Yolo Basin Foundation
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Currently, Discover the Flyway field trips are full-day events offered four days a week from mid-September to late May at the Yolo Basin Foundation's headquarters building. For the past several years, field trips have filled to capacity for the school year by mid-August, meaning we often have over 30 schools on the waiting list, most of whom we are unable to accommodate. Recognizing that there are still many students in the Sacramento Region who have yet to experience this dynamic program, we have decided to launch a new outreach program that will bring a modified version of Discover the Flyway directly to area schools that would otherwise be unable to experience the program.

Dubbed the Wetlands Wagon, this mobile outreach program will be based on Discover the Flyway, bringing hands-on, interactive, and inquiry-based modules directly to the schools. Tailored by grade level, teachers will be able to choose three stations (from 12 different modules) that will be presented in their classroom. Optimally we will visit each of the classes in the specific grade level in one day, allowing us to significantly extend our reach beyond the 120 classes we currently serve through the traditional Discover the Flyway program.

Last school year, one in ten participating Discover the Flyway students claimed to have never experienced nature before. Statistics like these underscore the necessity of providing high-quality environmental education opportunities for youth throughout our region. By cultivating the next generation of environmental stewards, the Wetlands Wagon program helps ensure the security of the precious remaining wetlands and wildlife of the Central Valley.
Program Successes
- This is our pilot year for the program.
Yolo Basin Foundation's largest program is Discover the Flyway, an environmental science education program for K-12 schools, based on California's science and social studies curriculum framework. The program provides children with outdoor education experiences that give them an appreciation of the wetlands and wildlife of the California Central Valley. Each year about 4,000 students participate in Discover the Flyway. One-third of these students visit at no charge, through our mini-grant program. Discover the Flyway attracts a diverse student population with 26 different languages spoken. For many students from underserved schools, this is their first experience in nature. Discover the Flyway includes trainings for teachers, interns and volunteers, and teacher resources including Wild About Wetlands classroom kits. Visiting classes participate in learning stations at the Demonstration Wetlands and tour the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area with experienced docents.
Program Successes
- Discover they Flyway is successful in bringing thousands of children and their parents to visit a wildlife area who may otherwise not have this opportunity.
- Through financial support of our bus mini grant program, we have been able to increase the number of underserved participating classes.
- For many students and parent chaperones this is their first nature or wetlands experience.
- Research continues to highlight how crucial outdoor activities are in child development.
- Because science education in schools has been cut drastically, this program is a significant portion of many Discover the Flyway class' science education.
- Outdoor field trips for schools are few, and as a result, each one that a student is able to attend is a memorable, important learning experience.
- Discover the Flyway consistently reaches our capacity in terms of how many students we can serve within a school year, serving approximately 4,000 students annually.
Bat Talks and Walks are Yolo Basin Foundation's most popular outreach activity after the Discover the Flyway program. Attendees learn about and view live bats up close. Following a 45 minute indoor presentation on bat natural history, the group carpools out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to watch one of the largest colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats in California as it emerges in large ribbons to hunt insects at sunset. To get to the bat viewing site, participants travel through leased rice farming fields to an section of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area not open to the public. The whole experience takes about three hours. This is a family friendly event with a small amount of walking. Those in wheelchairs or unable to walk view the bats by car. This program is extremely popular and sells out early. Tickets must be reserved in advance. Private tours for larger groups are available and can be arranged with our staff.
Program Successes
- Yolo Basin Foundation is the only organization in the region to offer an educational bat viewing field trip.
- Bat Talks and Walks provide a rare and meaningful opportunity to learn about and view live bats.
- This program helps dispel and confront many misconceptions or fears that people have about bats, while informing participants about how bats support our ecosystem.
- Bat Talks and Walks are extremely popular and sell out early each year.
- Close to 3,500 people participate in the program over the summer.
The Flyway Nights lecture series covers a broad range of wildlife, wetland, and conservation related topics often specific to the Yolo Basin and Putah Creek Watershed. Featured expert speakers include UC Davis professors, ecologists, biologists, field experts, and employees of federal and state agencies. Past lectures have covered topics including: endangered species, riparian ecology, native fishes, indigenous land management practices, local insects, vernal pools, local reptiles and amphibians, the Burrowing Owl, the Great Gray Owl, rice farming and much more. Lectures are held the first Thursday of each month from November to April. Lectures begin at 7PM at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters.
Program Successes
- Flyway Nights raises awareness for the Yolo Basin Foundation and educates the public on important natural history topics that are relevant to this region.
- Flyway Nights offers an opportunity for public audiences to learn about local wetlands and wildlife.
Yolo Basin Foundation offers monthly public tours of the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and the City of Davis Wetlands. Depending on the season, these tours offer an opportunity to sight migrating and resident waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds. Tour docents participate in wildlife trainings and many are experienced birders or have backgrounds as biologists, ecologists, or teachers. Tours run rain or shine. No reservations required.

Yolo Bypass Area Tours: Tour the 16,800-acre Wildlife Area and view flooded wetlands, native grasslands, and young riparian forests.
- The second Saturday of each month
- October-April: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
- May-June: 8:00 am - 11:00 am

City of Davis Wetlands Tours: Yolo Basin staff coordinate and provide trained volunteer docents to lead these free tours as a service to the City of Davis Public Works Department.
- The first Saturday of each month
- September-February: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
- March- August: 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Program Successes
- Free/donation-based public tours make wetlands areas accessible to individuals with a variety of backgrounds and economic levels.
- Participation ranges from 20 to 40 people per tour.
- Wetlands tours engage individuals in their own community and environment by educating them about local wildlife.
- This type of trip empowers people to return to the Wildlife Area on their own.
- We have a significant return rate with individuals and families consistently participating in multiple tours.
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. Nature Bowl, currently in its 32nd year, is coordinated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and partner organizations.
Program Successes
- This engaging event introduces students to environmental issues, reinforces key concepts, increases critical thinking skills, and encourages student involvement in community conservation efforts.
- The competitive aspect of the event is de-emphasized so all students feel comfortable, achieve success in learning, and enjoy the activities.
- Each school that participates can have teams of three to seven students in two divisions: 3rd-4th and 5th-6th grades.