Lake Tahoe students get onsite environmental education |

Lake Tahoe students get onsite environmental education

Submitted to the Tribune
STPUD teaches students about watersheds and pollutants.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Volunteer educators from the South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition last week brought third and fourth graders from four different Tahoe elementary schools to the Tallac Historic Site to engage them in place-based environmental education.

Students rotated between interactive stations focused on local history, watersheds, fire resilience, and botany.

Kelso Carapia from the U.S. Forest Service greeted excited groups of students as they unboarded their buses each morning at the Tallac Historic Site. In the first few days of the season, the students were fortunate to have the site to themselves, and were eager to explore and learn as they moved through multiple stations in small groups.

Sitting on a sunny patch of grass overlooking the lake, Lauren Benefield from the South Tahoe Public Utility District, spoke to students about watersheds and pollutants at her station. Then, students participated in an activity where they designed a hypothetical lakefront property. The students were given items to represent the potential pollutants from their property, and passed them down the line and into a bucket representing the lake. Students reflected on how the pollution of the watershed and of the lake is accumulated from the actions of everyone, and brainstormed how they can do their part to conserve their environment.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance teaches students how to identify native sierra plants.
Provided/Sierra Nevada Alliance

When students rotated to the Washoe Tending and Gathering Garden station, they were given the opportunity to learn about Washoe history, while also learning how to identify a number of native plants. After discussing the importance of plant identification, students spread out across the garden to practice observing, identifying, and creating botanical drawings of native plants.

“I want to learn to identify more plants,” one third grader reflects, clutching in his hand a detailed drawing of the Sierra currant, where he had correctly labeled the type of leaf margins and noted down the ways in which the Washoe used this plant.

Other stations included lessons on fire resilience, tree biology and systems, historical and modern transit, and the aquatic food web. At each station, representatives from local conservation organizations engaged students and brought unique perspectives from their own work. Volunteers for this week’s events came from STPUD, the city of South Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and UC Master Gardeners.

The South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition is a collaborative network of more than 25 local agencies who work together to bring environmental education resources to the Lake Tahoe Basin. STEEC has partnered with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District since 2008 to provide place-based and experiential learning in various outdoor settings.

“This week’s STEEC event was a great way for the youth of Tahoe to learn not only about the history of the land,” STPUD’s CivicSpark Fellow, Jocelyn Valencia, said, “but to also learn how their actions impact their environment as well.”

STEEC organizes educational programs for students of all ages throughout the year. The lessons incorporate the environment in which they are taught to give students tangible experiences to connect to what they learn. In the winter, students are given the opportunity to venture atop Heavenly Mountain Resort. Throughout June, STEEC will work with kinder through second grade classes on curriculum focused on woods, water, and wildlife.

Students gather on the beach after learning about the history of the Pope Estate.

Source: Sierra Nevada Alliance

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