Learning about Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Learning about Tahoe

Eric Harssema
Special to the Bonanza

What is the interconnectedness of our forests, streams and the overall health of Lake Tahoe?

This was the overarching question posed to Incline Elementary School fifth-graders at a special field trip to the Hyatt beach and Incline Creek on Thursday, June 5.

The goal of the day was to educate students on the science behind protecting the lake and encourage stewardship of our vital natural resources.

The highlight of the day was a lake science lesson aboard the Sierra Cloud. Many IES students had never been on the water, so the excursion proved to be a special and memorable experience that students will not soon forget.

Students were awestruck by the deep blue color tones and the clarity of the lake as they peered through the open netting on the 41-passenger catamaran.

Some remarked on the snow-capped mountains to the south in the Desolation Wilderness. AmeriCorps volunteers with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center led a science narration which focused on lake clarity, invasive species, the food web and other important topics affecting the lake.

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On land, classes rotated through two stations near the mouth of Incline Creek. One group tested the Ph and dissolved oxygen of the creek and discussed the importance of stream monitoring and how to interpret their results.

This station was led by a Waste Not AmeriCorps volunteer and included a great deal of math to average their test results and graph their data.

The second station involved identifying and creating an inventory of the flora and fauna within the Incline Creek watershed. Students used field guides to identify native trees such as Jeffery Pines, Aspens, Willows and Alders.

The presence of birds, small mammals and macroinvertebrates suggested to students that the creek ecosystem was healthy and had excellent biodiversity. Volunteers at both stations stressed that to maintain the beauty and health of Lake Tahoe, scientists monitor the 63 waterways that flow into the lake carefully and that our forests act as natural purifiers.

At the conclusion of the day students circled up on the beach and shared their learning from the day. Volunteers were recognized for their hard work and it's certain that students left with a better sense of appreciation for the amazing place that they live in.

A special thanks goes out to all the organizations that helped make this day possible. Contributors included UC Davis TERC, Waste Not and IVGID, SNC, the Hyatt, and the Parasol AmeriCorps team.

Lastly thanks to Jason Crawford, co-owner of Action Water Sports and his staff for generously donating time on the Sierra Cloud so our students could participate in this valuable educational experience.

As we have seen time and time again as educators in this town, when our community comes together in support of the schools, great things happen.