Field Trips: Parks & Preserves
Annadel State Park
Located on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa, Annadel offers miles of trails, a lake, and plentiful wildflowers. School groups can hike or schedule a ranger-led program. A day use area can be reserved for picnicking.
Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Located two miles north of Guerneville, Armstrong Woods is home to quiet trails in the shadow of towering redwoods. The Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a local association of volunteers, coordinates docent-led hikes for school groups. Adjacent to Armstrong Woods, the Austin Creek State Recreation Area features 22 miles of scenic trails through the open woodlands and hillsides.
Audubon Canyon Ranch: Education Program
Audubon Canyon Ranch is an organization that runs two North Bay preserves and an ecological research center. Sonoma County students can visit Bouverie Preserve, located near Glen Ellen. The program at Bouverie Preserve introduces basic ecological concepts and local natural history to third and fourth grade students. Before a three-hour hike at the preserve, there is a classroom visit with slide show and hands-on activities. Teachers also receive training and free curriculum materials. The curriculum and hike highlight ecosystems, stewardship, and water conservation.
Bodega Marine Laboratory: Public Education and Tours
The Bodega Marine Laboratory is an active research site for UC Davis that also offers tours for school groups and the public. One-hour tours include a general overview of the lab and its research. Exhibits feature ocean creatures and habitats including a 24-foot-long jetty display containing hundreds of colorful local fishes and invertebrates, a small kelp forest, a predator aquarium, a round aquarium of jellyfish and other pelagic organisms, and a tide pool exhibit that recreates a Northern California tidal habitat and simulates tide and wave action.
Crissy Field Center
Crissy Field is located on the shore of the Presidio in San Francisco, overlooking the Golden Gate, San Francisco Bay, and a newly recreated tidal marsh. The recently developed area includes the Crissy Field Center where the state-of-the-art Media Lab, Arts Workshop, Urban Ecology Lab, and Environmental Resource Library assist educators dedicated to innovative, inquiry-based learning. School programs for grades K-12 address a variety of environmental and historical topics and include arts or technology projects.
Fairfield Osborn Preserve
The diversity and beauty of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve make it an ideal outdoor classroom. The Preserve is located in the hills above Rohnert Park and is owned and managed by Sonoma State University. For elementary school visits, trained field naturalists guide small groups of students on an investigation of the area’s natural habitats. Their exploration includes fun, hands-on learning experiences that encourage students to interact directly with the natural world. Teachers may be interested in weekend field workshops instructed by specialists. These adult workshops focus on specific subject areas, such as wild mushrooms, rocks and soils, wildflowers, ethnobotany, and birding.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA): Parks as Classrooms
Free standards-based programs include extensive teacher support and classroom resources. Many curriculum materials are available in both English and Spanish. Programs are grade-specific (K-8 and high school level) and are offered at many different sites throughout the GGNRA, from Fort Point to Muir Woods, Alcatraz, and the Presidio. Additional GGNRA school programs are available through the Crissy Field Center.
Point Reyes National Seashore: Ranger-Guided Programs
Free, curriculum-based education programs offer K-8 students an opportunity to explore the local environment and wildlife found in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The Wild about Wildlife program is for grades K-3, Marine Life is for grades 4-6, and students in grades 6-8 can sign up for Monitoring Creek Health or Habitat Restoration. School groups can also choose to sign-up for self-guided visits in the park.
Salt Point State Park and Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve
Salt Point offers access to sandy beach coves, steep bluffs, sandstone cliffs, and coastal marshes on the Sonoma Coast. Ranger-led hikes at Salt Point can explore plant adaptation, tide pools, geology, local history, ecology, or marine biology. School groups can come for a single ranger hike on a day trip or camp overnight and take part in two hikes. Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve is adjacent to Salt Point and features five miles of trails that wind through acres of rhododendron, ferns, second-growth redwood, Douglas fir, and tan oak. The reserve’s vegetation is a beautiful example of the regeneration that follows a forest fire. Interpretive programs are not available for Kruse Rhododendron but groups can enjoy a self-guided visit.
San Francisco Bay Model Visitors Center
The three-dimensional, hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Delta areas simulates the Bay’s tides, currents, and river inflows. More than 1.5 acres in size, the model covers the area from the Pacific Ocean to Sacramento and Stockton, including the San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun Bays, and a portion of the San Joaquin Delta. K-12 educational programs are 90 minutes long and focus on geography, geology, tide cycle, water cycle, the food chain, and map scale. Visitors can also take a self-guided or audio tour, explore interactive exhibits, or visit the dock where the Army Corps of Engineers’ survey and navigational hazard collection vessels are tied up. The visitors center includes interactive exhibits about estuaries, diverse wildlife habitats, geography, hydrology, navigation, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The visitor center’s education department has a large collection of videos available for use at the model. Teacher orientation workshops include pre-visit classroom activities, videos supporting curriculum, and teacher’s guide.
This working farm on the Marin coast offers students the chance to learn more about agriculture, appreciate farming and farmland, enjoy a natural setting, and understand more about conservation of natural resources. Curriculum and activities are customized for each group and are founded upon respect for animals, plants, the earth, and each other. Groups can milk a goat, meet sheep, visit the chicken coop to collect eggs, feed the chickens, observe the turkeys or ducks, discover worms in the worm compost, watch bees at work in the observation bee hive, visit the organic garden, plant seeds to take home, sift compost, harvest, muck out the chicken coop, dig a garden bed, make bread and cheese, card and spin sheep wool, make recycled paper, weave baskets, or create mobiles from found objects on the beach. In addition to experiencing farm life, school groups can also explore miles of coastal trails and tide pools. Overnight programs include two days of farm and wilderness exploration, farm chores, a campfire, and night-hike. Participants sleep in tents at a rustic campsite.
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
Students explore tide pool ecology first hand with help from docent volunteers from the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. Docents visit the classroom to prepare students for their field experience and provide a curriculum guide, slide show, and videos that support the program. After classroom visits and preparation, students visit tide pools along the Sonoma Coast. The program is designed for grades 3-8.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Located near Kenwood, the park follows Sonoma Creek through gorges, across the meadow floor, beneath scenic rock outcroppings, and through the surrounding redwoods and ferns. Ranger-led programs explore the nature and history of the area.