Starting in 2006, we extended our Exploring Biodiversity program to K-12 communities in the areas around our field stations. This expansion allows students living in the vicinity of the field stations to observe and study the biological diversity that can be found right in their backyards and the significance of their local natural environments to scientific research. It also enables us to connect these more distant communities to the resources of the University of California's BNHM.
In our first year (2006-2007), with teaching partners from the Tahoe area and Carmel Valley, we brought over three hundred 4th, 5th, 7th, and 12th graders to explore biodiversity at Sagehen Creek Field Station and the Hastings Reserve. The response of teachers, students, parents and field stations has been fantastic and we are excited to continue growing this part of our program!
September 18-19, 19-20, 21-22:
Three separate classes from Glenshire Elementary visited the Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierra Nevada for two-day field programs led by graduate student fellows Michal Shuldman and Matt Medeiros. The 5th graders "roughed it," sleeping in rustic cabins at night and doing hands-on science activities in the field during the day. Under Matt's tutelage, they learned about how insects live and got an up-close look at many different species during an afternoon bug hunt. With Michal, they mapped a section of the forest using a coordinate system learning the names of the trees at the field station, and building their math skills at the same time! In addition to activities led by our fellows, local environmental educators led games and hikes to help the kids understand about interactions in nature, and watershed experts from SWEP (Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships) helped the kids learn about the macroinvertebrates living in Sagehen Creek, and write descriptive nature poems.
September 24-26, 26-28, October 1-3, 4-5:
Four classes from Truckee Elementary visited the Sagehen Creek Field Station for three-day field programs. The Truckee students got an expanded version of the program the Glenshire students experienced the week before. In addition to the bug hunt and tree mapping, these 5th graders spent an afternoon studying waterstriders with Matt, observing how contaminated water affects their ability to skate on the water surface. With Michal they studied how plants are put together and did an experiment that showed how plants respire through their leaves. It was a great way for the kids to learn about the biology of organisms found right in their backyard! Read more about the students' adventures in a December 13 article in the Sierra Sun. See a thank you note written by a Truckee Elementary student to Matt and Michal.
Matt Medeiros talks about waterstriders with Truckee Elementary students. Photo by Emma Garrard, © Sierra Sun.
Lisa McCready brought seventy 7th graders from North Tahoe Middle School to Sagehen Creek Field Station for a day of field biology. Led by graduate student (and former fellow) Nicole VanderSal, the students did a field study of grasshopper population ecology in one of the field station's meadows. They learned how to catch and measure grasshoppers and then used this data to plot the size structure of the population. Because Nicole had pre-marked a sample of grasshoppers, students could estimate the size of the population using mark-recapture formulas. During a session with SWEP instructor, Jan Ellis, students also learned about macroinvertebrates living in Sagehen Creek. Teacher Lisa McCready reports that the students have retained what they learned that day at the field station very well, and she would like to return with the kids for an expanded day of field biology! Nicole received some nice thank you notes (pdf) from the North Tahoe Middle School students.