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Located on the McLewis Bayou, Saint Stephen’s is the only area school with a dedicated Marine Science Center and direct access to the Manatee River and Gulf of Mexico. Students from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 experience a custom-designed marine science curriculum – One Ocean – that provides an opportunity for each student to study the wonders of the ocean environment.

In partnership with Mote Marine Laboratories, young students at Saint Stephen’s experience field studies tailored to the One Ocean curriculum. Older students explore from the beaches to deep water habitats via hands-on research.

Using a kayak fleet, as well as boats provided through a valuable partnership with the Freedom Boat Club, students leave from our dock on the McLewis Bayou to explore nearby aquatic habitats and complete studies that create a tangible appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the gulf waters. They do water quality testing, identify and document marine and marine-related organisms.

Upper School students may also choose to participate in Ocean Academy, a focused course of marine science study that culminates in special recognition at graduation and transcript notation as a graduate of the SSES Ocean Academy.

Through the study of marine science, students develop an appreciation of and personal responsibility for our fragile environment.


A study of ocean literacy at all grade levels will foster a global understanding and sensitivity to the interconnectedness of all life on Earth.


Opened in February 2016, the 5,933-square-foot Marine Science Center includes a wet lab, one outdoor and two indoor classrooms that are used by students in all grade levels. The facility is located just steps from our campus dock on the McLewis Bayou, providing easy access by boat or kayak to the Manatee River and Gulf of Mexico.

Classrooms are equipped with the latest technology, including smart projectors that allow for interactive, multi-media lessons. A map of the globe, featuring surface water currents, adorns the floor of one of the indoor classrooms. The outdoor classroom features a holding tank, where students bring samples from their outings for additional study. The samples can then be returned to their natural habitat.

Primary funding for the $1.5-million project came from a generous lead gift by the Moore family, with additional contributions from Ken Keating and the estate of Dr. Betty O’Dell. At its opening, the Marine Science Center was dedicated to veteran teacher and current science chair Ann Marie Shields.

I appreciate better than ever before how inextricably linked each person on this planet is to the providence and protection of the ocean.

Ann Marie Shields

Chair, Science Dept.


Lower school student using a microscope
Students looking for sealife
Students making observations
Students on the marine science dock
Students on a marine science boat trip
Students on a marine science kayack trip
Marine science student scuba diving
Marine science students in the field
Marine science students dissecting a fish
Marine science students gathering samples
Marine science student holding a starfish
One Ocean logo
Marine science students in the field
Lower school students recording data
Marine science teacher
Marine science student sucba diving
Marine studies are incorporated as part of a student’s science curriculum from pre-kindergarten through grade 12:

  • Pre-Kindergarten introduces “Life in the Sea” ocean fun and sea animals
  • Kindergarten-Grade 3 include six-to-eight week units on Florida marine habitats and major organisms (shallow water, sandy beaches, estuaries, coral reefs)
  • Grade 4 studies the properties of water and watersheds using the National Aquarium’s “Living in Water” curriculum
  • Grades 5-6 explore sand and shore as part of the study of Earth; local marine habitat study is offered during Interim Quest
  • Grades 7-8 study waves and ocean energy, including the polarity of water and its importance as a universal solvent
  • Grade 9 biology uses predominantly marine examples in the study of life science
  • Grade 10 chemistry studies the properties of water and solutions
  • Grade 11 physics studies waves

Upper School students have the opportunity to participate in Ocean Academy, a focused study of marine science that results in special recognition at graduation. Students must take all three marine science elective courses offered (marine ecology and oceanography, marine biology, and marine research) and finish with a minimum 2.5 grade point average. They also complete a marine-related research project with publication, and participate in two off-campus marine science events in collaboration with local marine research and resource agencies (Mote Marine, Florida Aquarium, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, etc.). During annual Interim Quest, students also have the opportunity to take SCUBA certification or travel for extended marine study in locations including the Florida Keys, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman, Hawaii and elsewhere.

Leaders at Saint Stephen’s have recognized that educating the next generation about the importance of the ocean and being good stewards of our marine environment is vital.

Elizabeth Moore

Parent and Benefactor