Dayton students rate science camp ‘amazing’

Riverview Elementary School students test properties of minerals at a recent field trip to Lake Tahoe.

Riverview Elementary School students test properties of minerals at a recent field trip to Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe has new protectors! Fifty Dayton sixth graders from Riverview Elementary School spent four October days with Great Basin Outdoor School on the lake shore learning local science and volunteering on a conservation project to help keep Tahoe blue. Studying water ecology aboard a Tahoe research boat and dip netting for aquatic macroinvertebrates were highlights.

Some students had never seen Lake Tahoe before, most had not been on a boat on Tahoe, and more than 90 percent said they’re now more interested in science and feel they have gained leadership skills and self confidence and that what they do is important and makes a difference. And they did make a difference protecting Tahoe’s clarity by installing plants on an erosion-prone bank to reduce sediment entering the lake.

Aboard the research boat students viewed plankton, learned to measure water clarity, and heard about invasive species. During their hike around Spooner Lake, students were excited to see wildlife and to sample the water for aquatic macroinvertebrates. Back at the camp, students observed and tested properties of minerals and learned local geology.

When asked the most important things they learned, they responded with “that the environment is important so we should keep it that way,” “how to keep our watershed clean,” “Lake Tahoe has invasive species,” and “that you can see 54 feet under Lake Tahoe’s water.” They wrote the most important things they learned about themselves were, “I am smarter than I thought,” “I can learn new things by going outside,” “I am really good at hiking,” and “I didn’t know I could learn so much new things.”

Riverview teachers Donna Anderson and ­­­­Danielle Schwiesow appreciated the hands-on lessons for their students and the opportunities for them to gain independence, work cooperatively, and learn about environmental issues so much they’re already planning to share the Great Basin Outdoor School science camp with their sixth grade classes next school year. This year’s sixth graders can share their evaluations with next year’s sixth graders including “amazing,” “fun,” “awesome,” “exciting,” and “adventurous.”

Great Basin Outdoor School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which has been offering field studies on the shore of Tahoe for 16 years. In addition to four-day spring and fall science camps, they also offer day trips and classroom presentations. Students snowshoe and learn about the Sierra snowpack in the winter, and teachers get professional development training in the summer.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others provide support to keep student fees below actual cost and to promote protection of water quality and reduction of fire danger. Individual donations and fundraisers help cover scholarships and program fee reductions to include children in need.

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