The outdoor portion of the field trip is where all of the lessons
and activities in the elementary curriculum are brought together
for the students. It’s like multiple pieces of an
ecological puzzle being put together by the students to create a
big picture of what they’ve been studying.
They get to experience first-hand the beauty, uniqueness, and
fragility of the vernal pool habitats at Mather.
Students can actually see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada
Mountains, which serve as a visual reminder that they are
part of the Sacramento River Watershed. Even more exciting, while
they’re walking in the field, students eagerly anticipate finding
their critter or flower, which they studied as part of the
The outdoor portion of the field trip varies depending on whether
the class visits during the wet phase of the vernal pools or the
flower phase. The progression of the phases is dependent on
the weather conditions over the course of the late-winter and
Students that visit during February and the first few weeks of
March are usually treated to the wet phase walk. They are led by
their guide through the grasslands and, ultimately, to a vernal
pool. Along the way, the students hone their observation skills
by looking for certain things on a scavenger hunt card. They may
find signs of coyotes, voles, gopher mounds, different species of
birds, and lots more.
When a class visits towards the end of March or in April, the
students will go on the flower phase walk and see Mather’s vernal
pools in their colorful glory! On the walk, the students try to
find their flowers, as well as other items on a scavenger hunt
For 2 billion years, bacteria were the only creatures on Earth.
Long before the dinosaurs, a special type of bacteria slowly
increased the level of oxygen in the Earth’s air to 20 percent.
Without this oxygen other plants and animals could not have
evolved, including us.