UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA

Mornings at Martial Cottle Park

Mornings at Martial Cottle Park provides three different free garden field trips to schools, homeschoolers, and other groups throughout Santa Clara County. The target age group is kindergarten through 4th grade.

UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County have created an engaging set of nutrition and science lessons for students to experience in the garden.

  • We focus on garden-based curricula that support California life science standards and nutrition program objectives.
  • Hands-on activities help make the learning fun and meaningful.
  • Children, teachers, and adult chaperones can all participate in the activities and enjoy learning in a garden setting.

Note: All participants will be expected to follow COVID guidelines at the time of their trip.


Field trips offered

We offer three different free field trips, described in detail below. Field trips are held once a week in spring and fall. Please note that the maximum number of students for Vermicomposting for Kids is 30.

Field Trip 1: Lessons in the Garden (~3 hours)

Field Trip 2: Vermicomposting for Kids (~2 to 3 hours)

Field Trip 3: Native Bees and Honey Bees in Our Backyard (~3 hours)


How to schedule

Sorry, we are completely full for the 2023-24 school year and will not be able to provide any more field trips this year. 

Check back in August 2024 for 2024-25 field trips.

Field Trip 1: Lessons in the Garden

This field trip introduces the students to the concepts of

  • how plants grow
  • why vegetables are good for us
  • insect anatomy
  • how some insects are beneficial

First we introduce the students to the garden, then they rotate through the four interactive stations described below. We conclude by reviewing the key concepts and lesson objectives in a question and response format. Time required: approximately 3 hours.

Plant Life Cycle

Using pumpkins or sunflowers, students learn about the plant life cycle from seed back to seed. In the spring, students have the opportunity to plant a sunflower in our garden as well as one to take home. In the fall, students visit our Three Sisters Garden and get to choose a pumpkin, squash, or gourd to take home.


Students explore, harvest, and use their senses to learn about vegetables and herbs, including the benefits of eating five different colors of vegetables. They plant seeds that represent different colors and different edible parts of plants.

Insect Anatomy and Adaptation

Students learn that an insect is divided into three body parts and what each body part contains. They discover the types of mouthparts insects have and learn how that helps insects adapt to their environments. Then they create their own insect out of modeling clay and small items.

Beneficials and Pests

Students learn about beneficial garden critters and how to define garden pests. To reinforce the lesson, they sort photos of garden critters into beneficial and pest categories. They use bug sucker jars to collect insects in the garden for examination. We also explain what integrated pest management means and show them seven ways to get rid of pests without using chemicals.

Field Trip 2: Vermicomposting for Kids

This field trip introduces the students to the concepts of

  • vermicomposting: what is it? why do it?
  • the anatomy of a red wiggler
  • the benefits of vermicomposting
  • how to use vermicompost

Students learn that vermicomposting is the process by which worms are used to convert organic materials into compost. We show them the worms and worm bins, and explain what ingredients go into the bins. Then the students make a mini vermicompost bin. Time required: approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Field Trip 3: Native Bees and Honey Bees in Our Backyard

This field trip introduces students to the concepts of

  • natives bees in our area
  • bee anatomy
  • pollination by native bees
  • honey bees

First we introduce students to the garden, then they rotate through the four interactive stations described below. We conclude by reviewing the key concepts and lesson objectives in a question and response format. Time required: approximately 3 hours.

Different Types of Native Bees

Students learn about three types of native bees (Ultra-Green Sweat Bee, Valley Carpenter Bee, and Yellow-faced Bumblebee), what is unique about each type, and how they benefit our gardens. They will observe native bees and other insects in the gardens.

Native Bee Anatomy

Students learn about the anatomy of the three native bees and their anatomical differences. They make a modeling clay bee based on one of the three native bees to take home.

Native Bees and Pollination

Students learn what pollination means and how native bees contribute to the pollination of plants. They make a seed ball using clay and native wildflower seeds to take home to plant.

Honey Bees

Students will learn what is unique about honey bees and the various jobs honey bees have in a bee hive. They will build a model of a bee hive placing honey bees doing their various jobs. Using the model, the students will place the stages of the life cycle, honey, and pollen into hive cells.

About Us

The field trips for kindergarten through 4th grade are conducted at the UC Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden and Community Education Center. Our four-acre parcel is within Santa Clara County's 287-acre Martial Cottle Park which showcases the area's farming past and celebrates the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley. We demonstrate many aspects of gardening in this region, from native plants to vegetables to fruit trees and more. We are located at Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave, San Jose, CA 95136.

Two UC Master Gardener volunteers (retired school teachers) created the garden-based curricula that support California life science standards and nutrition program objectives. It is now known as “Lessons in the Garden.” A pilot field trip program was conducted in fall 2017. The pilot trip consisted of 2 classes with 48 students and adult chaperones, and 2 teachers from a neighborhood school. We received the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (OSA) Measure Q grant which provided transportation funds for six Title 1 and/or schools in low-income communities.

In the spring of 2022, 9 field trips, including participation of a 4-H camp, were held for a total of 309 students and 101 adults. This program won a 2020 UCCE statewide competition Search for Excellence Award that recognizes outstanding UC Master Gardener projects that support the mission of the UC Master Gardener Program.

The field trip program has been expanded to include “Vermicomposting for Kids” and “Native Bees and Honey Bees in Our Backyard.”

Webmaster Email: webmaster-mgsantaclara@ucanr.edu