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Nature Bowl at Explorit

This article appeared in the January 16, 2015 edition of the Davis Enterprise.


By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise


A bell rings. Three students dash across the classroom, not to escape because school is finally out, but to root through a plastic bin to find evidence of a symbiotic relationship in nature. They may find an oak gall or a bit of lichen. Evidence in hand, they race back to their teams to explain their choices and describe one of countless interconnected relationships among different organisms in our local environment.


These students are training for Nature Bowl, an annual science based educational program for 3rd – 6th graders that increases ecological knowledge and conservation literacy. Nature Bowl, now in its 30th year, is coordinated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in partnership with more than a dozen nature and environmental organizations.


Each year teams of third- and fourth- or fifth- and sixth-graders compete at different semi-finals sites, including at the Yolo Basin Foundation, for a spot at the state finals on the CSU Sacramento campus in May. Teams prepare for competition by drafting enviromercials, one-minute presentations on an environmental issue in California’s central valley including causes, effects and solutions.


Bell ringing competitions test competitors’ nature knowledge with trivia questions, and nature relays, like the one described above, challenge participants to identify and explain the roles of both biotic and abiotic members of local ecosystems. Field trips to sites like Putah Creek or the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area prepare students to identify natural and unnatural items and compare habitats.


Participation in Nature Bowl boosts understanding of the natural world and wise use of its resources. 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 hands-on, problem-solving components of Nature Bowl allow students to immerse themselves the particular ecology of central California while considering human responses to a range of issues from natural phenomena like wild fires and drought to human intervention like damming rivers and highway construction. Students are encouraged to think innovatively about potential solutions to environmental problems and take action at the local level to address environmental concerns. Nature Bowl participants don’t just learn conservation; they practice it.


This year, with help from Fred T. Korematsu elementary school and their fabulous science teacher, Sarita Cooper, Explorit Science Center will be coaching a team of Korematsu students for Nature Bowl at the Yolo Basin Foundation in April.  Thanks also goes to Dr. Bob Fairclough, an avid Explorit volunteer who is co-coaching the team with Lisa Justice.  Competitors are in training and team selection has already begun.   


Next year Explorit hopes to coach another team that will be open to third-sixth-grade students from all over Davis. We’re thrilled to be a part of encouraging the next generation of environmental scientists and conservation enthusiasts!



Explorit’s coming events:


  • Explorit’s Beautiful World: Science and Art exhibition is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
  • Cap off your Picnic Day with Explorit at Sudwerk Brewing Company Dock Store for a fundraiser on Saturday, April 18. Details coming soon!
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.



Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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