NOS Mission

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!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Meet Our New AmeriCorps Members!

The Nevada Outdoor School AmeriCorps Program is a community development program that provides human resources to worthy non-profits, professional and life-skills training for community members and collaborations for best practices which in turn increases the overall outreach of the non-profits and enables citizens to live more meaningful and independent lives.

AmeriCorps members who serve with Nevada Outdoor School inspire exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.  

They teach lessons and field experiences, after school youth programs and summer camps.  They run outdoor ethics skills trainings for the community, lead community hikes and nature programs and provide outreach and education about safe and responsible recreation at NOS Road Show events around the state (just to name a few things!)


This year, we are super excited to have Macy Rohr in Elko and Michelle Rookstool in Winnemucca part of our team as second year AmeriCorps members.  We are also stoked to welcome three new members, Gretchen and Kaci in Elko and Johnny in Winnemucca to our NOS team!



Gretchen Westhoff (NOS AmeriCorps Naturalist serving in Elko)
I am looking forward to a fun and challenging year serving at NOS.  After finishing a natural resource degree through Great Basin College I was looking for ways I could gain experience and still be able to juggle raising two kids.  I was first introduced to NOS many years ago through Nature at Noon and then through various events and camps NOS hosted.  Every activity I signed my kids up for was never a waste of time as they always came home excited about what they did that day.  Fast forward a few years, and I saw that there was a way I could join NOS through Americorps, and needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. Now I can be the one to help inspire curiosity in our youth and communities about the natural world!


Johnny Cooper (NOS AmeriCorps Naturalist serving in Winnemucca)
I moved to Winnemucca at 13 years of age and made many friends and many memories living in the high desert. I was drawn to Nevada Outdoor School as a way to expand my horizons and to get in touch with the world as it grows. Recently, I have come to enjoy passing the knowledge I’ve learned on to others. I’m currently attending Southwest Institute of Healing Arts to become an Integrative healing arts practitioner. To quote Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain; "There are two days that really matter to a person, the day they are born, and the day they find out why." I look forward to working with Nevada Outdoor School as believe NOS will help me in this fulfillment.


Kaci Mahtapene (NOS AmeriCorps Naturalist serving in Elko)
I have always loved the outdoors, and have wanted a career in working outdoors. Serving at Nevada Outdoor School through Americorps has given me an opportunity to combine my love for the outdoors and getting to teach my community about everything the Nevada outdoors has to offer. I am happy that I get to serve with NOS and see everything NOS does for the community.  My favorite aspect of NOS has been getting the outdoor skill events ready and actually participating in the community events that NOS offers. 


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Unexpected Connections

 Have you ever driven down a road you have driven down a million times before and then one day you recognize something new?  Then you find yourself asking, “has that always been there?”  You ask your car mate, and they reply, “yup, you’ve never noticed that before?”  You scratch your head and wonder how have you missed it all this time?  The next time you are on the road, there it is, it has entered your awareness and once you see it you cannot unsee it, your awareness has been forever changed.  

Awareness is the state of being conscious of something.  Innately, humans are born with a certain amount of awareness, or being conscious of things that threaten our survival.  We are born with something called the Survival Optimization System (SOS) which provides us with behaviors to respond to predatory threats quickly and effectively.  These are not learned behaviors but are tied into our awareness.  For the SOS system to be activated, we must be aware of the threat.  This is true for humans and animals, after all, humans are just highly developed animals.  The thing that separates humans from other animals is our ability to not only have behaviors associated with the SOS system, but also gain additional awareness tied to learning about our surroundings or other information or topics that enrich our lives.  It is through the experience of gaining awareness that our mental borders open and we learn to appreciate new connections in our daily lives. 

At Nevada Outdoor School, we are having a new awareness that is really stretching and growing us, and one that we want to share so others can potentially experience a similar awakening.  One of the positive side effects of the pandemic is that at the height of the quarantine all sorts of organizations were offering webinars and virtual conferences, and so some of the staff of Nevada Outdoor School attended the Museum’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Conference virtually.  From that experience we were added to their mailing list, and then recently into our inbox popped the announcement for the Art + Environment Season.  The title alone captured our interest.

