Spirit of the Sierra Local teachers get back to nature | SierraSun.com

Spirit of the Sierra Local teachers get back to nature

Two years ago, two teachers from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District embarked on an adventure that changed their lives.

Lynn Citro and Suzanne Samson, teachers at Glenshire Elementary, participated in a program on the American River created by Donner State Memorial Park Ranger Rich Silver. The four day program was designed for teachers to learn about their environment and their surroundings from botanists, environmentalists, historians and other specialists in the community.

Citro and Samson said they were so moved by the program that they wanted to create something similar for TTUSD teachers.

“We were so inspired that we wanted to bring the same magic up to the Sierra,” Citro said.

And that is exactly what they did. Citro and Samson, with the help of fellow teacher Carol Reed and Ranger Silver, organized Spirit of the Sierra, which had its second annual session last week, from July 11-14.

“The first year was such a success that we are back again,” said Citro.

Spirit of the Sierra was a four-day adventure that took place at Donner State Park, Coldstream Canyon and the Truckee River. Activities included orienteering, bird-watching, botany, natural history, anthropology, story telling and yoga. About 11 teachers participated, many of them returning from last year.

“Last year was such a profound experience,” said Cathy Tavernier, a sixth grade teacher at Kings Beach Elementary School. “I walked away so centered. I just want to get some of that magic back.”

This year’s program included a wildflower hike led by botanist Toni Fauver, bird-watching with Carol Reed, river rafting on the Truckee River, storytelling by nationally known Native American storyteller Gordon Boswell, a talk on John Sutter by UNR professor and historian David Fenimore and orienteering with Dave Olsen from Outward Bound.

Citro explains the program as a great opportunity to learn about and enjoy the environment. She said the program offers teachers the ability to make connections with other teachers in the school district, and that it offers spiritual healing and reflecting time with nature.

TTUSD teachers each had their own reason for participating in Spirit of the Sierra.

“I teach science so Spirit of the Sierra is very inspiring,” said Jon Halvorsen, a Life Science teacher at Tahoe-Truckee High School. “I find ideas for my classroom here. I apply botany and water quality principles to my classes.”

Gary Costello, an adaptive physical education teacher, said that he was participating in the program to get to know the area and the environment better. He said he takes his classes to Donner Lake and that he would like to gain a better understanding of the area.

Beyond personal enrichment, the TTUSD offers district credit for educational growth for teachers who participate, and the University of San Diego offers two college units for participants as well.

Suzanne Samson said that this year’s program was a success.

“Everybody just loved it and had a great time,” said Samson. “They can’t wait to do it again next year.”

A few changes may be in order for next year, Samson said. She said participants expressed interest in learning about astronomy in future classes and that they would like to move the program to a different location in the Sierra to learn about new areas.

Some highlights from this year’s program, according to Samson and Ranger Silver, included orienteering with Dave Olsen and white water rafting by Tahoe Whitewater Tours.

“Nobody flipped their boat this time,” said Silver.

Silver also emphasized the variety of presenters and the team-building aspect among the teachers as other positives of the program.

“The program, overall, joins the School District and the State Parks for a wonderful educational experience among teachers,” said Silver.

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