On the path to save the planet
April 24, 2015
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — In the tail end of the driest snow season on record, with lightly snow-sprinkled mountains in the background and with many of the children in shorts and T-shirts, students at the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School celebrated Earth Day with a two-day festival.
The festival focused on renewable energy, environmentally safe practices and using science, math and technology to help nurture environmentally safe lifestyles.
On Tuesday, during the second day of the school's festival, throughout the school – outdoors – students ran around in search of trash, relay raced to dispose the found trash in a correct matter, teamed up and built cars, and blew air into water containers containing sediment. All activities were part of different lesson plans.
"The kids design something to meet a goal," Aimee Rice, kindergarten teacher and part of the Earth Day committee, said. "It's more hands on."
"Instead of just listening to someone talk, and talk, and talk about something, they're doing something to drive it home," she later said.
In addition to the Earth Day celebration, the approach is also part of STEM, which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
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The activities were spread on six different stations that lectured and guided activities in connection to water, wind, solar, geothermal and electric energy as well as recycling and biomass. The school partnered with Lake Tahoe Refuse, TRPA and Liberty Utilities for some of the topics. Each day offered different activities and short lectures.
Tuesday's water presentation involved an explanation of the effects of sediments and water clarity. For the activity portion of the learning experience, children tried to blow bubbles with a straw in three containers with water with different levels of sediment in them. The children had to determine in which container it was more difficult to blow the bubbles.
The wind portion of the interactive lessons taught children about harvesting wind energy. The children built sail cars with recycled material donated by their families – mostly cardboard from food products, plastic bottle caps, straws and empty paper rolls.
That portion of the festival was also aimed at teaching students to solve problems for themselves. When the students came to the teachers and volunteers for help, they would tell the student to think about the problem a little more, find the cause of the problem and encouraged them to find a solution on their own.
The instructors asked the children guiding questions.
"Why do you think it's doing this? What do you think can keep this from happening?" In most cases, the students found solutions on their own.
¬The students also picked up trash from around the school and learned how to properly dispose of different types of trash, including recyclables and compost. For the activity portion of the lesson, the children relay raced in different groups to see which group could dispose of the different types of garbage the fastest and most accurately.
The solar portion included a solar power turbine as well as making bracelets with solar beats that changed colors with the sun, which helped the children understand different aspects of solar energy and chemical reactions to the sun.
The children also learned about electricity from a Liberty Utilities representative, who taught them about the dangers of interrupted live electric lines, how electric current travels and how a situation in which electricity can hurt someone could happen. The lesson included a model that showed the students how electricity can travel, or create a spark, from object to a person if they are close to each other.
Monday included a different set of lessons and activities at the different sections, including a lesson on the Earth's layers to help the students understand different aspects of geothermal energy.
It is a good age to start teaching children about environmentally safe practices, Rice said. Hands on activities help them understand and adapt green lifestyle choices.