California Department of Fish and Wildlife
children with poster displays

girl examining objects

Nature Bowl

Engaging Youth in Science, Conservation and Citizenship

What is the Nature Bowl?

  • A cooperative team environment where 3/4- and 5/6-graders actively participate
  • Science-based activities (correlated with the State Science Standards) emphasizing local and regional environments
  • Innovative strategies to teach and reinforce conservation
  • Engaging activities challenging students in critical and creative thinking

How Does the Nature Bowl Work?

Teams of 3 – 7 students participate in two divisions: 3rd-4th grades and 5th-6th grades (only one team per division from any given school or organized club). The teams work together to find answers to environment-related questions that are aligned with State Science Standards. These questions/challenges are framed in several engaging and popular programs that have been developed through the years. Here are some of the challenging programs that your students can look forward to:

  • BELL-RINGERS: Short answer questions are given for all teams to answer on a “first ring” basis. Fun times for quick thinkers!

  • ENVIRO-MERCIAL: What’s an environmental issue in your region? Present it in one minute, including causes, effects, and solutions! Students use their ingenuity and creativity, with many leading to actions in their school, neighborhood or community.

  • NATURE INVESTIGATIONS: Each team answers a set of exploratory questions through outside investigations. Emphasis is on team work for problem solving. The team becomes nature detectives searching for un-natural items, living specimens, signs of wildlife, etc.

  • NATURE RELAY: Items representing environmental terms or concepts are placed on a snow disk. Team members line up opposite the items and run one at a time to pick an item that represents the concept given. An all-time favorite.

  • GAME: Quick action tag based on information covered in the “Enviromercials”. Predator-prey was never so much fun!

    TEAM PROBLEMS: Each team will be given a series of hands-on questions to answer. Examples are constructing food chains, matching tools to adaptations, comparing products of renewable and non-renewable resources and deciding which can be recycled, reused and reduced, or even acting out a concept (charades).

All teams are invited to one semi-final event (dates vary in Spring). A limited number of teams can participate. A small number of teams advance to the finals. The competitive aspect of the program is de-emphasized so all students feel comfortable, achieve success in learning, and enjoy the activities! Any child with interest can participate. Late bloomers get energized and inspired.

How do I get started? What are my obligations?

First, attend the Coaches Workshop or the Extended Coaches Workshop (on a Saturday). Scheduled late afternoons on weekdays in January, these workshops provide coaches (new and returning) with a packet that includes a glossary aligned to State Science Standards and a description of activities along with guidance on how to prepare their teams for success. Coaches can be teachers, parents, youth leaders, student teachers—anyone who wants to guide young team members through this discovery of nature. Visit (and region 6) to access a wide array of environmental education resources in the region; the best source for this in California - from curriculum, materials, exhibits and sites to funding and teacher professional development opportunities. Advance your instruction for the entire class as well.

NATURE BOWL 2014 Program Schedule

The Nature Bowl program is offered in the Sacramento Valley and northern Sierra. Coaches sign up for a location of choice on first come-first serve basis, using the registration form. Contact a site liaison with questions or for details.

