Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community. This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Batman Spotted in Elko!

On Thursday, January 29th Nevada Outdoor School teamed up with Fun Factory in Elko to do an after school lesson on Nevada’s flying mammals. Students learned about the 8 most abundant bat species found in northern Nevada and what habitats they can be found in. Through an interactive identity game, students matched the species to their habitat and were able to explore photos of the different species to see the differences between them. The students then moved on to a trivia/research station where they were able to scour books for cool facts and new information on bats, and then put that knowledge to use in a trivia game. In addition to their research and the game, students were able to look at two bat specimens in jars to see what bats up close. Afterwards, the next stop was at a station exploring challenges that bats and people face when they find themselves in the same areas. We explored different things such as bat poisoning from the use of pesticides, loss of habitats due to de-forestation and cave disruptions, and talked most extensively about White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal infection that disrupts the hibernation process for bats and is decreasing bat numbers rapidly. To understand WNS and how serious it is, students became hibernating bats to see the effects of WNS. The next station, students were able to step inside the world of bats by entering a large scale bat house. We discussed the benefits of bat houses and explored pictures of how bats sleep in bat houses and were able to explore a real bat house already assembled. The last stop on the bat journey was a game that explored an adaptation that bats use to assist their navigation and capture of prey, a process called echolocation. The students once again became bats, and one by one were blindfolded and had to clap to navigate a maze of other students that would clap in response to let the bat (student) know where obstacles were.

Blindfolded student faces Batman and tries
to use echolocation to catch his prey.

The objective for this lesson was for students to have fun and to learn in a relaxed environment. A lot of bat species are declining in numbers and knowledge on bats is largely missing. For the students that attended this lesson, they were able to become more familiar with the problems that are currently being faced by bats and people and are now more familiar with the bats that can be found in their backyards.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

1st Annual MLK Dodge Ball Tournament!

Over the MLK Day weekend the Nevada Outdoor School AmeriCorps members held a Dodgeball Tournament to raise money for the Kids Backpack Program here in Winnemucca, NV. The Kids Backpack Program allows hungry and needy students to come to the school on a Saturday and fill up their backpack with enough food for their family for that weekend. The Frontier Community Action Agency is in charge of this program and is an amazing resource for the town of Winnemucca and the families that live here.
Now, on to dodgeball! We had a surprising turn out of teams participate, with 15 being the final number. We had them play in four, 4-team round robin brackets to begin their day and then play in a placement bracket to end it. This guaranteed each team 5 games that day. We had many community members come out and watch the action! Everyone seemed to have a great time and as the day went on the games got more and more competitive. The winning team ended up being Snoop Dodgy Dodge, which was a very diverse group of community members. They won a trophy and bragging rights for the 2nd annual MLK Dodgeball Tournament, which will take place next year.
                                   Snoop Dodgy Dodge 2015 Dodge Ball Winners
I have lived in Winnemucca practically my whole life and I was so excited to see the wonderful people of this community coming together to raise money for these hungry kids. I am so blessed to be a part of the NOS AmeriCorps team and I couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with. I would also like to thank everyone who donated pizza, paper plates, time and effort to this day!
-Jessica Eastman

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lamoille Canyon Field Trip 2014

Lamoille Canyon Field Trip 2014

I had heard a lot of amazing things about Lamoille Canyon before seeing it for myself. I must say that it held up its reputation. We had orientation the Thursday before the actual field trip to familiarize ourselves with the area and think about our lessons with a place in mind. Then Patrick Connelly, Jessica Page, and I returned on Friday after work to set up camp in the canyon. We had time to explore and stretch our legs a bit. One of the things I had learned about Lamoille before visiting was that it is an area that Himalayan snowcocks can be found. Being a birder, I was very excited to have the opportunity to see one. We planned on an early morning hike to try and find one. Saturday morning we were up at 4 am and shortly after on the trail. The hike up was dark and the sun started peaking over the ridge when we arrived at the end of the trail. It was unreal to watch the sun’s golden beams work their way down the sides of the mountains. Although no snowcocks were spotted, there was no shortage of beauty or awe-inspiring scenery to gaze at. We then returned from the hike to prepare for the kids’ arrival. When the bus arrived, we were split up into groups; I knew this was going to be a fun day after learning more about the kids I would be working with. Some of their interests included “walking around in nature,” “making animal noises,” and “this field trip.” I had so much fun being with the kids in such a beautiful area, not to mention fantastic chaperones and phenomenal weather. One of my favorite parts of the trip was hearing the kids’ reactions to a 10 minute silent meditation activity out on the trail. Patrick and I had them sit silently by themselves in a spot of their choosing to reflect, feel the wind, listen to the birds, think about something, or think about nothing. The thoughts and feelings they shared with the group afterwards put a smile on my face. Another popular activity was a stop at a beaver dam. We talked about how beavers live and their adaptations. I know the kids enjoyed their time at Lamoille Canyon and if they took nothing else away, I know they took with them a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

