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 curriculum.
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 early-spring.
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 card.
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.