Program Sites Workshop SemiFinals Contact #
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
45211 County Rd. 32B, Davis, CA 95618
Check payable to Yolo Basin Foundation
January 14
4:00–5:15 pm
April 10 Corky Quirk
(530) 902-1918
American River Nature Center,
Check payable to American River Conservancy
January 23
4:30–5:45 pm  
March 14, 18 (each team attends one) Lindsay Raber
(530) 621-1224
New Melones Lake Visitor Center, Hwy 49
south of Angels Camp. Mail: CCOE P.O. Box 760, Angles Camp, CA 95221
Check payable to California Wildlife Foundation
February 6, 4:15-5:30 pm
Calaveras Co. Office of Education, 185 So. Main St., Angels Camp
May 6 Wendy Harrison
(209) 736-6009
Nimbus Hatchery, Mail to: Dept of Fish and Wildlife, 1701 Nimbus Rd., Rancho Cordova CA 95670. January 16
3:45–5:00 pm
April 3  Laura Drath
 (916) 358-2884
Placer Nature Center* 3700 Christian Valley Rd, Auburn CA 95602
Check payable to Placer Nature Center
January 25 *
9:00–12:30 pm
April 8 Linda Desai
(530) 878-6053
Southridge Estates, Sutter, Mail to: Sutter County RCD, 1511 Butte House Rd. Suite C, Yuba City, CA 95993
Check payable to Sutter County Resource Conservation District
January 28, 3:45-5:00pm
Yuba City USD (Board Rm)
March 20 Juleah Cordi (530) 674-1461x132
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, PO Box 589, Carmichael, CA 95609
Check payable to: American River Natural History Association
January 15, 3:45-5:00 pm March 11 Mary Jane Boxer, (916) 489-4918
Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Mail: 1624 Hood Franklin Rd., Elk Grove CA 95624.
Check payable to – SLNWR Association
January 29
Apr 29 Ellen Vasta , (916) 685-4057
University of CA Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center, Browns Valley, Mail to:
Sutter County RCD, 1511 Butte House Rd.
Suite C, Yuba City, CA 95993
Check payable to Sutter Co. RCD
January 30, 3:45-5:00pm
Yuba Gardens School, Marysville
March 25 Juleah Cordi, (530) 674-1461x132
Sutters Landing Skatepark, Sacramento Parks & Recreation, Friend’s of the River Banks; Mail to P.O. Box 162644, Sacramento, CA 95816
Check payable to Friends of the River Banks
February 4, 3:30 – 5:00 pm Sacramento Location TBD May 1 Laurie Litman, (916) 284-1627

 * This is an extended optional workshop (see below for details).

girls presenting on bees

children engaged in an activity

boys conferring

adult, children, tree

Workshops: These sessions provide coaches (new and returning) with a glossary and description of activities with sample questions and answers to common questions. Time is also spent on resources to prepare. Visit the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC) website for a full listing of environmental education resources available in the region. Workshop includes discussion on how to organize a team.

Extended Workshop: Great for new coaches and a brush up for veteran coaches, covers getting started and a mock Nature Bowl. Please contact Linda Desai (Placer Nature Center) for more information about this special workshop.

Semifinals: Some sites have the 3rd – 4th grade division compete 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, and the 5th and 6th grade division compete 12:30 to 4:30 pm. At other sites, all grades participate at the same time, approx.. 9:30am - 3:30 pm.

Finals: May 17, 2014, Sacramento State University


2014 Registration Form (PDF)


“I appreciate the lack of emphasis on competition, the amount of instruction, and the guidance and teaching done by the judges.”
  —Cindy Fleming, Indian Diggings School

“A program like this provides motivation to the unifying concept and makes learning more fun. It also builds team work since the other students in the class contribute to the teams learning in cooperative activities and presentations.”
  —Stephani Saranillo, Mariposa School

“Nature Bowl helps my students become environmentally conscious enough to change the choices they make in everyday life. Nature Bowl is a positive, exciting, nurturing activity for all participants.”
  —Veronica Schwalbach, Deterding School

“The Nature Bowl inspires kids to take actions to practice conservation. They’ve become leaders for a “green” campus. Their choices reflect responsibility that they’ve learned which will last them a lifetime.”
  —Lili Joy, Latrobe School

"The Nature Bowl helps to make learning fun and teaches cooperation. It uses the community where kids live as the classroom, and this helps to make everything they experience very relevant and meaningful."
  —Bobbie Winn, Wilton 4-H Club

“My underachieving students were turned upside down by Nature Bowl. Their excitement for learning and working together blossomed with this well conceived and well run program.”
  —Alma Quesnal, Edward Kimble School

Nature Bowl Program Sponsors

  • American River Natural History Association
  • American River Conservancy
  • California Waterfowl Association
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Calaveras County Office of Education - CREEC
  • Placer Nature Center
  • Sacramento City Dept. of Parks and Recreation

  • Sutter County Resource Conservation District

  • Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Association
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – New Melones Lake and Visitor Center
  • Yolo Basin Foundation

Thanks to funding from:

  • The Wildlife Society – Sacramento Shasta Chapter
  • American Fisheries Society – California/Nevada Chapter

  • Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration – USFWS

For more information, please contact

Bruce Forman
CDFW, 1701 Nimbus Rd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
Call (916) 358-2353 or email

The Nature Bowl is coordinated by CDFW in partnership with the organizations above.