The Environmental Discovery Center at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa is a natural history museum with hands-on exhibits connecting children and their families to Sonoma County's ecosystems. The Discovery Center hosts school field trips and weekend activities that spark children's imaginations and inspire them to look at their communities in new ways.
At the Environmental Discovery Center, kids can:
- Learn about Sonoma County's plants, animals and natural resources through exhibits inviting them to touch, climb, crawl and play
- Explore a tide pool with live, touchable sea creatures, meet Shelby the turtle and get up close to taxidermied wildlife
- Conduct earth science experiments with naturalists on "Science Saturdays," the first Saturday of each month
- Join naturalists on "family hikes" every third Saturday in September and November through May and learn about Spring Lake's plants and animals
The Discovery Center's interactive exhibits are designed primarily for children in the elementary grades and focus on environmental conservation and stewardship. Programming reinforces California content standards for life sciences and is developed and presented by professional educators.
The Discovery Center is a partnership established by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation with Regional Parks and the Sonoma County Water Agency. Additional sponsors include The City of Santa Rosa Public Works Department, The Madrone Audubon Society, The Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Fish & Wildlife Commission, Sonoma County Waste Management Agency and JDSU.
The Environmental Discovery Center is open to the public noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Families are invited to drop by to explore the exhibits and join in special activities. The Discovery Center is staffed by experienced naturalists who are happy to answer questions and help you enjoy your visit. Admission is free.
The EDC features three earth science exhibits - Habitat & Home, Down the Drain and Eco Kids - which rotate throughout the year. All three focus on environmental stewardship, offering educational activities for the whole family.
Naturalists lead family hikes into the park at 1 and 3 p.m. on the third Saturday in September and November through May. Families learn more about the park’s ecosystems on these outings and then return to the Discovery Center for a nature-inspired craft project.
Naturalists host “Science Saturday” experiments at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month. These are tangible, fun science experiments that explore the world around us. See the activities calendar for more information.
Regional Parks provides environmental education to more students than any other extracurricular science program in Sonoma County. Schools can visit the Environmental Discovery Center or schedule guided field trips in other parks, including Tolay Lake Regional Park. Naturalists also visit school campuses to present environmental science lessons in classrooms. For field trip details, view our 2014-2015 brochure (2.38 MB). To reserve a class trip, please use our online registration.
"Habitat & Home" and "Down the Drain"
From September through January, the EDC hosts the “Habitat & Home” field trip, which introduces students in grades 1-3 to ecosystem diversity and the importance of healthy habitats. From February through June, the EDC hosts the “Down the Drain” field trip for grades 1-6. Down the Drain demonstrates a raindrop’s journey from cloud to creek and teaches about the water cycle.
"Discovering Science in the Parks"
EDC naturalists lead two earth science field trips for grades 4-6 in parks throughout Sonoma County. “Rockin’ and Recycling” focuses on the properties and formation of common rocks and mineral and the importance of recycling rock and mineral products. “Weather or Not” focuses on the science of weather patterns and helps children understand the county’s many microclimates. Both field trips are offered September through June.
"Science to Go"
This is a year round, traveling program in which naturalists enliven elementary school classrooms and engage students through science activities, lessons with live marine animals and hands-on fun without the need for schools to provide transportation to a park.
"Healthy Earth, Healthy Bodies"
Offered September through June, this field trip is to the farm and garden at Tolay Lake Regional Park in Petaluma. Healthy Earth, Healthy Bodies combines science education with the need to protect natural resources and grow healthy bodies. Students learn the benefits of healthy eating, take a guided hike, tour the farm and work in the garden.
"Acorns to Oaks"
This is a new field trip with a unique focus on California history. Acorns to Oaks, offered November, March and May, takes students in grades 3-6 on a half-day hike that explores Tolay Lake Regional Park in Petaluma and its importance to Native American tribes of the area, region and state. Students participate in games, storytelling, and crafts specific to the living tribal people.
Tolay Fall Festival
Schools are welcome to visit the Tolay Fall Festival on field trips during the festival's two-week run in mid-October. Students make traditional crafts, play old-fashioned games, learn about local wildlife through live displays in a historic barn, take hayrides with a ranger and visit a pumpkin patch. This special field trip introduces students to the role of agriculture and farming in healthy communities.
Registration for the Tolay Fall Festival closed October 1. If you have already registered and have questions, please contact Christina McGuirk at (707) 789-9699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.