Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School teacher Bob Comlossy takes his fifth-grade class up Mt. Tallac every year on both a real and a virtual hike to apply the lessons they'd learned in the classroom.
The field trips match up well with the Next Generation Science Standards, a new set of international science benchmarks that will be finalized in March.
The virtual hike takes place about 40 miles north of Tallac at the UC Davis Thomas J. Long Foundation Education Center in Incline Village. Led by Comlossy and Heather Segale, the education and outreach director for UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the tour is part of a series of field trips for basin schools.
"The program is great. I could point out where we were going to stop and show them where the steep parts would be. I think it helped the kids realize what their goals were and what they would achieve," Comlossy said.
The TERC field trips, which started in 2006 for forth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students, offer five environmental science-based programs. Topics include water on earth, plate tectonics, ecology and the Lake Tahoe system.
It's a unique opportunity for students to learn firsthand about environmental issues around Tahoe, Seagle said.
"We feel that Lake Tahoe is such a beautiful place and that we have a special responsibility as residents of this place to protect and preserve it. We want people to have the best science-based education on the region that they can," she said.
Science education that reflects how science is practiced and experienced in the real world is the first conceptual shift outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. The new standards are more research-oriented, Lake Tahoe Unified School District Science Outreach Coordinator Beth Quandt said.
"It's a great way for us to integrate subjects. It really puts more emphasis on students not just reciting facts they learn but getting a deeper understanding of concepts," Quandt said.
The TERC field trips augment lessons that the district already teaches, she said. For Comlossy, a hike up Mt.Tallac in the fall turns into a first-hand look at a Tahoe watershed.
"It's been really powerful for the kids to learn about it. It's taking the concrete to the abstract to the applied," Comlossy said.