Our “Bridges to Critical Habitats” program integrates learning in the museum’s exhibit and classroom facilities with field exercises at several nearby critical habitats. We know from our own experience and research at the university that effective and exciting learning situations are created when you bring together classroom, field, and lab components to a subject. This program does that.
The classroom component of “Bridges to Critical Habitats” will consist of the NCNHM’s two permanent exhibits (Worlds of Northern California, and Ages of Northern California), as well as docent talks, lecture series by CSU Chico professors, and the ethernet computer and media aspects of our Classroom.
Several field components for “Bridges to Critical Habitats” are available near Chico. The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) offers 4000 acres of pristine Foothill habitat just ten minutes from the museum. Our Executive Director has been taking students there since the fall of 2001, engaging them in field studies of small mammal distribution and abundance.
Valley wetland habitats are abundant near Chico. Butte County’s nearby Rancho Esquon approached the NCNHM and the Chico Unified School District’s Watershed Education Project in the fall of 2001, seeking advice and assistance for a wetland and waterfowl education program at the ranch. We developed a curriculum which integrates classroom and lab exercises in the museum’s current limited facilities, with six weeks of extensive “hands on” field activities at the ranch. Several other rich wetland and waterfowl field sites are within a thirty-minute drive of Chico, including the Llano Seco Unit of the Sacramento River Wildlife Refuge, and the headquarters of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
The lab component of the program will consist of our museum Classroom’s extensive collection of waterfowl mounts and wings, tracks and calls of waterfowl and wetland mammals, wetland vegetation collections, and “wet lab” experiments on the effect of varying water levels. Thus the “Bridges to Critical Habitats” program of NCNHM is already underway in prototype programs combining field, classroom, and lab. This program reflects our mission to promote education and conservation of our most critical Northern California habitats.