Contact Us Search

Engaging Youth in Science, Conservation and Citizenship

What is the Nature Bowl?

Nature Bowl is an annual, science-based educational program for 3rd - 6th graders that increases ecological knowledge and conservation literacy. In team settings, students eagerly learn about the environment while building teamwork skills and sharpening their creative and critical thinking abilities. The program curriculum corresponds with California’s Next Generation Science Standards, which makes it a popular event for teachers and educators. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and many partner organizations coordinate nature Bowl, currently in its 32nd year.

How Does Nature Bowl Work?

During Nature Bowl, teams of Sacramento Valley and Northern/Central Sierra Nevada elementary students in grades 3-6 work together in science and nature-based activities. Each team consists of a coach and 3 to 9 children who participate in one of two divisions. One division is for 3rd/4th grades; the other division is for 5th/6th grades. Teams register for a specific Semi-final site where they will compete with other teams. Two teams from each Semi-final site will advance to the finals. Although Nature Bowl is competitive in format, the competitive aspect of the program is de-emphasized so all students feel comfortable and achieve success in learning.

Who Can Participate?

Any youth group can form a team. This includes school groups (including homeschoolers), clubs, scout troops, or any other organized group. Coaches can be teachers, parents, club leaders, student teachers or any other adult who wants to mentor a team. Schools can send only one team to each division.

How do I Participate and What is the Timeline?

  • Form a Team and Identify the Team’s Coach. To compete, each team needs 3 to 9 children who are either 3rd and/or 4th graders or 5th and/or 6th graders. Please do not exceed the limit of 9 students. (*To accommodate students in 4th/5th grade classes, an allowance is made for a 4th grade student(s) to be on a 5th/6th grade team. However, a 5th or 6th grade student may not serve on a 3rd/4th grade team, nor may a 7th grader serve on a 5th/6th grade team. A student can only be on 1 team. For example: if a 4th grade student serves on a 5th/6th grade team he/she cannot also serve on a 3rd/4th grade team.)
  • Enroll in the Program (Registration opens in November). On the registration form, indicate your team(s) division and preferred Semi-final site. Site locations are listed on the Program Schedule. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, so register early to secure your first choice Semi-final site. Each school or club may only register one team per division. You must re-register each year, no slots will be saved.
  • Attend the Coaches Orientation or Workshop (Jan.-Feb.). Coaches sign up to attend either the orientation (1¼ hr.) or the extended workshop (half day). Times/locations are listed on the Program Schedule. During both sessions coaches will receive an information packet that includes a detailed description of planned activities, an updated glossary correlated with the state’s science standards, sample questions and guidance on how to prepare teams for success. During the workshop, sample Nature Bowl activities will be enacted.
  • Prepare and Practice with Your Team(s). The coaches’ packet contains practice materials, and you may purchase the recommended supplemental reading, The Outdoor World of the Sacramento Region at the coaches’ orientation or half-day workshop. For more supplemental resources, visit the link opens in new tab or windowCalifornia Regional Environmental Education Community.
  • Participate in Semi-finals (March–May). At each Semi-final site, teams compete with other teams in their divisions for chances to advance to the Finals. An awards ceremony will be held that recognizes each team for its strengths. All students will receive certificates and prizes. Specific team placement will not be publicly announced. (See Program Schedule).
  • Front-Runner teams advance to Finals (May 6). Top scoring teams from each Semi-final site will advance to the Finals. The all-day Finals program will be held on May 6 at Sacramento State University.

What Types of Activities do Teams Participate in?

The Semi-finals and Finals each consist of a series of rounds in which teams take part in a variety of environment-related activities and questions. The topics and concepts are carefully tailored to align with California’s Next Generation Science Standards and the Environmental Education Initiative while focusing on local or regional environments. Additional activities are presented at the Finals. Advancing teams will be notified of the details. Below are descriptions of the programs participants can look forward to:

  • Bell-Ringers: Short-answer questions are read for teams to answer on a “first ring” basis.
  • Enviro-Mercial: Three students from each team have one minute to present a regional environmental issue, including causes, effects and solutions. Students are encouraged to use their ingenuity and creativity and to take action in their schools, neighborhoods or communities.
  • Nature Investigations: Teams answer questions based on outdoor investigation and exploration. Emphasis is on teamwork for problem solving. Team members become nature detectives to search for un-natural items, living specimens, signs of wildlife, comparing habitats etc.
  • Nature Relay: Items representing environmental terms or concepts are placed on a snow saucer. Team members line up opposite the items and run, one at a time, to pick an item that represents the concept given.
  • Eco-Tag: Quick action tag, often based on information covered in the “Enviro-Mercials”.
  • Team Challenges: Each team is given a series of hands-on questions to answer. Group discussion is paramount. From life science and ecology to conservation to environmental issues, these concept-based questions often involve critical thinking.
  • Nature Discovery Tour: Some sites offer an additional guided nature walk for teams. Check with your site.

FINALS – New activities are introduced each year in addition to those held during the Semifinals. More information is provided to advancing teams at the conclusion of Semi-finals. New activities may involve minor extra preparation.


