Nature Bowl

NATURE BOWL 2021: Family Edition Winners Announced!

Last year saw the event cancelled as a results of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Nature Bowl adapted to the times with a nature challenge to all California families with school-age students. 

Nearly 100 families from across our great state registered for this fun and educational family challenge edition, a first of its kind for the department. These California families went out into nature to explore hands-on, to find and to learn about the wildlife, concepts and issues affecting our environment. Entries were judged by CDFW staff and partners for completeness, creativity and accuracy.

The top scoring families in each activity, as well as an overall winner and two wildcards, each receive a one-year CDFW Lands Pass so they can further explore--for free--the more than one million acres owned and managed by the Department.

2021 Winners:

  • Top Overall Family: The Wayne Family of Solano County
  • Nature Relay/Scavenger Hunt: The Smith Family (Magic Bus Boat) of San Luis Obispo County
  • Team Problems/Nature Snapshots: The DeHart Family of Sacramento County
  • Nature Investigations/Discover and Become: The Taylor Family of Sutter County
  • Bellringers/Create a Game: The Frazee Family/Phoebe Hearst Elementary of Sacramento County
  • Enviromercial: The Phillips Family of Sacramento County

Congratulations to all these Top California Nature Families!

And a special thank you to our Nature Bowl Partners: American River Conservancy, New Melones/USBR, Placer Nature Center, Sacramento Audubon Society, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Sutter County Resource Conservation District and Yolo Basin Foundation.

Exploration, Critical Thinking, and Fun in Nature!

Nature Bowl is an annual, science-based educational program for 3rd through 6th graders. Through games, problems, puzzles, and exploration, students gain ecological knowledge and conservation literacy. Teamwork and creativity are encouraged as students rotate through stations in a friendly, educational competition.

Natural Bowl curriculum is based on the California Education and the Environment Initiative in conjunction with the Next Generation Science Standards. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife develops the curriculum and works with partners to hold Nature Bowl events.

Watch this 4 minute video for a glimpse of Nature Bowl in action (YouTube)(opens in new tab).

How Does Nature Bowl Work?

Each school or group may enter one team in the 3rd-4th grade division and one in the 5th-6th. Teams are made up of a coach and three to eight children. The coach chooses a semi-final event (see 2020 schedule) (PDF)(opens in new tab) and registers the team. Then the coach and other parents or friends work with the team at least an hour a week until their event.

At the Nature Bowl semi-finals event, up to nine teams are brought together for a fantastic day in the outdoors. Teams will participate in the following challenges: Team Problems; Bell-ringers; Nature Relay; Enviro-mercial; and Outdoor Investigations. The emphasis is on learning and teamwork rather than winning, and at the end, each team is recognized for the skills and qualities they demonstrated in their tasks. The top-scoring team in each division is also invited to a finals event held in May.

The goal of Nature Bowl is to help children explore, value and understand their local environments. All problems and challenges are based on the natural environments in this region, from the Sierras to the Delta.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’d like to be a nature bowl coach, the first step is attending a 90-minute coach workshop in January (PDF)(opens in new tab). There, you will learn about the activities and the site where your experience will take place. The Nature Bowl coordinator will explain what to expect and give you a glossary and other materials to share with your students. You may even try some of the activities. Seasoned coaches will also have ideas and suggestions to help you succeed. New coaches are encouraged to attend the optional half-day workshop at the Placer Nature Center.

Next, you’ll need to put together your team and confirm with your school district that they can be released for this half-day or whole day educational event. You’ll want to teach your team the glossary words and if possible, visit a wild place or two. Teams will need to meet for a minimum of one hour per week to be successful.

Coaches may want to purchase the book The Outdoor World of the Sacramento Region, available at the workshops or online. Another good place to start is the California Education and the Environment Initiative website(opens in new tab). Check on the “Curriculum” tab and scroll down to access curriculum, workbooks, flash cards, pictures, posters, and more. Additional resources (PDF)(opens in new tab) are also provided.

What Happens at the Semi-Final?

These events are hosted by our partner organizations including: Yolo Basin Foundation; Sutter Resource Conservation District; American River Conservancy; Tuolumne County Office of Education; Sacramento Audubon Chapter; Sacramento Valley Conservancy; Bureau of Reclamation/New Melones Lake Visitor Center; Placer Nature Center; Friends of Stone Lakes / Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and the Nimbus Fish Hatchery Visitor Center.

Each host sets a slightly different schedule, but you can expect to spend a whole day at most sites. Currently all the events are held on school days, so check with your school district about their policy on releasing students for this educational activity.

Teams will arrive to find at least four stations set up and a schedule for rotating through them. Teams bring their lunches, and some like to bring a pop-up for the weather or even t-shirts they’ve made to build team spirit.The stations are judged by volunteers and scored, although we de-emphasize the focus on competition.

What is the Finals Event?

The top scoring team from each semi-final site will be invited to a finals event, held on a Saturday in May. At the finals, many of the stations are similar, but the challenges may be harder or require more knowledge. Our goal is still to provide a positive, enriching day for the students. Judges for this event come from all our sites and also includes many CDFW professionals.

Helpful Links

For More Information Contact:

Genelle Treaster, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
1701 Nimbus Rd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
Call: (916) 542-3869 or Email

children with poster displays

girl examining objects

girls presenting on bees

children engaged in an activity

boys conferring 

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