A new art-based plant field trip in the Eastern Sierra

Two Big Pine Elementary School students paint irises in a native alkali meadow near Big Pine.

Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) member Claire Marvet was awarded the Mary DeDecker Grant through the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) Bristlecone Chapter for art-based outdoor education programs to increase understanding and appreciation for Eastern Sierra landscapes and native plants. Her goal was to use the grant money to make existing programs at Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) more accessible for children in the region who might not usually be able to attend or participate.

Claire developed a new art-based native plant field trip based on ESLT’s previous Crayons and Paint event. She wanted to bring the event to kids who may not have been able to drive an hour or more to attend. She focused on Big Pine, a less affluent community near Bishop. Claire also brought local botanists from the CNPS Bristlecone Chapter, the Big Pine Paiute Environmental Office, plein air painters, and a fourth-grade class from Big Pine Elementary School in an alkali meadow only a few miles from Big Pine on April 22. The botanists taught the class about native and non-native plants and the ecosystems around us. The plein air painters taught the class the basics of watercolor painting and supervised while the children had a great time painting the plants in the meadow and nearby mountains. She gave out gift bags full of art supplies at the end. The purpose was to teach children about Eastern Sierra plants and ecosystems while creating a positive nature experience. Not all children will grow up to be botanists or artists, but the class had a positive experience enjoying nature and appreciating plants. Claire also received some adorable thank you letters after the field trip.

The fourth-grade class from Big Pine Elementary School on the Native Plant Field Trip.

Claire also used the grant money to distribute art supplies for the April Earth Day Youth Art Contest. She wanted to increase participation for kids who may not have great access to art supplies. The purpose of the Earth Day Youth Art Contest is to increase appreciation for nature and offer an art-based activity for local kids. They received many touching and inspiring art submissions celebrating nature and discussing environmental issues. Claire used most of the grant money to distribute art supplies for the contest and some of the money for gift cards to art stores that she gave away as prizes. C5 Studios hung the art in their gallery and worked with ESLT to have a reception for the winners.

Claire reads out the names of the Earth Day Youth Art Contest winners at an art showing for the participants hosted by C5 Studios.

The Eastern Sierra Land Trust works with willing landowners to protect vital lands in the Eastern Sierra region for their scenic, agricultural, natural, recreational, historical, and watershed values. ESLT also has a robust educational program called Community Connections, which Claire manages. The program’s purpose is to increase community appreciation of local landscapes and ecosystems. Community support for conservation and land protection helps ESLT protect more land through donations, volunteering, or conservation easements on private land.

“Elk Grazing in Front of Mt. Whitney on a Cold Misty Morning” by Chloe L. was submitted to the Earth Day Youth Art Contest.

The Sierra is a biodiversity hotspot. By protecting and preserving the health of the Sierra, we can conserve more biodiversity. It is also essential to protect and maintain the health of the Sierra to mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change for both biodiversity and people.

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