Orientation Workshops: Coaches have the opportunity to meet other coaches, receive an updated glossary, description of activities, sample questions and answers to common questions. The workshop includes a discussion on how to organize a team and resources needed to prepare.

Extended Workshop: This workshop is ideal for new coaches and is a great brush up for veterans. Coaches will learn how to prepare for Nature Bowl and will participate in a sample Nature Bowl. Contact Linda Desai (Placer Nature Center) for more information about this special workshop.


Semi-finals: Some sites have the 3rd and 4th grade division compete 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., and the 5th and 6th grade division compete 12:30 p.m to 4:30 p.m. At other sites, all grades participate at the same time, approx. 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Contact the site’s coordinator to inquire about details for your site.

Finals: May 6, 2017 at Sacramento State University. Events will be held in the Student Union and the Alumni Grove from 9am to 4:30pm 

Congratulations to the following teams that are advancing to the finals! For the 3rd-4th grade level: Lake Forest; Watershed Wonders Club; Blue Oaks; Phoebe Hearst; Latrobe; Elk Grove; Parkview; Eureka; Sacramento Nature Lovers Club; Pine Grove; Carroll; Korematsu. For the 5th-6th grade level: Loomis Basin; Korematsu: Gold Trail; Miller's Hill; Westlake Charter; American River Science Co-op; Deterding; Franklin; Sacramento Nature Lovers Club; Elk Grove; Pine Grove; Theodore Judah. 

NATURE BOWL 2017 - Program Schedule

link opens in new tab or windowNature Bowl Registration (PDF)

The Nature Bowl is offered in the Sacramento Valley, Delta and northern/central Sierra. Coaches register for a location of choice on first come-first serve basis. Contact the site liaison with questions.

*Please make checks payable to the organization associated with your semi-final program site.

Program Site and Address Coaches Workshops Semi-finals
Site Contact /Mailing Address
(send payment here)
pending Jan. 23 or 18 or 11
4:00 p.m. –  5:15 p.m.
Mar 20 or 21 or April 25
Placer Nature Center
3700 Christian Valley Rd
Auburn, CA 95602
Jan. 28 (Saturday.)
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
*This is an extended optional workshop (see below for details)
Mar 23 Linda Desai - Placer Nature Center
3700 Christian Valley Rd.
Auburn, CA 95602
(530) 878-6053
American River Nature Center
348 Highway 49, in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park,
Coloma , CA 95613
Jan. 17
4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Mar 24 and Mar 28 –
one date per team
Education- American River Conservancy, P.O. Box 562, Coloma, CA 95613
(530) 621-1224
Southridge Estates
9413 South Butte Road
Sutter, CA 95982
Jan. 18
3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Yuba Sutter USD
Mar 30 Sutter County RCD
1511 C Butte House Rd.
Yuba City, CA 95993
(530) 674-1461x132
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
45211 County Rd. 32B
Davis, CA  95618
Jan. 10
4:00 p.m.– 5:15 p.m.
Apr 4 Corky Quirk - Yolo Basin Foundation
P.O. Box 943
Davis, CA 95617
(530) 902-1918
Nimbus Hatchery
1701 Nimbus Rd.
Rancho Cordova CA  95670
Jan. 19
3:45 p.m.– 5:00 p.m.
Apr 6 Laura Drath - CA Dept. Fish & Wildlife
*Call first before mailing registration
(916) 358-2884
Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
1624 Hood-Franklin Road
Elk Grove, CA 95757
Jan. 25
4:00 p.m.– 5:15 p.m.
Apr 18 Ellen Vasta - Friends of SLNWR
1624 Hood Franklin Rd.
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 685-4057
New Melones Lake Visitor Center
Highway 49, between Sonora and Angels Camp, 1/4 mile south of the Highway 49 Stevenot  Stanislaus River Bridge
Jan. 26
4:15 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Calaveras Co. Office of Educ. 185 So. Main St., Angels Camp
Apr 20 Contact: Colleen Whitlock, 
175 Fairview Lane, Sonora, CA 95350,
check payable: Tuolumne Co. Superintendent of Schools


“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

The Nature Bowl Program is sponsored by:

  • American River Conservancy
  • American River Natural History Association
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • California Waterfowl Association
  • Calaveras County Office of Education – CREEC
  • Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
  • Lake Tahoe Community College
  • Placer Nature Center
  • Sutter County Resource Conservation District
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – New Melones Lake and Visitor Center
  • U.S. Forest Service -Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
  • Yolo Basin Foundation

Thanks to generous funding in 2016 from:

  • The Wildlife Society – Sacramento Shasta Chapter
  • American Fisheries Society – California/Nevada Chapter
  • Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration – USFWS
  • County of Sacramento, Dept. of Water Resources, Stormwater Quality Program

For More Information Contact:

Bruce Forman, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
1701 Nimbus Rd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
Call: (916) 358-2353 or Email:

North Central Region (Region 2)
Regional Manager: Tina Bartlett
Main Office: 1701 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
Sales Hours 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday
Email the North Central Region | (916) 358-2900 | FAX: (916) 358-2912

children with poster displays

girl examining objects

girls presenting on bees

children engaged in an activity

boys conferring 

adult, children, tree