-Josh Phillipps

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Summer with NOS

       Coming into this summer at Nevada Outdoor School I definitely had no idea what I was getting into but I’m far from regretting it. I began my AmeriCorps position as the Summer Outdoor Ethics Specialist at the beginning of June and I am now typing this on my last Tuesday here at NOS. I can honestly say that the past two and a half months have been hectic, educational, fun, beneficial and, well, that list can go on forever but the moral of the story is that my experiences at NOS have helped me grow as a person and also taught me many things that I can and will use throughout the rest of the life.
             Now, to share some of my most memorable experiences of the summer, we’ll start off with Sierra Summit Camp. 31 sixth Graders, 1 School Bus, and 4 Days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains equaled out to a more than busy week!  Although hectic and sometimes strenuous, the fun factor definitely outweighed all the craziness.  From kayaking, to swimming, to hiking, to fun activities at the lodge, that week was anything but boring.

Christian, Leading a Water Canyon Interpretive Hike

             After Sierra Summit I had started helping with Family Gardening Hour and the Water Canyon Hikes and also the ATV Rider Camps.  The ATV Camps definitely taught me a lot of patience and also how to work with a wide range of ages at the same time. To finally round out the Summer I had the pleasure of joining Andy Hart on a two day camping trip in the Santa Rosa Mountains which included installing cattle guards, putting up a kiosk, sinking in some directional signs, and camping at 7000 feet.
            Needless to say this summer has definitely had a healthy impact on my life and I also am thankful for all the people I got to meet along the way. I have grown so much as a person during my time here at NOS and I have taken on loads of responsibility which was just what I needed. I have a great appreciation for the wonderful people and adventures I experienced in the summer of 2014 and I will never forget it.

Christian Dawson

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yosemite and the American Camping Association's Leadership Conference

I just started serving at NOS a month ago. When I noticed we had the American Camping Association’s leadership conference in Palm Springs, California, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I have never been to a conference before, never been to California, and never heard of the American Camping Association (ACA).   After the conference I realized that I was very lucky that I was able to come to northern Nevada and serve at Nevada Outdoor School.

The first stop we made on the drive down to Palm Springs for the conference was to Yosemite National Park.  Having an interest in the environment and environmental education, my expectations were very high, but the experience surpassed these expectations in every possible way.  There was a snowstorm the night before in the park, so all the trees had this beautiful layer of fresh white powder.  When we started hiking up the mist trail, the snow was melting off all of the trees from the night before, making the hike up the mountain that much more difficult.  Slippery rocks, icy trails, and a steep incline made this trail very difficult to maneuver. This struggle is what made reaching the top that much better. I wish I could truly explain to you what I experienced on this day, but I don’t think anyone can put into that experience into words.  I am not a poet, writer, painter, photographer, but when I made it to the top of that trail, I felt that I was transported inside some of the greatest paintings, poems, books, and photographs.  For the first time in my young life I have experienced something that had true beauty.   I will never be a good enough writer to describe what I was feeling in Yosemite, but what I can say is that it was truly inspirational and it truly freed my mind and my spirit. 

NOS AmeriCorps member James Winkelman in Yosemite
After that we traveled to the Pacific Ocean and then went to Palm Springs for the conference.   Knowing absolutely nothing about the American Camping Association before this conference, I have to say that the week-long conference in Palm Springs truly changed my view of how to educate young people.  The lesson that really stuck out to me was the message that we are not fully developing our students if we, as a society, only expect to educate students in traditional schooling environments and not outside of the classroom.   There is a need to develop skills like communication, teamwork, leadership, social intelligence, self-control, optimism and curiosity. The need to develop these skills is so important today in order to develop successful and happy adults.   One way that these children can develop these skills is through camp programs and outdoor education.  Camps give children opportunities to deal with managed, fun, challenging risks that require them to lean on each other, communicate effectively, and advise each other in order to succeed with the task at hand.

What I will remember most about the conference is meeting these influential people trying to develop the younger generation in order for them to become better adjusted and more ready to take on life as an adult.  It was amazing to see so many different adults coming together that really cared about the kids and how they can help them.  The first keynote speaker, Jim Cain, had hundreds of adults, from camp directors and bestselling authors to camp counselors and naturalists, doing different team building exercises, name games, and dances in the ballroom.  The energy of the room showed me the devotion that these people have to their craft, and the commitment that they have to serving the youth and helping them grow to their full potential.  The people I meet, the ideas that they shared, the amount of growing programs and their stories gave me inspiration to follow my passions in outdoor education. 

by: James Winkelman

Friday, March 21, 2014

Inspiring Future Conservation Leaders through Outdoor Education

I recently traveled to Washington D.C. to receive recognition as a White House Champion of Change on behalf of the work Nevada Outdoor School is doing to engage the next generation of conservation leaders.  As part of this amazing event, I was asked to write a blog entry for the White House in regards to the subject.  Here is what I wrote:

