By DANNY YOEONO
The Lindsay Wildlife Experience, formerly known as the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, hosted three classes of first graders and one class of special needs students from Las Juntas Elementary last week, free of charge for a special field trip that was made possible in part by the Super Bowl Host Committee and a new initiative called Ready, Set, GoPlaces.
GoPlaces is a new non-profit whose goal is to provide a platform between student educators and transportation providers for free or discounted rates.
A division of the non-profit bay.org, GoPlaces is a 501(c)(3) with a mission to protect, restore, and inspire conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed, from the Sierra to the sea through providing field trips that allow students to explore nature and learn about science.
As an initiative of the Super Bowl 50 Sustainability Committee, Ready, Set, GoPlaces has committed to offering 50 free field trips between January and March to students at under-served Bay Area schools. The Las Juntas field trip was one of the 50.
During this period, over 1,500 students from all over the Bay Area will be visiting science and nature museums, zoos, and other Bay Area attractions to enhance their in-classroom studies, but the plan is to make this a much bigger program that will be widely available and make accessible field trip transportation a reality for many Bay Area educators.
Once the Lindsay Wildlife Experience partnered with GoPlaces, Las Juntas elementary was at the top of a list of schools that had showed interest in going on a field trip there, but lacked the resources to do so.
Carrie Chen, GoPlaces program manager and bay.org’s Director of Education, pointed out that when changes are made in a school’s budget, field trips are on the chopping block.
Through grant funding, Lindsay was able to offer free admission and through GoPlaces, Las Juntas could get a bus there for free.
Elisabeth Nardi, the media contact for the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, underlined the ability of Lindsay to offer the field trip admission free was thanks to scholarships provided by The Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and the Tesoro Foundation.
On Feb. 25 and 26, Las Juntas classes were guided by Lindsay volunteer docents who brought to life learning about mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects.Students got up close and personal, touching live animals and seeing predator animals up close.
An important lesson was learned when a docent asked a class what they thought ducks eat.
One kid yelled, “bread!”
The docent made the correction that feeding bread to ducks, a Martinez past-time, is actually bad for the birds.
Students also saw a live bee hive on display that connected to the outside of the building.
“When (the students) leave Lindsay, these kids will know the four major animal groups; they will know the difference between mammals and birds – and they have touched real, live animals,” said Lindsay Director of Education, Melissa Strongman, in a release.
Each child took away a little something different from the trip.
Neiko, seven, saw a familiar Silverfish at Lindsay that he said was also in the video game Minecraft.
A first grader named Leah took an interest to the teeth and shells of the reptiles.
Seven-year-old Emery said he loved the live tarantula they brought out and would like to have it as a pet.
Scarlett, a six year old, experienced her first time touching a live snake. She said she liked the smoothness of the scales.
“These hands-on experiences could not have happened inside the classroom,” said Teacher Cyndi Reiley.
“Field trips have been proven to boost experiential learning and foster a deeper interest in subjects such as art, science, and math,” Chen said. “We are creating the next generation of scientists.”
Teacher Sharon Geernaert added, “Field trips brings the curriculum alive and gets kids excited about learning.”
A poll of 70 teachers conducted by bay.org in 2015 revealed that the two biggest barriers to field trips are cost and transportation, but more than 80 percent of those teachers said they would take their students on trips more regularly if transportation was less expensive and easier to arrange.
Mantha, a parent chaperone, talked about the difficulties of getting students on field trips.
Parents have to deal with part of the cost, running up to $10 per child, and if a bus isn’t available, carpools aren’t easy to put together for so many students.
“We all work,” said Mantha. “I know there are parents who would like to drive but just cannot.”
That is where GoPlaces comes into the picture.
“From day one, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has been focused on sustainability and leaving behind a positive legacy in terms of the Bay Area environment,” said Neill Duffy, co-chair of the sustainability subcommittee and sustainability advisor for the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. “We applaud GoPlaces’ commitment to enhancing the educational experiences of Bay Area schools by making so many field trips accessible to students through free transportation.”
The Municipal Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Commission have also partnered with GoPlaces, citing that with the increased use of buses for field trips, it means a decrease of individual cars on the road.
The Lindsay Wildlife Experience started as a wildlife hospital and soon became a hub for environmental education for the East Bay.
Their hospital is still running, with 47 birds, six reptiles and 10 mammals under their care at the time of the visit. For more information, call (925) 935-1978, or visit http://lindsaywildlife.org.