Cruz High class of ’57), is an attorney in Santa Cruz and attorney for Coast Dairies and Land Company since 1972.  In 1990 he became the President of Coast Dairies and Land corporation, actively managing the property up to and through its sale to the Trust for Public Land .  He has an intimate knowledge of the property and its more recent history.

Sandy Lydon is emeritus historian at Cabrillo College where he has taught for 46 years. He has researched and written widely on the rich immigration history of the Monterey Bay Region. An award-winning author and teacher, he has been described as Central California’s pre-eminent “standup historian.”

For more infromation about these classes, please see Sandy Lydon's Central Coast Secrets web page




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