Beginning in September and continuing through June of each school year, the Foundation provides daily outdoor education field trips to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve for over 7,000 third grade students per year. Classroom teachers are invited to register through the Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District website (www.rivcoparks.org) to reserve a date.
The third grade trip to the Reserve is the first leg in the environmental education pathway programming provided by the Foundation. Transportation costs are covered by the Foundation. In coordination with the Reserve Naturalist and trained Docents, the Foundation developed a tool to measure a student’s increase in grade-level nature science as a result of participating in the field trip.
A pre and post grade-level science quiz, written in conjunction with California Dept. of Education Elementary Science Standards, is given to the students in their classroom and again after their trip to the Reserve. On average, students are demonstrating a 25% gain in natural science knowledge after participating in the field trip.
Research has shown that field trips can be remembered long after a visit, can influence career choice, can increase interest and engagement in the environment and science regardless of prior interest in a topic, and result in affective gains including a more positive feeling about nature. Their importance is supported by professional organizations such as the which asserts field trips can “deepen and enhance” classroom study and the who assert a quality science curriculum is one that extends beyond the walls of the classroom.