Sister city from Russia focuses on Tahoe environment: Tahoe Baikal Institute will be the site of four delegations this year | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Sister city from Russia focuses on Tahoe environment: Tahoe Baikal Institute will be the site of four delegations this year

Amanda Fehd

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Tahoe Baikal Institute Executive Director Brian von Lossberg, left, answers questions from a delegation of Russian teachers Monday at Fallen Leaf Lake.

A newly approved environmental magnet school in Meyers piqued the curiosity of a group of educators visiting Tahoe from Russia this week.

Tahoe Baikal Institute is hosting the five Russian visitors, all from the field of environmental education. The professors from throughout Russia hope to learn through exposure to U.S. environmental education programs.

Russia is striving to modernize and democratize, with a growing environmental movement confronting industry that is fast depleting resources and not subject to pollution standards.

The biggest challenge to environmental education is an aging curriculum, so an entire school devoted to the topic was a novel idea to the group.

“(In Russia) we worry very much about loose curriculum standards that are not modern,” said Morozova Elena Evgeneevna, a professor of biology from Saratov, Russia.

Evgeneevna said teachers in her town can be unqualified, while textbooks are designed by education specialists in Moscow, instead of scientists.

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Evgeneevna hoped to learn more about teaching methods here in America.

Another teacher told a story about young students taking matters into their own hands and measuring pollution outputs on a river nearby. Their studies proved to the town that pollution was a problem and had to be addressed.

The delegation is different from TBI’s usual summer student exchange between Russia’s Lake Baikal and Lake Tahoe. It is part of a federally funded exchange between Russia and the United States.

On Monday at TBI’s Forest Service cabin on Fallen Leaf Lake, the visitors were full of questions about how newspapers deal with dissemination of environmental information in Tahoe, as well as how teachers acquire information.

The delegation is unique in that it is it funded by the Open World Program, which is the first and only exchange program administered by the legislative branch of the U.S. Government. Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1999, it aims to increase mutual understanding between Russia and the United States.

TBI secured the funds to pay for the teachers’ travel, food and entertainment expenses. This is the first of four delegation visits this year, and the first time TBI received funds directly from Open World to sponsor a delegation.

TBI executive director Brian von Lossberg hopes the Forest Service cabin can become an environmental education facility that serves the Tahoe community and its residents, as well as visitors.

TBI recently secured a 20-year lease on the cabin, with the condition that it be upgraded and made handicap accessible.

Von Lossberg said they have been in touch with many organizations in the area to get the word out that it can be used for education purposes.

“Anyone who has an interest in working with us to develop some sort of field study is welcome to contact us,” said von Lossberg, “but we’re already being proactive in our program planning.”

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