Truckee Elementary students, young and old, team up for Enviro Day | SierraSun.com

Truckee Elementary students, young and old, team up for Enviro Day

Sara Colborn
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — About 80 Truckee Elementary fifth-grade students and 100 first-grades celebrated a culmination of learning and loving our local environment at the Sagehen Field Station across a five-day span in mid-May.

Under the guidance of fifth-grade mentors, first-graders morphed into deer, grasshoppers and migrating birds throughout the day. The success was a result of diligent preparation.

For two months, the students worked in partnership to learn more about insects, mammals and birds. The fifth-grades visited the first-grade classrooms to read informational books and discuss the science of our local animals.

After weeks of preparation and practice, the budding scientists came together with a joint trip to the Sagehen Field Station, where fifth-graders led four outdoor education lessons.

The fifth-grade students designed and led the small group lessons, which included clear behavior expectations and lots of active learning to keep the younger students engaged and asking questions.

There were even fifth-grade Support Team members organized to help the younger students get from one activity to another and play games to keep little hands and bodies busy during the transitions.

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"Take a bite of the carrot," a fifth-grader instructed. "Which teeth are you using? Those are your molars."

First-graders learned about mammals by using molars, canines and incisors to chew on different snacks. They investigated skulls and pelts, and engaged in a slew of questions thoughtfully posed by their mentors.

First graders became insect experts by singing, observing grasshoppers and crickets, and diagraming in their science journals.

Student voices rose up in unison.

"Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen," the first-grade students sang.

Jumping with insect nets and looking like grasshoppers themselves, the students captured, observed and released six-legged wildlife in the interest of scientific investigation.

Then, the first-grades were as quiet as first-graders can be as they intently observed and sketched organisms in the meadow station.

Fifth-grade buddies helped to locate worms and ladybugs for the young entomologists to gently handle and record their discoveries.

Hands-on learning continued in the bird lesson. First graders were able to see and touch a variety of bird species' wings and beaks.

Small groups reenacted a bird migration through a simulation game and experienced what life is like as a feathered-friend in Tahoe.

The teachers of both grades are incredibly proud of this endeavor and the outcomes the students have achieved.

Fifth-grade teacher Candy Blesse, who authored the grant that was generously funded by the Truckee Elementary PTO, marveled as she watched her students.

"They've worked so hard," Blesse said. "Look how they're asking so many different questions and guiding the first graders to handle the mammal skulls so carefully."

After Enviro Day concluded, students, parent volunteers, and teachers returned to Truckee Elementary invigorated and grateful for a powerful expedition into our Tahoe environment.

"I'm not sure who learned more today," reflected first-grade teacher Julia Lawrence, "the fifth-graders, the first-graders … or the adults."

Sara Colborn, a Truckee parent, has been a Tahoe Truckee Unified School District teacher and educator the past 16 years. She'll become principal next school year at Donner Trail Elementary.