COVID Can't Stop Environmental Stewardship
Updated: Feb 17
So. Much. Screen. Time. Screen time and living under the stress of a pandemic is taking its toll, especially on our students. While we all know right now our students have to be online to connect with family and friends, to continue their education and to stay entertained, we also know that our students are logging a lot of time in front of devices. Teaching our local students how important, available and powerful our natural world is our aim at Sierra Watershed Educational Partnerships (SWEP). As we know, often the best solace is to breathe fresh air, look at trees and plants and move our bodies. We are so fortunate here in Tahoe (and is often the reason we live here) that we can literally walk out our door and find this.
Despite all the chaos brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, SWEP continues to inspire and connect our local students to our natural environment and to create current and future environmental stewards.
When the pandemic hit in full force in April 2020, SWEP pivoted and created SWEP "Snippets". These virtual lessons align to teaching standards, have environmental & educational outreach and always with activities that bring the students OUTSIDE. (Go to 4swep.org.)
With the unusual school year that is currently upon us, SWEP has continued to offer teachers and students specific virtual resources for typical SWEP programming, such as Wonders of Watersheds: a hands-on watershed education program that combines environmental science and community service; Forest & Fire: students participate in a hands-on stewardship day that involves tree planting, forest quality monitoring, forest health and orienteering; all Sustainability Clubs: interactive, educational clubs that create a sense of civic responsibility and foster a school environment that emphasizes sustainability; and Sagehen: an engaging hands-on field study about local forests, watershed and the plants and animals that exist in our environment.
SWEP lives by the words: action fosters hope because unfortunately, it is too easy to get caught up in the depressing, overwhelming state our world is in today, and therefore feel stuck. We know that a connection to nature can fuel a powerful need to protect our environment.
We work with students to take action, first through education, then through advocacy and/or stewardship. The combination of taking action and getting outside in nature is a significant path towards empowerment, and resetting our mental state through nature's natural healing abilities.
For example, our students were seeing the trash piling up on our beaches and in our lake and last year decided to take action. SWEP’s Sustainability Club students created a powerful art project “Is This Your Trash?” currently on display in the Boatworks Mall. This is one of the many examples for which students participate in advocacy.
SWEP’s wish during this pandemic is for all of us to remember to slow down enough to notice the budding pine tips, the wind ripples on the water and the squirrels scrambling in the trees and to remember that this natural world needs our stewardship and protection and we all benefit from a connection to the environment.
SWEP is able to continue the hard work of educating and inspiring during these unprecedented times because of the incredible support from local organizations like the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, partners like Excellence in Education as well as generous donations from individual donors, such as Melanie Jackson, the Sperry Family and of course many, many other partners, organizations and donors! The SWEP Board, staff, students, teachers and the environment of our region thank you all!
See this article published in Moonshine Ink!