The River Bend Outdoor Education Site is a 10-acre outdoor oasis on the shores of the American River. Purchased by Sacramento County in 2008 from Camp Fire (a national youth development organization), this site was rebuilt by the American River Parkway Foundation, Rotary District 5180, Save Mart and the community. Together, these groups made improvements to the site, including:

  • adding shade structures

  • building a new amphitheater

  • removing fire hazards

  • creating pathways and adding new tables

  • creating accessible access

  • removing invasive plants

Over $750,000 of improvements have been made to the site.


The Program

In 2015, the Parkway Foundation began working with Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) to bring children in grades 4-7 to the River Bend Outdoor Education Site for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) lessons.

At every session, approximately 60 students are placed into three groups (twenty students per group plus chaperones or volunteers) and may experience the following:

  • Nature Hike – Students learn about native and invasive plant species and wildlife on the Parkway and the impact these different species have on natural environments. The hike also serves to create greater awareness and appreciation for this recreational asset.

  • Macro Aquatic Invertebrates in the River – Students observe invertebrates in the American River using petri dishes, draw the organisms they find, and then record their observations in a science notebooks. Students engage in a discussion about the invertebrates and how the organisms are part of a larger, more complex ecosystem.

  • Water Ferry Engineering Design – Teams of two or three build small rafts using natural materials found on the Parkway. Teams then attempt to float their raft across a stream table with “family and supplies” (gram weights) meant to simulate travelers that would need to cross a river.

  • Living vs. Non-Living Identification and Scavenger Hunt – Students observe and identify living organisms (e.g., plants and wildlife) and non-living things (e.g., rocks and water) at the site. They use their scavenger hunt worksheet to search for specific species that are found on the Parkway.

These lessons are taught over the course of four hours and meet Next Generation Science Standards.

Since its inception in 2015, over 6,600 children from 76 Sacramento area schools have attended the STEM lessons and been exposed to the American River Parkway. Of those children, 31% are English learners and 81% are socio-economically disadvantaged.

The Need

66% of students in Sacramento County attend Title 1 schools and most have not had the opportunity to spend time in nature. We believe in the power of the outdoors and the importance in providing students this learning experience on the Parkway.

The Foundation raises over $100,000 each year to provide the funding necessary to cover the entire cost of the program for Title 1 schools and subsidize the program for other schools. Each four hour session costs $1500.

Our goal is to serve an additional 4000 students through the program. With your support, we can achieve that goal and enhance the educational experiences of Sacramento County children. A $25 donation gives one student the opportunity to participate.

Building Leadership Talent (BLT)

For the past 10 years, a small group of SMUD employees has participated in a 12-month development program called Building Leadership Talent (BLT). BLT forms a partnership with a local nonprofit to support a project that benefits the Sacramento community and region.

BLT 10 selected the River Bend Outdoor Education Site as their 2019-2020 project.  BLT 10 raised funds to provide STEM lessons to more students at Sacramento area Title I schools and to improve facilities at the River Bend site.

Thanks to BLT 10, more children can participate in the program and be inspired to pursue a career in STEM and build a bond with the environment that will last a lifetime.


Stay Informed about the Parkway - Sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Connect with us.

#FoundontheParkway | #AmericanRiverParkway

Skip to content