South Tahoe Environmental Education Conducts Spring Programming | South of Lake Tahoe

This week, volunteer educators from the South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (STEEC) engaged third and fourth graders from four different elementary schools in place-based environmental education. Students were brought to the historic Tallac site and guided around various stations across the site, participating in lessons on local history, watersheds, fire resistance and trees while interacting with their surroundings at each station.

Kelsey Carapia of the US Forest Service greeted groups of cheering students as they disembarked from their buses each morning at the Tallac Historic Site. At the start of the season, the students were fortunate to have the site mostly to themselves and were eager to explore and learn as they traveled through several resorts in small groups.

Sitting on a sunny lawn overlooking the lake, Lauren Benefield of the South Tahoe Public Service District (STPUD) spoke to students about her station’s watersheds and pollutants. Next, students participated in an activity where they designed a hypothetical property by the lake. Students were given objects to represent potential pollutants on their property and passed them along the line and into a bucket representing the lake. The students reflected on how pollution in the watershed and lake accumulates because of everyone’s actions and reflected on how they can do their part to conserve their environment.

When the students traveled to the Washoe Tending and Gathering Garden station, they had the opportunity to learn about Washoe’s history, while learning to identify a number of native plants. After discussing the importance of plant identification, the students scattered around the garden to practice observing, identifying and creating botanical drawings of native plants.

“I want to learn to identify more plants!” thought a third year student, clutching in his hand a detailed drawing of the Sierra Currant, where he had correctly labeled the type of leaf margins and noted how the Washoe used this plant.

Other stations included classes on fire resistance, tree biology and systems, historic and modern public transit, and the aquatic food web. At each station, representatives from local conservation organizations engaged students and brought unique perspectives from their own work. Volunteers for this week’s events came from STPUD, the city, Sierra Nevada Alliance, TRPA, TERC, SU, Tahoe RCD and UC Master Gardeners.

The South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition is a collaborative network of more than 25 local agencies working together on the mission of bringing environmental education resources to the Lake Tahoe Basin. STEEC has partnered with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District since 2008 to provide location-based and experiential learning in a variety of outdoor settings.

“This week’s STEEC event was a great way for the youth of Tahoe to not only learn about the history of the land, but also learn how they will impact its history as well,” said Jocelyn Valencia, CivicSpark Fellow of STPUD.

The Coalition runs educational programs for students of different ages throughout all seasons. Lessons taught to use the environment in which they are taught give students tangible experiences to connect with what they are learning. In the winter, students have the opportunity to venture to the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort. Throughout the month of June, STEEC will continue to bring students around the lake to allow them to discover their natural environment while immersing themselves in it.