Grant #288

Youth Watershed Education and Protection Projects

Since 1998, Great Basin Outdoor School engaged thousands of students through hands-on, experiential learning in the outdoor classroom as an alternative to the sedentary conditions of traditional classroom pedagogy. While most of the organization’s programs are held in pristine outdoor sites across northern Nevada, Great Basin Outdoor School reaches schoolchildren through special events, such as Tahoe Truckee Snapshot Day. Tahoe Truckee Snapshot Day is a once-a-year opportunity for the organization to host and deliver water education to a local school group. Great Basin Outdoor School is planning to host this year’s event with Mountain View Montessori School, a PreK-8 school located adjacent to Whites Creek in southwest Reno, and exhibiting sustainable practices on campus, including greenhouse and compost programs. Whites Creek is a second-order tributary of the Truckee River that originates in the Mount Rose Wilderness Area and drains into Steamboat Creek in south Reno, passing through extensive residential and commercial developments in its 11-mile length. During the event, naturalist educators and volunteers will lead water sampling tests and activities related to hydrological themes, including dip netting for macroinvertebrates in Whites Creek.

During school breaks, Great Basin Outdoor School hosts week-long day camp programs at Reno’s River School Farm to provide an active, educational environment and combat learning loss while school is not in session. The River School Farm is a sustainable farm and interpretive garden located near Mayberry Park on the Truckee River, providing easy access to the streambank for water ecology lessons and demonstrations. Naturalist educators will deliver content and lead students through engaging activities and lessons that pertain to critical water education and the Truckee River watershed. The organization will utilize the Project Water Education Today (WET) curriculum to inform lessons and activities for elementary-aged students. Great Basin Outdoor School will collaborate with the City of Reno’s Utility Services Department to feature guest presenters specializing in stormwater management and pollution. Students will use aquatic dip nets to discover benthic macroinvertebrates in the Truckee River. Benthic macro invertebrates or benthos are bottom-dwelling animals that can be seen without a microscope and are bioindicators of aquatic conditions. Naturalists will lead students in stewardship projects by cleaning up trash near the streambank of the Truckee River and auditing collected litter. By constructing watershed models from tarps, students will visualize the topographic direction of watersheds and the flow of water. Students will learn about the Truckee River watershed and gain a sense of place as future stewards and stakeholders of this critical natural resource, while indicating knowledge gain of both point and non-point source pollution and practical ways to protect the Truckee River watershed.

TMWA Benefit:

Sustainability and Environmental Awareness: Funding support from Truckee River Fund will allow Great Basin Outdoor School to organize community service efforts and host participants for water sampling and data collection activities as stakeholders of Tahoe Truckee Snapshot Day taking place in May 2024. Participating in Tahoe Truckee Snapshot Day as a host organization will advance citizen science opportunities for students and educators, in addition to monitoring the ecological health of the Truckee River watershed. Students will learn relevant topics in watershed management and stewardship, realize their roles as stewards and future stakeholders, and apply these lessons toward sustainable decisions and choices. Furthermore, participation will allow Great Basin Outdoor School to leverage community support toward water conservancy and quality improvement efforts as it applies to the consortium’s findings and recommendations.

Support will be applied to implementing water education and protection projects during spring and summer school break day camps. Both camps incorporate activities and deliverable content promoted by the initiative, including aquatic science demonstrations, field studies, and guest presentations exploring hydrology and water management. Students will demonstrate knowledge gain of point and non-point source pollution in bodies of water and the impact of pollution affecting the Truckee River watershed. Additionally, students will learn about the physical geography and flow of water by constructing watershed models with topographic features. By participating in activities led by naturalist educators, including aquatic science demonstrations and trash clean-ups along the Truckee River streambank in Mayberry Park, students will become active learners and problem solvers of critical ecological issues and their practical solutions. Lessons gained from the school break day camp experience will influence future stewardship behaviors and lifestyles. These educational opportunities will yield a greater understanding of human-caused alterations to watersheds and issues faced by the regional hydrosphere.