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Cool River Program

Engaging Youth in Protecting San Diego River Wildlife

Please note:

As a result of COVID-19 and the guidance from public health agencies and the school districts, we offer virtual education programs!

We offer virtual lessons, interactive video calls with our experts and educators, and more!  You can also see our distance learning resources or email us with your questions and education needs.


The San Diego River is teaming with life, ranging from microscopic algae to 4 foot tall blue herons!  Through our Cool River Program, we invite young scientists to join our educators and experts to explore and experience the San Diego River firsthand.     


What we offer:

Our field experiences are science-based field ecology for kids, led by professional and passionate environmental educators and docents. Current offerings include:

  • River Bugs Are Cool:

    Students join scientists from the San Diego River Park Foundation in a real bioassessment of organisms living in the San Diego River. Students will examine and sort living aquatic invertebrates using scientific equipment, learn about the biodiversity of the watershed and observe threats and physical condition  to the ecosystem through a guided stream walk. Both the bioassessment and stream walk are based on protocols developed by the EPA and used by professional environmental scientists. Docents will guide students in using their data to determine the health of the River ecosystem.  This activity is adapted for students in grades K-8.

  • Three Day Field Trip Series:
  • Through the 3-Day Cool River Field Trip Series, students participate in a progressive study of the San Diego River watershed through a series of three separate field trips along the watershed, beginning with a trip to one of our pristine preserves and culminating at the San Diego River estuary. Activities are designed to spark curiosity and a sense of place in our ecosystem as students explore hiking trails, collect data about ecosystem health and also complete a service-learning project to restore habitat impacted by people. These field studies can be coordinated to be three days in a row or over the course of a month or more, depending on school schedules, but must consist of the same student body participating in all three activities. This activity is best suited to students in grades 4-12.


Download a program brochure by clicking here.


About our field trips:

  • Cost: While our free trips are free, we do prioritize providing our programs to Title 1 schools.
  • Class Size: Minimum of 15 students, and maximum of 35 students
  • Chaperone Ratio: Schools must provide adult chaperones at a ratio of 1 chaperone per 10 students.
  • Transportation: We do not provide transportation to our field trips, but limited transportation reimbursements may be available for Title 1 schools in our watershed. Please inquire about availability.
  • Program Length: Programs are 2.5 hours and offered between 9am-1pm.
  • Availability: Please check the Education Calendar for available dates and times.
  • Sites: We offer field trips at various locations along the San Diego River in Descanso, Alpine, Santee, Mission Valley, and Ocean Beach. When you request a field trip, we can work together to find the site that works best for your class.
  • Field Trip Guidelines: Teachers and chaperones can review our field trip guidelines here to ensure a fun and safe learning experience for students.


Ready to book your nature experience on the San Diego River?

Click below or call (619) 297-7380 for more information and to reserve a spot for your class or group.

Book Now!

Interested in supporting our Cool River Program?  You can help!

  • Volunteer: Connect youth to their local environment as an Outdoor Education Volunteer! Click here for more information or email us.
  • Donate: Support this program by donating bus transportation to allow students to experience these field experience at no cost! Your donation of $220 eliminates the barrier of transportation for up to 50 students to participate in a free program! Click here to donate.



Thank you to the sponsors who make nature education possible!

SDG&E River Network and NPS Malk Nature Fund
Rice Family Foundation San Diego County Office of Education
The San Diego Foundation

and the

Tree Fund Sponsor:




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