Virtual Delta Spring Field Trips

By: Jamie Ball and Laurel Sebastian

What is your favorite memory of being at a bay or delta beach? Fourth/fifth grade students at Marsh Elementary School in Antioch happily shared their experiences exploring special beaches with their friends and family. De’Vonte said, “I remember going to the beach and I got pinched by a crab!” Ryden added, “I caught a big fish in the delta once!” Yolanda shared, “I remember going to the delta and seeing lots of different birds and animals!” Teacher Roxane Johnigan shared, “It may be hard to believe, but when I was in university I lived by a beach and I used to go surfing!”

In this unusual pandemic year, KIDS for the BAY brought delta field trips to the distance learning classroom environment. Marsh Elementary students explored the delta near Antioch and went on an exciting virtual exploration of Brannan Island! Using Google Earth to navigate the virtual landscape, many explorers began to recognize the area.

Marsh Elementary students used Google Earth to explore the virtual landscape and their route to Brannan Island.

Zooming into the delta water, the young environmentalists explored some mesmerizing photos of plankton under the microscope, and made scientific observations. Ryleigh observed, “That one looks like a crab claw!” William shared, “That one looks like a spider!” KIDS for the BAY Educator Jamie Ball showed students a video about why plankton are so important for supporting marine environments and explained that plankton provide us with approximately half the oxygen we breathe! Oscar said, “I didn’t realize how much of our oxygen comes from these tiny creatures!” This was definitely a ‘WOW’ moment for many students!

Students observed how plankton appear under microscopes.

Fourth grade students at Gregory Gardens Elementary School in Pleasant Hill virtually explored a delta habitat at the Martinez Marina. After sharing pictures of plankton at the beginning of delta food webs, KIDS for the BAY Educator Laurel Sebastian announced, “Now, we’ll move up the food chain to study birds that live in our environment.” Tiel shared, “I see birds scratching around my yard sometimes.” Meara added, “I just saw a lot of birds near a pond.” 

Working together, student scientists investigated photos and video clips of four aquatic birds and identified their unique adaptations. Tom said, “The great egret’s long legs help it stay dry when it stands in water and mud.” Aiden observed, “The great blue heron looks like it bent its long neck back and shot it forward quickly to catch the fish.” Isabella added, “I notice it moves really slowly first to try to sneak up on fish!” 

One of the birds students investigated was the Great Egret!

The students’ favorite part of the virtual field trip was a bird call game, guessing which bird call went with each bird. Comparing the bird calls to other familiar noises Jaidyn shared, “That one sounds just like a kazoo. I think it’s an egret call.” Audrina exclaimed, “The second bird sounds like a dinosaur!” Luke added, “Funny! I think this one sounds like fabric ripping.” Students voted with their fingers to match each bird picture to a call before Ms. Laurel revealed the answers. After identifying all four bird calls, Mikayla shared, “It seems like the smaller birds are more high-pitched and the big egret and heron make deep, loud sounds.” Sophia added, “Each bird has its own call so the same types of birds can find each other!”

A crowd favorite – the bird call guessing game!

After their virtual field trips, students were eager to find more ways to get outside and explore their local habitats. Lily said, “I think I’ll try to get my parents to bring me to Bird Beach during the long weekend. There are tons of red-winged blackbirds to watch there.”

As Ms. Laurel waved goodbye to the class over Zoom, Teacher Anthony Ralls exclaimed, “Thank you Ms. Laurel! I remember doing an in-person field trip with KIDS for the BAY years ago, and I didn’t think a virtual field trip could be this fun!”

KIDS for the BAY