Volunteer Corner: Sue Rae Irelan | SierraSun.com
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Volunteer Corner: Sue Rae Irelan

Amy Edgett/Sierra SunSue Rae Irelan
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How long have you been with the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, or SWEP? Thirteen years.How did you get involved?I am an original founding board member. It grew out of an effort to connect kids to the place they live. They are growing up in an incredible outdoor lab.Start-and-stop efforts occurred nothing had been sustained. We focus on the outdoor environments and service education.How do children get involved and projects develop?We are starting to work in after-school and summer camps. SWEP works closely with schools and interested teachers. We help them learn the state requirements. Our function is to make the connection between the community, agency groups, teachers and parents. We help train teachers who are involved, and raise money for projects. We get permits for projects. Teachers dont always have time for some of the hands-on details.What are benefits of the program?They stimulate interest and an understanding of stewardship. From an educational standpoint, hands-on experience versus sitting in a classroom is a dynamic experience. If you are studying the water cycle, you see it in action and better recognize the process. It isnt just science. All projects have language arts involved as well. The students write poems and essays, research plants, do mapping that requires math skills. Each project is a very integrated curriculum, using the outdoors as a lab.We also have a service element; the kids are performing a community service through the projects.They have replanted willows to stabilize banks learned fire [fuel] reduction. We have the Lopper Brigade, where they learn about what a healthy forest looks like and then perform it. They remove little firs to prevent crowding and fire hazard, and learn about fire safety. We get so many parents involved as a response. We have parent volunteers from every class.With what schools do you partner?Primarily the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District. We are active in every school. We also work with the charter schools, and do some mentoring in South Lake Tahoe.How does one get in touch with SWEP?Visit the Web site at 4swep.org. You will find contact information for Executive Director Christine McMorrow and Project Director Jan Ellis.What are volunteer duties?We do fundraising in the community, work with the kids, generate community partnerships. Members of the community may donate toward environmental projects. The Villager Nursery, the Tahoe Tree Company have donated plants. The kids are working on restoration projects with Teichert, the Town of Truckee and Glenshire.What are some examples of projects?The Lakeside schools entered into partnership with the Tahoe Environmental Research Group, researched pavement treatments and permeable pavements for the fish hatchery. Here at Tahoe Lake Elementary, the kids did a BMP Better Management Project. They designed a system to capture the drain water from the school, collect the water, manage the water further with some retention to water indigenous plants they [planted], increase filtration in site, and prevent the water from running off the school pavement, down the road and into Lake Tahoe.What is the most rewarding aspect of involvement with SWEP?It feels neat to be involved with kids. They are our resource for the future and we are building a stewardship value in them to take wherever they go. Our children will be better national and world citizens through education.The Sierra Suns Amy Edgett interviewed Sue Rae Irelan for this weeks Volunteer Corner. Please send your suggestions to aedgett@sierrasun.com, subject Volunteer Corner. For volunteer opportunities in the North Tahoe Truckee area, visit http://www.handsontahoe.com.


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