Our goal is to prepare students to thoughtfully engage in tomorrow’s environmental challenges through teaching sustainability, restoration principles, natural resource history, environmental literacy, and the ecology of working landscapes in Indian Valley. We believe that a connection to human and environmental communities is necessary to be an effective steward and citizen.
Sierra Institute for Community and Environment works diligently with our community to provide critical environmental education by offering students of all ages opportunities for open-ended inquiries and practical problem solving drawn from the community’s own experience.
Since 2007, the Sierra Institute and Greenville Jr./Sr. High School (GHS) have collaborated closely to develop ongoing programs that integrate field-based projects with classroom work. These programs, designed for 7th through 12th grade students, are the pillars of our Natural Resource Education program. Here, field activities are complemented by intensive on-campus activities such as multi-day Natural Resource Institutes and Science Fair mentorship. Field activities, meanwhile, expose students to new facets of their landscape as they restore riparian corridors, annually monitor ecological succession in the footprint of the Moonlight Fire, and more.
Natural Resource Education doesn’t start and end with the GHS school-day, however. Recent work has partnered the Sierra Institute with Indian Valley Elementary School (IVES), while an ongoing Greenhouse and Garden Internship offered jointly through GHS and Sierra Institute helps interested students pursue natural resource work over the summer months. After school learning opportunities allow students to participate in state-wide natural resource competitions. Most recently, Sierra Institute is also piloting residential natural resource-based programming for seventh grade students in Plumas County to provide immersive learning experiences as they transition from elementary to middle school.
Partners and Funding
In addition to close collaboration with GHS, Sierra Institute draws key support from Plumas National Forest, Plumas Unified School District, Collins Pine Lumber Company, Plumas Audubon and the Maidu Cultural and Development Group.
GHS teachers have been key to the success of the program through their dedication to their students both during and after school hours. The hard work of these teachers, and their willingness to go beyond the classroom to make learning fun and meaningful continues to drive the program forward.
The Natural Resource Education program is grant-funded. Primary funding currently is supported by the Plumas National Forest Fire Settlement dollars. If you would like to support some of the youth education work, please see our Donate page or contact info@SierraInstitute.us.
The Natural Resource Education team is led by Courtney Gomola. Additional staff support comes from Ramsey Harvey, Amy Hafsrud, Ashley Bomar, and our Natural Resource Education intern.
Current Natural Resource Education programming at the Sierra Institute includes, but is not limited to:
Moonlight Fire Monitoring: The 65,000-acre Moonlight Fire (2007) was a monumental event in the human and environmental history of Indian Valley, and it informs much of our youth programming. The Natural Resource Education program transforms this historic local event into a great learning experience in which GHS and other local students are able to apply what they know to think critically about cascading effects of landscape-scale events. Students participate in annual trips to permanent monitoring plots, from which they return with both data and valuable experience. Back in their science classroom, students further learn about the environmental processes they witnessed as well as analyze their data. To learn more about Greenville High School’s work in the Moonlight Fire Footprint, click here. To learn more about the 2017 Moonlight Fire Monitoring Trip, click here (pdf 2.3 MB).
Greenhouse and Garden Program and Internships: Another highlight of the Natural Resource Education Program has been the creation and growth of the GHS greenhouse and garden program. With the help of teacher Dan Brown, students grow many vegetables for local sale and conduct science fair experiments utilizing the greenhouse, along with growing native riparian plants and conifers for restoration work in burned areas of Plumas National Forest. Sierra Institute and GHS also collaborate to hire summer high school interns to assist at the garden and with field restoration work. Access to this program challenges the horizons of some students’ experiences, while for others it provides an outlet for preexisting interests. To learn more about the Greenhouse and Garden Internship Program, click here.
Science Fair Workshops: Not all Natural Resource Education programs are geared solely toward 7th-12th grade students. This year, the Sierra Institute partnered with Indian Valley Elementary School (IVES) to offer customized on-campus science education for 1st-6th grade students. The Science Fair Workshops introduced students to the Scientific Method and showed each grade just how cool science can be. Each classroom received multiple hours of age-targeted lessons and completed their own experimental science project. With curriculum drawn from students’ experience, these workshops showed that all students can be scientists. To learn more about the 2017 IVES Science Fair Workshops, click here. Additionally, Sierra Institute offered individual mentorship of GHS students as they prepared projects for their own science fair.
Residential Programming: Sierra Institute recognizes the enormous potential for classroom and field-based education to be complemented by the intensive learning experiences that characterize residential programming. To support this type of experience for Plumas County students and beyond, Sierra Institute is exploring a partnership with Plumas Unified School District to provide three to five day natural resource programing at a vacant school site in Taylorsville. Fall 2017 will act as a pilot where Sierra Institute will serve the seventh grade students of Indian Valley as they spend three days learning about wildlife in their local ecosystems. Stay tuned to learn more!
Natural Resource Institutes: Natural Resource Institutes are four-to-five-day thematic learning programs that replace standard school scheduling to provide immersive, integrated natural resource education that naturally intersects with history, science, math, and language education. Sierra Institute implemented this approach with the 2017 Fire Institute, which reached over 150 7-12th grade students in Indian Valley in January 2017. The programming, which involved over 20 community volunteers, local experts and professionals, started with a guiding question related to fire and fire management in Indian Valley. Students spent three days attending presentations, performing experiments and experiencing demonstrations, and interacting with natural resource professionals on their road to answering their questions. Student teams developed presentations with top teams presenting to the entire school. To learn more about the Pilot 2017 Fire Institute at GHS and Indian Valley Academy, click here. Sierra Institute is also creating a model schools can use as a template to create their own Institutes, which will be posted to this website in Fall 2017.
Recent Program Highlights
May 2017: Sierra Institute partners with Plumas Unified School District to take a group of 7-12th grade students on an overnight camping trip complete with a stewardship activity with the Forest Service and two field-based environmental education lessons.
April 2017: GHS partners with the Plumas County Community School to complete 2017 monitoring of the established Moonlight Fire recovery plots. Students collect data on vegetation recovery and, with the help of Plumas Audubon staff, complete avian surveys along a transect in the burn area.
March 2017: Sierra Institute worked with 1st-6th grade classes at Indian Valley Elementary School to explore the process of scientific observation and inquiry.
January 2017: In conjunction with Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy, Sierra Institute hosted the Fire Institute, providing all 7th-12th grade students in Indian Valley with a week-long immersive learning experience focused on fire and fire management in and around their communities.
September 2016: GHS students placed third in 2016 Forestry Challenge in Shingletown, CA.
Summer 2016: Sierra Institute held it’s first season of a summer internship program with Mr. Brown at the Greenville High School gardens. Two high school sophomores spent the summer learning about plant propagation and care for both native and agricultural plant species.
May 2016: GHS biology and natural resource students revisited Moonlight monitoring plots to collect data on snag longevity and forest recovery in burned areas. Students then took this recorded data back into their classrooms to explore and analyze some of their findings.
To access the Institute Model, a guideline for developing multi-day thematic programming at your school, please click here.