Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve

Outdoor Classroom

The Outdoor Classroom of the Ecological Reserves teaches hands-on life science to all students in an engaging way. This program impresses upon the next generations the importance of being wise stewards of these valuable resources and the importance of respect, preservation, and enhancement of this native land and the species living among it.

The program is successfully managed collaboratively by Ecological Reserves staff, student interns, and volunteers. Our university interns and graduate students assist with teaching and curriculum development, allowing us to provide a small group (10-15 students) educational experience for children, targeting 3rd-5th grades.

Students participate in California state standards-based science activities in which they study plant and animal populations. They work with professional scientists, graduate student researchers, and undergraduates from a number of disciplines. These students see new opportunities for education in these exciting areas of study. A field trip consists of a number of small group activities through which the students rotate.

Field trips are based on state standards, including habitat and adaptations, and include:

  • Bird surveys with monoculars and easy localized bird guides
  • Native American-themed education
  • Salmon education centered around the fall spawning event at Butte Creek
  • Catching and releasing aquatic insects to determine water quality
  • Fire and Forest Health
  • Field ecology hikes with customized field guides
  • Native plants - uses and functions in a habitat
  • Archeology Explorers (simulated archaeology dig)
  • Educational games incorporating movement for kinesthetic learners

Student Participation

Over 1,500 elementary school students from Chico, Paradise, and Oroville participate in the program every school year. The 2021-2022 school year saw 1,647 elementary school participants from 73 different classes from Butte and the surrounding counties.

2021-2022 Highlights:


Approximately one-half of the students served by this program are classified as under-represented. Some bus scholarships are available.

To inquire about reservations for a field trip, or to donate to the program contact Education Coordinator Jon Aull at

fire activity