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 rotate through stations where they eagerly learn about the environment while building teamwork skills and sharpening their creative and critical thinking.. 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 33rd 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. 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 link opens in new windowProgram Schedule (PDF). 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 (January - February). 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 link opens in new windowinformation packet (PDF) that includes a detailed description of planned activities, an updated link opens in new windowglossary for 3rd-4th grades (PDF) or link opens in new window5th-6th grades,(PDF) correlated with the state’s science standards, sample questions and guidance on how to prepare teams for success. During the extended workshop, sample Nature Bowl activities will be enacted.
  • Prepare and Practice with Your Team(s). The coaches’ packet contains practice materials. Coaches may want to purchase 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. .
  • Front-Runner teams advance to Finals (May 12). Top scoring teams from each Semi-final site will advance to the Finals. The all-day Finals program will be held on May 12 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 link opens in new windowEducation and the Environment Initiative while focusing on local or regional environments. 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 each 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.
  • Environmental Education Game: When time is available, students will play eco-tag or a predator-prey game..
  • Team Challenges: Teams work through a series of hands-on questions.. Working together, they apply what they've learned to real life situations in science, ecology, conservation, and environmental issues. Critical thinking is a must.
  • 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 Semi-finals. 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 sample Nature Bowl activities. Contact Linda Desai for more information about this special workshop.


Semi-finals: Some sites have the 3rd and 4th grade division compete 8:30 a.m. to  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. to 3:30 p.m. Contact the site’s coordinator to inquire about details for your site.

Finals: May 12, 2018 at Sacramento State University. Events will be held in the Student Union and the Alumni Grove from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

NATURE BOWL 2018 - Program Schedule

link opens in new windowUpdated Nature Bowl 2018 schedule (PDF)

We are happy to welcome a NEW site this year, Camp Pollack in Sacramento, hosted by Sacramento Audubon..  Other sites this year include: New Melones Visitor Center; (Tuolumne County office of Education) Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (Yolo Basin Foundation); Nimbus Hatchery Visitor Center (California Department of Fish and Wildlife); American River Nature Center (American River Conservancy); Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (Friends of Stone Lakes NWR); Placer Nature Center; and Southridge Estates (Sutter Resource Conservation District).

For More Information Contact:

Joanie Cahill,  California Department of Fish and Wildlife
1701 Nimbus Rd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
Call: (916) 358-2852 or Email Joanie Cahill

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