Mission & History

Our Mission...


The Institute's mission is to cultivate a responsibility for the natural environment and our human communities through interdisciplinary science education. We achieve this goal through innovative marine science education programs that:


  • Place students of all ages in direct contact with the natural environment;

  • Emphasize the interdependence of all living things, their connection to the physical environment, and the special responsibilities of humans to the environment; 

  • Facilitate active learning through the use of observation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in a cooperative setting, and 

  • Instill confidence, encourage involvement, and inspire accomplishment by providing positive role models. 

A History of Stewardship


The Marine Science Institute was founded in 1970, around the time that the issue of water resources was becoming a major concern for many Bay Area inhabitants. The Institute's philosophy was based on the idea that putting students in direct physical contact with their local bay environment will help cultivate their natural sense of curiosity, enrich their understanding of science, and foster a responsibility to protect the environment. Prior to 1970, few opportunities existed for students to get hands-on experience with the flora and fauna of San Francisco Bay, and bridge the gap between environmental concerns and education. As one Bay Area professor remarked at the time, "On a clear day we can see the Bay, but there is no way for my students to get their hands wet--in real water."


The Discovery Voyage was Marine Science Institute’s first program, and was met with great success. Students were taken aboard a small vessel and out onto the water where they came into contact with live animals, used scientific equipment, and participated in hands-on science. In 1992 the Institute created land-based programs to accommodate more students and welcome younger participants. These included the Shoreside, Inland Voyage, and Tidepool programs. Over the following decades MSI has continued to grow—expanding programming to include new topics and themes, and keeping up with ever-changing educational standards.


In its first year, the Discovery Voyage program served about 4,000 students. Today, Marine Science Institute educates roughly 50,000 students and adults annually through all of its programs. It has become a leader in environmental education, and to this day stays true to its philosophy of inspiring respect and stewardship through experiential learning.   

MSI is a non-profit organization and relies on the generous donations of individuals, businesses, and foundations to ensure program costs for schools are as low as possible. Our federal tax ID number is 94-1719649. CLICK HERE to learn more about making a donation.