ARPF Welcomes Students Back to the River Bend Science Center

Students participate in hands-on learning at the River Bend Science Center.
Students attend class at the at the River Bend Science Center amphitheater.

Commencing with the 2021/22 school year, area students will return to in-person educational classes at River Bend Science Center in October.

What is the River Bend Science Center?

River Bend Science Center is a unique outdoor educational venue that features an amphitheater, group-learning areas with shade structures, and small team “nests,” each with a table and bench, interspersed along ten acres of American River shoreline.

The area was previously a dilapidated Campfire site that was reclaimed by Sacramento County. In 2012, the District Rotary 5180 and ARPF partnered with the community to make over $750,000 in improvements to revitalize this resource and make it available for educational programs.

River Bend Science Center is used for youth science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education classes. This hands-on, outdoor STEM program focuses on students from grades four through seven from the school districts of Elk Grove, Folsom Cordova, Galt, Golden Trails Natomas, Sacramento City, San Juan, Twin Rivers, and Center Unified.

The River Bend Science Center education program offers a multi-session course that includes:

  • • Nature Hike: Students learn about wildlife and plant species native to the Parkway, fostering awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.
    • Water Ferry Engineering Design: Student teams build small rafts using natural materials found on the Parkway and then float their rafts across a stream table to simulate historical transportation and travel challenges.
    • Macro Aquatic Invertebrates: Students observe invertebrates found in the river, record observations, and discuss how these organisms are part of a larger, complex food web.
    • Living vs. Non-Living Identification: Students observe and identify living and non-living organisms along the Parkway. This session replaces Macro Aquatic Invertebrates when river levels are too high for safe access.
Group of students along bank of the American River participating in a River Bend Science Center class.
Sacramento-area students engaged in hands-on science education at the American River.

ARPF manages the River Bend Science Center education program and facility with instruction provided by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE).

Since its inception in 2015, this innovative educational program has served 76 Sacramento-area schools and nearly 8,000 students, over 80 percent of whom were from socio-economic disadvantaged households. These kids would not have the opportunity to come experience the Parkway without the extraordinary outreach efforts and talents of SCOE and the financial and organizational support of ARPF.

Sixty-six percent of students in Sacramento County attend schools with Title 1 funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the oldest and largest federally funded education program intended to help underprivileged students.

How I help more students learn about natural resources?

River Bend Science Center classes represent one of the first exposures to nature for 90 percent of our participating students. Hands-on outdoor education is a powerful experience that brings environmental awareness to life and fosters the next generation of stewardship of the Parkway.

In 2020, ARPF and SCOE developed virtual field trips for use by teachers and parents. Now that in-person instruction is accessible again, ARPF hopes to expand the River Bend Science Center program to introduce even more young people to nature appreciation and education.

Our goal for the 2021/22 school year is to serve an additional 1,500 students. To do this, we need to raise over $40,000 to cover the cost of attendance for at least 25 field trip classes. About 60 students attend each class session. With your support, we can achieve that goal and enhance the educational experiences of Sacramento County children.

Each $25 donation gives one more student the opportunity to participate!

What’s Next for River Bend Science Center?

Plans are in the works for a much-needed public restroom facility at the River Bend Science Center.

The proposed restroom building will be constructed near the northern end of River Bend Park, on the west side of the existing asphalt walking trail leading up to the amphitheater. The solar-powered bathroom will feature drinking fountains and a concrete walkway for pedestrian access from the asphalt walking trail. The trail, walkway, and bathrooms are ADA-accessible, as are the majority of the educational structures.

Not only will the proposed restroom facility improve the learning experience and comfort for students of the River Bend Science Center, it will aid in better access for all River Bend Park visitors. By adding bathrooms, overnight camping events will also be possible. for both educational groups and scout troops!  The project will cost $160,000 and take about three months to complete once ground has been broken.

Your donation helps launch this essential restroom project!

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