Point Dume Elementary School


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PDMSS about Marine ScienceStudents at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School are surrounded  by coastline, tidepools, and wetlands. Our faculty understand that children learn best when they are connected to the things they already know. At Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, science is part of the child's world. Children learn about their environment by exploring it, by conducting laboratory experiments in the classroom as well as the Science Lab, and by reading and writing about their experiences.


The kindergarten and first grade classes have a two-year science curriculum.  During their two-year study, students gain a basic understanding of marine habitats.  They observe and compare the California cold-water habitat and the tropical coral reef habitat. Each year, through live observation, students will study different tide pool animals. They will learn the phylum, characteristics, and adaptations for the animal’s survival.  For example, an animal that lives in the tide pools is the sea star, phylum echinodermata and all echinoderms have spiny skin that help them survive.

In addition to these lessons, the water cycle, liquid, solid, gas, zonation and the study of the importance of environmental protections such as composting, recycling, and a beginning understanding of pollution are also taught.


PDMSSSecond graders learn about the sandy beach community.  They study about the animal and plant life found in the sandy beach environment. Of special interest is the sand crab study when they measure the size and numbers of sand crabs in a certain area over time. They investigate the effects of waves, weathering, and erosion on this special environment. They publish books comparing and contrasting the monthly changes they observe during their walking field trips to Big Dume Beach. Our second graders also study whales and pinnepeds.


IPDMSSn third grade, students learn about different environments from the mountains to the sea. Special attention is given to the wetlands as a critical habitat that houses an enormous diversity of plant and animal life.  The Malibu Lagoon is a focus for these studies where they see nature’s F.B.I. (fungi, bacteria, insects) at work.  Third grade is the time when students begin their study of the watershed system, storm drain runoff, ph, and salinity.

In addition, the third grade science curriculum covers the Life, Earth, and Physical sciences.

  • In Life Science, students discover the roles of living things, including plant and animal needs and adaptations, animal classification, and habitats. 
  • In Earth Science, students learn about the solar system, rotation and revolution, the phases of the moon, and the water cycle. 
  • In Physical Science, students conduct experiments in light and heat energy, transfer of energy, and states of matter.


PDMSSThe Kelp Forest ecosystem offers an amazing opportunity for study in fourth grade.  Students learn about the different parts of the kelp.  For example, the holdfast, the anchor of the kelp, hosts hundreds of animals.

Students also learn about the other animals that inhabit this ecosystem, from fish to otters to arthropods.

Content standards for fourth graders include the following:

  • electricity and magnetism are related effects that have many useful applications in  our everyday life (circuits, electromagnets, compasses);
  • all organisms need energy and matter to live and grow and depend on one another for survival;
  • the properties of rocks and minerals reflect the processes that formed them;
  • how waves, wind, water, and ice shapes and re-shape Earth’s land surface;
  • scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations.


pdmssFifth graders are exposed to physical, earth and life sciences with an emphasis on marine science. They take a deep look into the open ocean and conduct ocean experiments.  They study salinity, hydrometers, titration, pH scale and do pH testing.  Students make connections with the marine mammals and their environments, weather, chemistry, and the human body systems. Students learn the periodic table of elements and animal classifications. The fifth grade studies are further enhanced through field trip experiences such as Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) and Sea World.


Sandy Carter, our Science Lab teacher, received her degree from the University of Hawaii and has been teaching marine science programs in Malibu for over 20 years. Sandy teaches classes at PDMSS on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. In addition, Sandy conducts science programs at the Malibu Lagoon. She has worked at Heal the Bay Pier Aquarium and has an ongoing professional relationship with Cabrillo Aquarium Museum in San Pedro and Ty Warner Sea Center in Santa Barbara.


All students, grades K-5, receive instruction in our science lab on a weekly basis. Lab instruction supports and supplements science units taught in the classroom, and all lessons are part of the comprehensive science curriculum developed by the PDMSS teaching staff and in accordance with the California Science Standards. Tropical and cold water fish tanks in the lab provide our students with in-depth study opportunities and up-close observation of species, habitats and ecosystems. Several tanks contain specimens from local coastal waters and tide pools. Animals are often "borrowed" from the tide pools while Sandy Carter, teaches a particular unit. When she is finished, the animals are gently returned to their homes.

The marine science lab, part of the school's original vision, is what makes PDMSS unique. The lab you see today -- ever a work in progress--is the result of years of on-site, parent participation. Cold-water tanks, a touch tank, a warm-water coral tank, an estuary tank, and the captive-eco system all provide hands-on and observable life cycles within our lab.  Mrs. Carter provides local specimens through her collector’s license and the partnership she has formed with the Santa Barbara aquarium for our students to learn about our marine life. You will be amazed at how much your child will learn about marine science at Point Dume Marine Science School! 

Santa Monic Malibu Unified School District