Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve

Outdoor Classroom

The CSU, Chico Outdoor Classroom at our Ecological Reserves teaches hands-on life science for 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 BCCER staff, students, and volunteers. Our University interns and graduate students assist with teaching and curriculum development, allowing us to provide a small group educational experience for children, targeting 3rd-5th grades, with 10-15 students in a group.

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 1300 elementary school students from Chico, Paradise, and Oroville participate in the program every school year. The program is in such demand by local educators that it currently cannot accommodate all the requests from area teachers.

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 jaull@csuchico.edu.

fire activity