density of salt and fresh water demo for classroom

Water floating on water? Yes! Learn hands-on activities like this one at professional development workshops for science teachers. Photo by Brian Brown, Project WET

Estuary Education

We offer education programs for people looking to learn about or become involved in the latest estuary science. Our goals are to build scientific literacy and understanding, strengthen stewardship of the estuary and our Reserve sites in particular, and support community-level responses to climate change. We accomplice these goals by translating research from the Reserve and the San Francisco Estuary into engaging, accessible programs and products for educators and visitors.


Open Houses: The NERR has three houses! We participate in annual open house events at each of them: Ranch Day is typically the last Saturday in April at Rush Ranch, Heritage Day at China Camp is typically in late August, and we partner with the Romberg Tiburon Center on a variety of events for specific audiences (check upcoming events for details). These events are a fun way to learn a little science and history too!

Nature Walks:

  • The NERR/Solano Land Trust Tidal Marsh Docent Program leads a walk on the third Saturday of every month at Rush Ranch as part of “Get the Rush”, a family-friendly morning on the Ranch.
  • Our holiday tradition is to lead interpretive walks during the winter “King Tides” – the highest high tides of the year. The annual flooding opens our eyes to what sea level rise may look like on the landscapes we protect, love, and use. It is also beautiful! These events fill up quickly, so be sure to watch for the announcement.
  • Sarah Ferner, NERR Education Coordinator, leads guided interpretive walks at both Rush Ranch and China Camp a few times a year, check upcoming events for details.

Citizen Science:

  • On your own schedule, you can contribute to the Rush Ranch project on iNaturalist, which will help us create field guides and a species list for the site. Both Rush Ranch and China Camp are also hot spots on eBird.
  • More formal opportunities include California King Tide Initiative’s Citizen Science Photo Monitoring and an oyster monitoring project for high school students.
  • We also incorporate citizen science into short-term grant-funded research; for example, we are currently pilot-testing a project where you can help validate satellite imagery using your smart phone in partnership with USGS and NASA.

Docent Training:

Sarah Ferner and Natalie DuMont, from Solano Land Trust, have the pleasure of leading a motivated and excited group of Tidal Marsh Docents at Rush Ranch. We offer a free in-depth natural history training program to recruit and prepare new docents every other year. Upon graduation, pairs of Tidal Marsh Docents lead Get the Rush walks once a month, as well as special programs. China Camp doesn’t have a similar program, but we are hoping to develop one in the future. Please email Sarah if you would be interested in volunteering to lead interpretive programs at China Camp!

Science Teacher Trainings:

Our “Estuary Ecology Day” program that was led in partnership with the Romberg Tiburon Center has been cancelled, but we will continue to offer topic-specific field trips for educators and are developing more in-depth programming to help teachers meet Next Generation Science Standards by integrating local, authentic research into their classrooms. Join the Teacher Trainings mailing list to stay up-to-date.

Teaching Resources:

Looking for resources to teach about the San Francisco Estuary? Check out the collections organized by topic under the “Resources from Past Programs” tab above. NERRS also has great resources, including lesson plans and a video library, available on our national education site,

Where appropriate, we develop new education programs in response to audience needs, and we also know other estuary education providers throughout the region, so please send Sarah Ferner an email if you did not find what you were looking for here.