Tahoe students learn winter science slopeside

Institute for Natural Science teaches students about winter animal adaptations. Photo credit: TRPA.


Contact: Jeff Cowen, 775-589-5278
For Immediate Release: February 9, 2023

Environmental Education Team Provides Year-round Youth Field Trips

South Lake Tahoe, CA – The South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (STEEC) opened the minds of local middle school students to the wonders of winter science at the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort this week to engage them in place-based environmental education.

Thanks to Vail’s EpicPromise grant for lift passes and a Tahoe Douglas Rotary Club grant for transportation, hundreds of eighth graders from Lake Tahoe Unified School District were whisked to the top of the Heavenly tram early this week, where they donned snowshoes and rotated between four interactive stations. STEEC partners taught students about winter animal adaptations, the science of snowmaking, how climate change is impacting the snowpack and native tree species, and about avalanche safety and rescues.

“It was a great opportunity to be able to learn about our environment outdoors instead of in our classrooms,” said Brodie Behrendt, an eighth grader at South Tahoe Middle School. “My favorite part was learning about the native Tahoe trees, and how to measure their height. It was the most interactive station, and the presenters were fantabulous.”

The field trip was coordinated and executed by staff from Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Lake Tahoe Unified School District Career Technical Education Team, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, Sierra Avalanche Center, Sugar Pine Foundation, U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Sierra Nevada Alliance, South Tahoe Public Utility District, and Lake Tahoe Community College.

This marked the ninth year these organizations have offered the field trip, although in previous years, the program was geared toward fifth grade.

“STEEC is dedicated to bringing high quality environmental education programs to Lake Tahoe youth,” said Alissa Zertuche, career technical education specialist for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. “We realized that we had two similar fifth grade snowshoe programs, and no field trips for our 8th grade, so we adjusted the curriculum to meet their science standards and get these students outside.”

Learn more about the programs offered through STEEC.

Heavenly Ski Patrol demonstrate how they train the avalanche dogs, and then treat students to a demonstration of how they dig out people who are buried by avalanches inbound. Photo credit: TRPA.
Eighth grade classes from South Tahoe Middle School embark on the Heavenly aerial tram to their outdoor classroom for the day. Photo credit: TRPA.Tahoe

Sierra Avalanche Center teaches students how to discern the shapes of the snow crystals and the protocol used in the backcountry to test the snowpack. Photo credit: TRPA.

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