Home sweet nest box

Grant Union High School in the GEO Academy Garden
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | September 29, 2021

Funded by
Sacramento Municipal Utility District SHINE Award

Summary of the Day
For our third and final field day on our restoration project in Grant Union High School’s campus, we were finally able to work with a nearly normal number of students! 22 students joined us for a field day in the GEO Academy Garden.

To begin the day, we circled up in the garden to play a round of Group Juggle to learn each other’s names and then reviewed our agenda for the day. Students grabbed rakes to do some maintenance on the native plant area SLEWS students planted in April. The nearby sycamore trees had littered their leaves all over the area, making it difficult for the plants to get enough sunlight. Once the leaves were removed and composted, we moved on to our next activity – building bird nest boxes!

Center for Land-Based Learning Ecologist Jeanne Wirka led a discussion about cavity-nesting birds and how bird nest boxes can provide critical breeding habitat for these species. Groups of students were each given a bird box “kit” – a drill, cut pieces of wood, and screws and other fasteners. I was so impressed at how eagerly and confidently students jumped into this activity! Students who had never used a drill before figured it out with ease, and built the boxes using only a model box as a guide.

Once all the boxes were complete, each group signed and decorated their box before learning how to install it in the GEO garden – at least 30 feet from other boxes, facing the north or east, and making sure to affix an upside down trash bin around the pole to prevent predators from climbing up. Each group chose their own spot for their box, and by the end students had installed 9 bird boxes in the GEO Garden! Come spring, these students will be able to watch as swallows and/or bluebirds make nests and raise young right outside their classroom door, and will monitor the boxes themselves, contributing data to the Cornell NestWatch program.

Once bird boxes were installed, Jeanne shared her education and career path with students. Many students asked Jeanne for advice and had very insightful questions for her. From there we moved to some flowering plants in the garden and observed many pollinators, including carpenter bees, hoverflies, skippers, honeybees, damselflies, and a fritillary butterfly!

We ended the day with burritos and a “favorite moment” from each student. I was impressed with the variety! Some students loved raking, others preferred building bird boxes, others enjoyed looking at pollinators, and others loved the burritos most of all! I think we can all agree, it was an excellent day.

Horse Barn, Healthy Buffet, and Hearty Bouquets

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | January 23, 2020

Location(s) of the Field Day:

UC Davis Animal Science Horse Barn
448 La Rue Road, Davis CA 95616

Tercero Dining Commons

237 Tercero Hall Circle, Davis CA 95616

Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility
1200 Ext Center Drive, Davis CA 95616

UC Davis Student Farm
1050 Ext Center Drive, Davis CA 95616

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Headquarters
448 La Rue Road, Davis CA 95616

The Sacramento Valley field day at U.C. Davis began in the Cole Facility, a four-building compound dedicated to metabolism and physiology research. Our class was welcomed and given an overview of the facilities by Ben Rupchis (Goat Facility Manager) and Caleb Sehnert (Meat Lab Manager). Once we reviewed our itinerary, we conducted a warm-up activity that divided our class into small groups. Once in small groups, our class was led through separate, short tours to provide our collective a more especial and personalized look at the compound’s numerous operations and facilities, including: the horse barn, a literal barn where horses give birth as well as the stables and bullpens.

Following our tour of the Cole Facility, students, teachers, and FARMS staff walked the U.C. campus to convene at the the Tercero Dining Commons, a sprawling 30,000 square-foot, multi-level food court that features a plethora of domestic and international cuisines ranging from black-bean veggie burgers and pizza by the slice to made-to-order Mongolian-style bbq, schwarma, and various seafood dishes.

After our 1-hour lunch break, our collective trekked back to the Cole Facility to caravan across campus and reconvene at U.C. Davis’ organic garden.

Once regrouped, our class was dispersed into pairs. The single requirement for these student partnerships was that students must not be from the same school. Following introductions and the forming of new allegiances, pairs were tasked with an intra-garden scavenger hunt!

Students (and accompanying teachers too!) were provided checklists to aid in the hunt for various fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Most notable were the spicy mustard leaves that taste like wasabi and Meyers lemons, a cross between lemon and a mandarin orange, that can be eaten like an orange because of its higher sugar content.

After completing the organic garden scavenger hunt, we toured the Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility, a wing of classrooms and labs that serve as instruction and research space for the Plant Sciences and Plant Biology Departments.

Following the Bowley Plant Science Teaching Facility tour, we headed outside to survey and explore the U.C. Davis Student Farm and Nursery. This 23-acre space is the foundation for U.C. Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute; The land is maintained and operated exclusively by students, as has been tradition since its original founding in 1977. Today, it continues to serve as the Research and Development grounds for creating sustainable food systems and hosts many agriculture-based programs, studies, and ventures.

The final leg of this marathon field day ended near the Cole Facility, the start-line for this journey. The U.C. Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Headquarters is a gorgeous, verdant, and seemingly infinite outdoor space that hugs 100-acres of the 85-mile-long Putah Creek, within the 640-acre U.C. Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. Once we became completely surrounded by trees, bushes, and flowers, we were met by Waterway Steward-extraordinaire and CLBL Alum Nina Suzuki. Suzuki, guided us through the history and purposes of the arboretum and riparian reserve and her work in ecological preservation and advocacy. We concluded this field day with a “debriefing circle”, reflecting on all we had learned.