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Sagehen Outdoor Education Program Goes Virtual

Updated: Feb 17

As SWEP wraps up the 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, who all attended this 4 week long virtual programming. SWEP collaborated with Tahoe Institute of Natural Sciences (TINS) to convert Sagehen, originally an overnight field program, into a program students were able to complete at home or in class. Students attended 2 SWEP-led lessons focused on trees and soil science, as well as 2 TINS lessons focused on arthropods and birds.

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

SWEP instructors focused on keeping our 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.

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 everchanging 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.

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