Sacramento Splash

Helping children understand and value their natural world through science education and outdoor exploration.

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Address: 4426 Excelsior Road
Mather, CA 95655
County or Parish: Sacramento
Executive Director: Emily Butler
Contact Email:
Primary Phone: 916-364-2437
In 1997, our founder, ecologist Eva Butler, was invited to share the magic of vernal pools with her friend's class of fifth graders. The students were fascinated by these beautiful temporary wetlands that exist in California's Central Valley and almost nowhere else on Earth. Witnessing the students' enthusiastic response to experiential learning, Eva wanted more children to learn science by exploring life in local vernal pools and streams. She saw that, when they fell in love with living things, they wanted to do their part to protect them.

With funding from three local government agencies, a small team of scientists and educators worked together to create a standards-based curriculum that would help students learn basic science concepts while educating them about their role in protecting water quality. This curriculum became the basis for the Investigating Vernal Pools program, which integrates a 13-lesson science curriculum with a hands-on field trip to the vernal pools at Mather Field.

Splash is built on the belief that "people value what they understand and they protect what they value." Splash helps students draw connections between their own actions and protecting clean water habitats where they live. For many children, a trip to Mather Field is their first encounter with local nature and wildlife. When children have positive, first-hand experiences in nature, they tend to grow into adults who value and care for their environment.
Last year, Splash was riding high:
- The number of classes in our Investigating Vernal Pools program had increased almost 25% in five years.
- We were successfully influencing Sacramento County to focus more attention and resources on the vernal pool habitat at Mather Field.
- Lewis Planned Communities, the developer of Mather South, offered to custom-build a new facility for Splash on a 25-acre Environmental Education Campus directly across the street from the vernal pool preserve.

On BDOG 2017, we asked donors to fund the planning and conceptual design of a new Splash Center and they responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. We blew through our $50,000 goal to raise nearly $66,000!

Then, in September 2017, the County of Sacramento Department of Water Resources decided to pull out of a long-standing arrangement to fund 32 classes at schools in the unincorporated County. As a result, Splash lost more than 20% of its budget this school year and is likely to lose additional government funding next year. There are 3,400 elementary students across the Sacramento area who are looking forward to their chance to do Splash next year. We are not giving up and we are not backing down. Please help us provide scholarships for as many of these students as possible.

$100 provides one student with a full scholarship through the Investigating Vernal Pools program, including materials, classroom support, and field trip experience. On May 3, 2018, a group of major donors will match your gift dollar-for-dollar (up to $30,000). For 24 hours only, your gift goes twice as far, one scholarship becomes two, two becomes four.
Our top needs:
  1. Funding: Program - Scholarships for 4th/5th graders through the Elementary Program: Investigating Vernal Pools
  2. Volunteers - Join the Splash Restoration Team! Help restore Mather Field by cutting or pulling the invasive plant species encroaching on native vernal pool habitat. Learn about weed management, weed mapping and vernal pool ecology. Splash will provide tools and gloves for your use. Enjoy the peaceful sights and sounds of this landscape and/or the pleasant company of other weed warriors.
  3. Volunteers - Become a Vernal Pool Public Tour Guide! Train to become a co-leader of our public vernal pool tours in March and April. You'll be working with experienced field guides to lead groups of up to 15 people on an educational, interpretive walk through the vernal pool preserve. Extensive training is included and you'll have time to observe and practice sharing information about the natural history, flora and fauna here at Mather Field.
  4. Volunteers - Do you love animals and have experience working with them? Apply to join the team of professional and volunteer critter keepers caring for the native rescue animals living in the Splash Center's "Critterville." Lu-Anne, our staff Critter Keeper is a Vet Tech with decades of experience. She will assist you with feeding, cleaning and caring for the animals. Candidates should be available at least two hours per week for at least six months. A flexible schedule and willingness to be on-call for emergencies are a plus.
  5. Board Members - Smart, well-networked community members who share our passion for building the next generation of scientists and environmental stewards.
"Over the past five years, the number of local public school classes who participate in our Elementary Program: Investigating Vernal Pools has increased almost 25% to 104 classes this school year. The expansion of Splash's flagship environmental education program was made possible by a combination of local government contracts to deliver public stormwater education and our generous private donors who funded hundreds of scholarships for students at low-income schools. This community support removed the financial barrier that would otherwise prevent access to this place-based, experiential way of learning science through nearby nature. In September 2017, just as we had turned our attention toward building a permanent home for Splash at Mather Field, one long-time government contract, which provided 25% of the funding for the Investigating Vernal Pools program, was cancelled. This is a direct hit to the program and puts our entire operation in jeopardy. In response, hundreds of e-mails and letters from Splash supporters and former students inundated the offices of elected officials. This outpouring of support, the sheer will of this community, has galvanized our resolve to persevere. We will find a way because we have to. The students' letters tell us what we need to know: Splash matters to them and they want the next class of students to have the same amazing experience they had. There is nothing else like it in Sacramento and they need it. In the last few months, generous individuals, businesses, and organizations have stepped into the funding breach. Splash donors gave so generously during the holidays that we exceeded our $10,000 fundraising goal by $6,000! These people respect and admire the work we do and refuse to see it end. We are profoundly grateful for their faith and support. The Big Day of Giving on May 3, 2018 offers the people of the Sacramento region an opportunity to ensure that Splash's Investigating Vernal Pools program happens next year for the 3,400 students awaiting their turn. If this experience has taught me anything, it is that Splash has many friends in the community and, in our time of need, you will come to our aid. We continue to work with Lewis Planned Communities on a new, custom-built facility for Splash in the upcoming Mather South community. After a brief hiatus, the conceptual design is once again underway and we will keep our supporters posted on our progress. My deepest gratitude to our many friends and supporters who have stepped up. Thank you." Emily Butler Splash Executive Director