Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages.
We recognize that bringing a group to the Academy can be intimidating: the learning environment is stimulating and the list of daily events staggering. To assist you with trip planning, we have a few suggestions for selecting daily activities, and we've designed resources for structuring learning.
Make a Plan!
Choose Your Own Pathway
We recommend aligning your visit with a singular learning objective. Less is more!
- Select your learning objective.
- Find one exhibit that fits this goal well.
- Design a simple self-guided or group activity, or browse through the Academy's scavenger hunts. Emphasize concepts rather than facts. Use things you can observe directly rather than focusing on text. Consider using these scaffolds for field trips that involve a tiny bit of pre-work in students' science notebooks.
- Scan through the daily calendar and interactive exhibits. Would you like to instruct your chaperones to make sure students get to experience one or more?
- Leave time for student exploration, social interaction, and memory-making! Academy staff and docents are scattered throughout the building. Encourage your students to talk with them!
- Consider reading this Social Story to prepare younger students for their visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost?
San Francisco school groups are admitted free. Other California school groups and all youth groups pay heavily discounted rates subsidized by donations to the Academy for All fundraising effort. Prices may vary based on time of year. Planetarium shows are free, but a reservation is required.
How do you access the Planetarium?
The only activity that requires advanced reservations is viewing a show in the Planetarium. You can select a show on your online application, and if space is available on your visit date, we'll book your group seats at a scheduled time. School groups may request seats in live astronomy presentations at 10:30 am which are designed specifically for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8, respectively.
Can I explore the Academy before the field trip to plan?
Yes! Field trip organizers can bring their order confirmation to the Service Desk outside the entrance, and we'll print one complimentary admission ticket for you. As long as you have an upcoming field trip, you can get into the building to plan!
Educator Exhibit Guides
Consider planning your trip around a particular exhibit that complements your science curriculum. We've developed Educator Exhibit Guides to help you:
- Plan an Academy field trip around a specific exhibit.
- Learn about an exhibit’s themes and key concepts to guide students’ experience.
- Discover Academy-written activities related to the exhibit.
- Find out about scientific research happening behind-the-scenes.
Feedings & Presentations
No two visits to the California Academy of Sciences are alike. Explore the presentations, animal feedings, and other activities scheduled for the day you plan to visit.
Most are daily, and are appropriate for all ages. Programs tend to last 15 minutes, and we encourage you to stay for the duration.
- For the 10:30am Penguin Feeding and 11:30am Coral Reef Dive, we recommend arriving early for a seat!
- Docent carts change daily, so you won't be able to plan around them. Simply be on the lookout for orange lab coats!
Scavenger Hunts & Museum Worksheets
Educators are always looking for worksheets and activities to guide student learning. These museum worksheets don't involve finding "the answers," but rather serve as tools to structure your visit around a given theme.
Encourage your students to slow down, make careful observations, and engage in science discourse with their peers!
Download our one-page Chaperone Guide for ideas on how to facilitate student learning! The Chaperone Guide is available in English, Spanish, or Chinese.
Then, browse through more tips that encourage students to engage all five of their senses as they observe and discover the wonders in front of them. If you like any of them, share them with other adults in attendance!
Tips for Planning a Visit Date
Generally, field trips can be scheduled on most dates with the exception of holidays and some school breaks. You can even book a weekend visit!
Reserved seats in Planetarium shows are free, but you must request them on the online application to pre-book the seats. Use these Planetarium schedules when planning preferred visit dates to improve your chances of getting seats in your favorite show.
Sensory Bags & Social Story
If you have children in your group with sensory needs, head over to Coat Check to borrow a bag containing noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget toys, and other anxiety-reducing touchables.
You can also plan to visit museum areas that are less likely to be loud, smelly, or visually complex, using the Sensory Guide on the interactive floor map.
Consider reading this Social Story to prepare students for their visit.
Field trips are on hold as the museum remains closed to the public. Stay tuned!
Available for formal school groups bringing grades preK-12, including preschool.
Summer camps and afterschool programs qualify for discounted visit rates, too!
The Academy is temporary closed to the public. The 2020-2021 school year application will become available once group visits are deemed safe. Thanks for your patience!
During the 2019-2020 school year, the Rock Fund Program is open to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes in the city of San Francisco. This unique opportunity includes free field trip programming and needs-based transportation scholarships.