Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships: Success Outside
The typical school day consists of students sitting indoors, at desks, reading from a book or a screen, listening to a teacher and studying about far-off places.
Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP) seeks to change the typical school day, by involving students in outdoor, hands-on, scientific explorations that directly relate to students’ own community and environment. SWEP provides year-round field programs that engage K-12 students in experiential outdoor learning that inspire local students to take action to both understand and protect the environment. Examples of SWEP field programs include the Sagehen Outdoor Education Program, Winter Discovery Center Program, and Fisheries Field Day.
Fifth-grade students from all Tahoe Truckee Unified School District school sites participate in the Sagehen Outdoor Education Program. Students make their way to UC Berkeley Sagehen Field Station, where they get into the creek, flip over rocks to look for macroinvertebrates, and interact with the natural world while challenging all five senses on a forest sensory hike. Our Sagehen program is unique in the way that it ties together fall, winter, and spring seasons. Students are brought to the field station twice a year, in the fall and spring, and in the winter students go on a “Winter Snowshoe Trek” to explore snow science in their own backyard.
A second winter program SWEP hosts annually is the Winter Discovery Center. Third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students from a variety of schools in our region participate in the Winter Discovery Center program that takes place at the yurt located at the Tahoe Cross Country Center. Students are given the unique opportunity to learn about snow science while actually engaging with the snow outside! Students learn the science behind thermometers while building their own, learn about the relation between surface area and melting rates while building snow castles, and hit the trails by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing afterwards!
In the spring, SWEP hosts “Fisheries Field Day.” Third-grade students from Tahoe Lake Elementary and Kings Beach Elementary gather at Pomin field, where they participate in a variety of activities. Students learn about fish biology, life cycles and natural history from fisheries biologists. They tap into their creative minds to create art to learn about fish anatomy and adaptation. They play games and are physically active all while learning about food webs and native fish.
These are just three of SWEP’s 13+ field programs hosted annually. At SWEP, we believe the most important method of learning is bridging the gap between indoor and outdoor education. The more we can inspire the younger generation, the more we’ll all protect the places we love! SWEP promotes environmental stewardship by connecting students to their community and local environment through comprehensive watershed education and service learning. Inspiration begins outside!