Educational Programs

Classroom Program – “We Come to You”

Classroom Program – “We Come to You”

The Theodore Payne Foundation offers classroom programs for K-12.  The 60-to-90-minute lessons are California Dept. of Education standards-based and feature hands-on activities that teach students about California native plants and the natural world.  Throughout all programs, the vital ecological link between insects, other animals and native plants is emphasized.  Students will understand the water-saving benefits of native plants and the crucial ecological function the plants fulfill.

For middle and high school students, an illustrated PowerPoint lecture explaining the “Big Picture” about California native plants -- geography, soils, native plant adaptations and water use, and why native plants are essential for saving wildlife.  Live samples of native plants supplement the lesson, as well as a discussion of careers in Botany, Horticulture, Agroecology, Landscape Design and Architecture.  An eye-opener with real world connections!

All About Leaves” centers on the leaf adaptations of California native plants.  Students examine leaves from different habitats, then, through drawing and writing, analyze their characteristics to determine their adaptive purpose.  Science demonstrations of how leaf color affects heat absorption and how plant oils combat water loss.  This program satisfies these science standards:  3rd grade, 3.3.a, 3.3.d, 3.5.c, 3.5.d and 3.5.e; 4th grade, 4.2.a, 4.3.c and 4.6.b.

“Butterflies, Caterpillars and Native Plants” centers on the life cycles of Southern California butterflies and the native plant forage needs of their caterpillars.  Using native plant samples, worksheets and color photographs of butterflies and their caterpillars, students will learn through art, writing and kinesthetic movement.  Habitat and food web connections will also be explored.  This program satisfies these science standards:  2nd grade, 2.2.a, 2.2.b and 2.2.c; 3rd grade, 3.3.a, 3.3.c and 3.3.d; 4th grade, 4.2.a, 4.2.b and 4.3.c; and, for 2nd grade, visual arts standards 2.1.3 and 2.2.5.

“Every Soil Tells a Story”  Like to dig in the dirt?  This program’s for you!  Through hands-on activities, students will learn about soil composition and evolution, the origin of soil elements, soil pH and water-retention, and root structures, adaptations and functions.  Note:  For this program, there must be a pre-approved place for your students to dig on your campus.  This program satisfies these Earth Sciences standards:    3rd grade, 3.3.c, 3.9.a; 4th grade, 4.4.a.b, 4.5.a.b.c; 6th grade, 6.2.a.b.c.d, 6.5.b.c.e.    

 Tongva Rope-Making and Tools from Native Plants” centers on rope-making, one of the most crucial skills of native California.   Students will make rope from yucca fibers, learning how the indigenous people of our region adapted to the natural environment and used its natural resources.  Other goods and tools made from natural resources are also shown to demonstrate how native plant materials formed the basis for indigenous cultures.  This program satisfies these social science standards:  3rd grade, 3.1.2 and 3.2.2; and 4th grade, 4.1.3, 4.2.1 and 4.2.5.

Details and Cost

For the above programs, all worksheets, factsheets and materials are supplied by the Foundation.  Fee: $95.00 per classroom.  Please contact Lisa Novick, Director of Outreach and K-12 Education, at (818) 768-1802, or email her at  Ms. Novick has a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and has been teaching for over a decade.    

Need help designing your school’s native and edible garden?  TPF will visit your site and provide recommendations about the design, plant list, planting procedures and ongoing maintenance. Fee:  $95 for a 90-minute visit and post-installation maintenance guide.  Contact:  Lisa Novick at

Some reviews from Teachers:

“All About Leaves”:  “This program totally engaged my students!  Lots of rich language for English Language Learners!”  Karin Croft, Vinedale Elementary School, LAUSD.

“The science experiments were excellent and explained at students’ level.” Sarah Molfese, Larchmont Charter School, LAUSD.

Tongva Rope-Making”:  “Great hands-on activity!”  Heather Chaten, Frostig Center

The Theodore Payne Foundation:  Gardening to Save California’s Water and Wildlife.