Bringing bilingual science education to the Lake Tahoe Basin

Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) member Claire McHenry is working with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) as an education program assistant. Claire acts as the event and volunteer coordinator and the marketing, social media, and data manager. During her term, Claire has worked with existing partners and developed new partnerships with organizations in the Tahoe Basin and has organized educational events and outreach programs with new and existing partners.

On August 18, Claire hosted a brand new event for TERC called Full STEAM Ahead (Adelante con las Ciencias). The event was hosted in coordination with Chickadee Art Collective and Tahoe Backyard in Kings Beach. The event aimed to bring science and art activities together in a fully bilingual (Spanish and English) setting to increase STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning accessibility in the Tahoe Basin. This event paired well with TERC’s goal of developing Spanish-led tours through the Tahoe Science Center.

AmeriCorps member Wyatt Grognet at the TERC table teaching a young girl about the parts of an insect.

Claire and Nicole Stirling (Chickadee Art Collective) organized and coordinated the event with partner organizations hosting booths at the event, including the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association, Sierra Community House, Take Care Tahoe, Tahoe Fund, Sierra Streams Institute, and the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP). Volunteers included teachers and students from Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Sierra Nevada Alliance, and local residents. Volunteers helped booths run activities, translated instructions into Spanish, and assisted in the set-up and take-down process for the event.

Part of UC Davis TERC’s vision is to provide objective scientific knowledge to the public, school children, private industries, government agencies, and elected officials. The guiding principles TERC follows to accomplish its vision and mission include valuing diversity, equity, and collaboration, and promoting access to sustainable environmental stewardship education and outreach.

According to a report from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2010, over 20% of people in the Tahoe Basin identify as a person of Hispanic origin. In order for TERC to achieve its mission of providing environmental education and sustainable stewardship outreach materials to a diverse audience, TERC must provide educational materials to all who reside in Tahoe; this includes those who speak Spanish or feel more comfortable learning science in Spanish. In the same TRPA report, almost 60% of the residents of Kings Beach identify as a person of Hispanic origin. By bringing Full STEAM Ahead to Kings Beach, TERC is reaching a larger audience and bringing accessible learning opportunities to the residents of the town and the wider Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Sierra Nevada is a large tourist destination for visitors from around the world. With so many visitors coming to the region, it’s important that the environment is healthy enough to sustain this impact. By providing educational materials to everyone who enters or resides in the Tahoe Basin, we can be hopeful that the Sierra Nevada can remain a place to visit for years to come.

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