The idea of conservation as Federal management of land and water resources to ensure future sustainable use and boots on the ground service to public lands goes back many decades.  While these are still important themes, we are just beginning to learn what conservation looks like for “Generation Like.”  Children having authentic experiences in nature at a young age can no longer be taken for granted, yet is critical for developing conservation minded citizens.  Competition for young peoples’ attention from digital media and social networking is fierce.  Tremendous amounts of information, true, false and otherwise is available at our fingertips 24/7.  A responsible Federal budget may no longer be able to financially support all of the conservation needs of our country.  Increasing population and modern lifestyles are demanding more and more of our natural resources and environmental issues are becoming more and more complex.  Undoubtedly, it is a real challenge to address all of these concerns in the modern conservation landscape but from my perspective, outdoor and environmental education offers a significant tool to do so and it is incredibly rewarding to try.  At Nevada Outdoor School, we are continually musing on these issues and trying to bring innovative solutions to life.

NOS Executive Director Andy Hart (center) speaking on reconnecting youth with nature at the White House, March 18th, 2014.  photo credit: Tami A. Heilmann, DOI

When engaging young Americans in conservation, it is important to be mindful of their reduced attention span and need for more timely gratification.  Youth conservation service projects can be designed to do this, ensuring they can see the results of their efforts and still provide tangible physical benefit to the land.  Of course, with youth, the physical outcomes of a project should be far secondary to the experience.  Some of the greatest conservation minds our country has ever known did very little at a young age for our natural resources.  Folks like John Muir and Aldo Leopold were documented to have been a bit rough with nature in their formative years, but the depth of connection and passion those experiences created propelled these leaders to ultimately benefit public lands in profound ways so that future generations could enjoy similar experiences.  Even as part of formal outdoor and environmental education programs, youth need time for unstructured exploration.

Likewise, youth propensity for technology shouldn’t be feared by those of us working hard to get them away from the computer screen and into nature.  Certainly, we should instill in our children the value of putting technology away for a while and enjoying the natural sights and sounds around us.  However, there are a variety of ways modern electronics can assist in authentic experiences in the outdoors.  Some examples might be a camera with GPS location tagging, a digital water quality tool used for a citizen springs assessment or a hand held GPS used for a family EarthCaching adventure.  Additionally, reflection remains an important aspect of any learning experience.  We need to embrace the fact that reflection today may be quite appropriate in the form of blogging, tweeting or posting about that experience.

While these are just two of the hurdles to overcome when engaging youth in the outdoors and conservation, we try not to be overwhelmed.  Never forget that taking kids outside is supposed to be fun.  The more fun it is, the more likely we are to see the next generation develop into conservation-minded adults, with the science background to think critically and make thoughtful decisions on conservation and land-use issues.  This idea drives Nevada Outdoor School in our work, providing opportunities for youth and families to learn and grow outdoors and engaging as many as 1,000 students each month with inquiry-based, outdoor and environmental education initiatives.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Toys and Nature

A toy can be a wonderful thing for a child, and as we approach the Holiday Season, toys may be the first thing on the minds of children everywhere.  Toys can be a source of inspiration, entertainment, creative play, family togetherness, and the development of cognitive reasoning, social and fine motor skills.  The question I am pondering today is: Do toys need to come at the expense of time spent in nature? 

Looking again at that list of benefits, I see no reason that nature cannot do the same.  In fact, I have witnessed this to be true during my time with Nevada Outdoor School as well as in my personal life.

However, there is an advertisement that was run by Toys ‘R’ Us® recently that might suggest otherwise.  You can watch that ad here: Toys R Us Ad

Many of us in the outdoor education profession are quite disappointed that Toys ‘R’ Us® chose to run this.  What a great opportunity for a group of children, providing them with a toy of their choosing, but what benefit comes from taking a shot at outdoor education and time spent in nature?

Outdoor education is certainly not boring as these smiling faces will attest too:

Adventure Camp II

In addition to having fun, studies show that these children will have greater academic success, lowered risk for childhood obesity and related diseases, improvement in attention disorders and stronger social skills.  Their time outdoors has increased the impact of what they learn in the classroom and helped to make solid connections to topics in science and ecology.  Nevada Outdoor School’s programming is engaging, hands-on and inquiry based.  We tend to sing songs on the bus as opposed to memorizing photos of leaves.

There is a lot more that could be said about all of this.  We could turn it into a big battle between commercialism and the environment, or comment on the billions of dollars spent marketing to children each year to the point where their ability to recall corporate brands and logos is astounding.  However, I think a simple conclusion is best: Toys can be great, spending time in nature is great, both should be a part of every child’s life and they don’t need to compete.