Increasing science and outdoor education for Central Valley students

Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) member Keeley Martinez is working with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) as the Education Program Assistant. Keeley helps provide environmental education programs and events for students, residents, and visitors to TERC’s two science-based education centers (Tahoe Science Center and Erikson Education Center) through exhibits, tours, field trips, hands-on science activities, and citizen science monitoring.

This Summer, UC Davis TERC launched the first Tahoe Science Institute, a summer camp pilot program designed to expose high school students in underserved communities to science, scientific careers, and the stunning landscape of Lake Tahoe. TERC collaborated with Gateway Mountain Center and Clair Tappaan Lodge to help run the program, which took place from June 7-9.

The Tahoe Science Institute brought five students from Patterson High School in California’s Central Valley to Lake Tahoe. Only one student had ever been on a hike before, and all students had limited exposure to the outdoors. With the guidance of Keeley, Heather Segale (Director of TERC), Anne Liston (a chemist at TERC), and Vanessa Kelly (a high school teacher), the students hiked around Claire Tappaan Lodge, made s’mores, played group bonding and team building games, and did various other outdoor activities. Anne Liston is a former Patterson High School student, and provided the connection between the two sites.

In addition, the students had the chance to take water samples from their home in Patterson, California, and from Lake Tahoe. Once they had both samples, they spent time in the chemistry lab at TERC and compared water quality between the two locations. They were able to measure dissolved oxygen, pH, and water temperature in both samples. The students also participated in TERC field trips during their time in Tahoe, as well as discussing ways to reduce water usage and keep watersheds clean and healthy.

The Tahoe Science Institute received grant funding to run this program and will apply again for funding to continue the program in the coming years. This project increases TERC’s outreach and equity and brings accessible science education to underserved youth.

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