Science can be fun, students learn |

Science can be fun, students learn

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Waves crashed against the side of the 45-foot boat and students darted in and out of the cabin to escape the cold spray.

“This is fun,” shouted one sixth-grader to a friend, over a loud hum from the Prophet’s two diesel engines.

“It’s better than a rollercoaster ride,” said Jennifer Morrison, an 11-year-old from Reno.

Wave riding and environmental education were sandwiched together Thursday at Zephyr Cove Marina. About 30 sixth-graders learned about Lake Tahoe clarity and what makes it disappear: erosion and pollutants.

With the wind kicking up, Marine Research & Education, a nonprofit group based at Ski Run Boulevard, had to be motored across the lake to find calm water. The boat came to a halt at Whiskey Cove, a spot off the West Shore that has some of the deepest and clearest water in the lake.

Jason Sherman, a program biologist at Marina Research, lowered a white dinner plate, or Secchi disc, 71 feet before it finally disappeared.

“John Secchi was having picnic and went to wash his dishes,” Sherman explained. “The plate fell down to the bottom, 20 feet, and he could still see it. Now they do this all over the world to measure lake clarity.”

“Did he get (the plate) back?,” asked Kyle Sargent, 11.

“I don’t know,” Sherman said.

That was the only question Sherman coundn’t answer. The students, all enrolled in the Great Basin Outdoor School, learned about the food chain in Lake Tahoe and how it plays a key role to keep the water healthy.

“I learned a copepod is red,” Morrison said.

“(I learned about) the Secchi Disc,” said David Silver, a 12-year-old from Reno. “And I finally learned about more about plankton.”

Marine Research was founded in 1998 by John Shearer, owner of Tahoe Sport Fishing, and Dean Lockwood. Shearer was captain of Prophet on Thursday.

“I want everyone to see what type of precious lake we have,” he said. “A lot of kids never get to get out on the lake. I want to try to keep it clear, so our kids and their kids can enjoy it.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or

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