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Sagehen Outdoor Education Program Goes Virtual

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

As SWEP wraps up the 2020/21 Sagehen Outdoor Education Program, we are happy to say that our first fully virtual program of the 2020/21 school year was a success! We saw great turn out from the 5th grade classes of Glenshire Elementary, Truckee Elementary, North Tahoe School, and Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. This year our fall and spring programs looked a little different, but still offered ample opportunities for much needed time outside for local students. SWEP collaborated with Tahoe Institute of Natural Sciences (TINS) to convert our Sagehen nature program, originally an overnight field experience, into a program students were able to complete at home or in class. Four week long virtual programming was offered to students with fun, intriguing, hands-on nature experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Fall 2020

For the fall lessons, students attended two SWEP-led lessons that focused on trees and soil science, as well as two TINS lessons that focused on arthropods and birds. SWEP instructors focused on keeping virtual lessons engaging and hands-on with our environmental-science outdoor activities. We wanted the lessons to be guided by the students through active inquiry and explorations. Both the trees and soil science lessons had an art project incorporated into them. Through an artistic approach, students were challenged to better observe and understand their surroundings and to express their findings through a mixture of mediums, such as painting and writing.

Teaching during hybrid learning with Mrs. Bates' class at GES.

In SWEP’s trees lessons, we focused on evergreen and deciduous trees. The goal was to have students go outside and explore the trees indigenous to the Tahoe Basin. The best way for students to learn about these different trees is through personal experience. By going outside and taking time to observe the trees, the students could then further reflect in their nature journals. Students followed prompts in their nature journals to dig deeper and learn more about their branch and evergreens’ adaptations.

Evergreen tree scientific sketch by Ava Valle, GES.

Mrs. Bates, 5th grade teacher at Glenshire Elementary, used hybrid learning to her advantage having the students complete the soil activity in class. From the photos, it looked like a success! It’s fulfilling to see students back in the classroom, and teachers making the most of hybrid learning by incorporating social distanced class projects and outdoor activities. Mrs. Bates submitted some photos of the students’ experiences to us.

The Sagehen Program, although different than past years, continues to achieve SWEP’s mission: connecting students to their community and local environment. The resilience demonstrated by teachers, students, and schools in their ability to continuously adapt to the ever-changing present is amazing. The Sagehen program was filled with hands-on experience and environmental-science activities. The students’ engagement, creativity, and passion was what truly made this program a success. SWEP will continue to adapt our programs during distance and hybrid learning to inspire students to explore what’s outside and connect with nature.

Spring 2021

Spring Sagehen lessons, followed the same 4-week format, alternating SWEP and TINS lessons. SWEP lessons focused on heightening our five senses in nature and native plants.

The SWEP fives senses lesson included students having a silent 'sit spot' in nature, playing nature observation games, creating earth art, identifying animal signs, searching for camouflaged animals and more. This fun lesson showed students a variety of ways to interact in nature that are introspective and as an alternative to the sports-heavy environment we live in.

The second SWEP lesson focused on local botany with the students spending time outside creating nature journals, identifying plants and building observational skills. Students were able to learn interesting tidbits about our local native plants and why native plants are important.

Overall, the Sagehen lessons supported students in spending time in nature. These students can now connect with their natural environment in new and interesting ways. Hopefully they will take these experiences with them on all their future outdoor adventures!

Thank you to TINS for working with us on this important program and to our partner Sagehen Outdoor Education Program for making this all possible!

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