The Art + Environment Season is a series of lectures, September through November, that are highlighting land art.  Land art is a term that describes art that has been made from natural materials, and it may be built in an outdoor or indoor setting.  It appears there is a lot of debate about what land art is and is not, and what to call it.  These pieces of art have been named earthworks, Earth art, or environmental art.  The movement represented in the Art + Environment Season originated in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the connection that is blowing our minds at Nevada Outdoor School, and therefore increasing our awareness, is the presence of land art in the Great Basin!  The open space that Nevada affords as outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the space for hiking, hunting, and ATV riding also attracts artists.  An unexpected connection. 


The Spiral Jetty created by Robert Smithson in 1970 is located at the Great Salt Lake and is only one of the many land art exhibits located in the Great Basin.  Learn more by visiting


While listening to one of the lectures, the artist mentioned the importance of the Leave No Trace concept when visiting the land art.  Because these pieces of art are not protected inside the walls and state-of-the-art security systems of a museum, they are highly vulnerable to mistreatment.  The artist was questioning how to teach people about the etiquette of Leave No Trace and art.  As we have written about previously, the idea of having an outdoor ethic or system by which decisions are made related to the outdoors is not only important for the protection of our environmental and natural resources, but also for the preservation of land art.   Amazing awareness and unexpected connection!

If the Art + Environment Season interests you, learn more at  The season is not free but is certainly worth the investment for increasing your awareness.  In addition, watch for future offerings from Nevada Outdoor School as we expand our understanding of “outdoor enthusiasts”.   Our community events and skill workshops are starting this month in both Winnemucca and Elko.  Visit to learn more about opportunities that will expand your awareness and hopefully make unexpected connections in your brilliant mind. 



Thursday, September 23, 2021

We Have A Lot to be Thankful For

 At Nevada Outdoor School (NOS), the actions of our humans’ mimic nature as fall begins to settle upon us.  September is the time where days become noticeably shorter and growth begins to slow down.  It is a transitional month and a time to recuperate from the craziness of a full summer of growth, and summer camp season.   For NOS, it is also a time for reflection, as September is the last month in our fiscal year.  October arrives with a new set of expectations and goals, so September is a great opportunity to say THANK YOU to all those who have been part of our success over the past year!

Each year, NOS hosts two major fundraisers that are made successful by YOU, the communities we serve.  We extend a heartfelt thank you to each individual and donor who supported us!  THANK YOU to everyone who participated, contributed raffle, and silent auction prizes, and sponsored these events!

On June 19, we hosted our Inaugural Fire and Ice Golf Tournament Fundraiser at the Spring Creek Golf Course.  Thank you to all the generous supporters who purchased the Firearms and Cordova Ice Cooler raffle tickets.  The Firearms were sponsored by Blach Distributing, Ramcon Construction, The Steam Store, and Carter Engineering, LLC.

As far as the golf scramble winners, each team member of the first place team, Trent Whitaker, Ruben Garcia, Dan Stewart and Alyssa Wood earned $50 Gift Certificates from The Star Hotel.  The second place team, Keith Preston, Alex Pfarr, Jeff White and Dwayne Schomer earned $35 in clubhouse credit at Spring Creek Golf Course.  The third place team consisting of Randy Ridgway and Derek Ridgway, along with Jon, Audry and Brayden Karr earned themselves each $25 in clubhouse credit at Spring Creek Golf Course.  The winner of the Straightest Drive on Hole #2, Robert Owen, won a new Golf Bag and Power Block from JD’s Golf Management in Winnemucca.  Men’s Closest to the Hole on Hole #8 winner, Dan Stewart, won a trip for two to Jackpot to play golf at the Jackpot Golf Club and a Hotel Stay at Cactus Pete’s.  The Ladies Closest to the Hole, on Hole #17 was Dana Morin, who won a trip for two to stay overnight in Wendover and see a show at the Peppermill.  Finally, our Silent Auction winnings included a 7-night trip to Panama to stay at the Los Estabols Resort, a Portable Fire Pit from Big R in addition to a gift bag of tie down straps and t-shirts, and a gift certificate and a gas can from Evolution Power Sports.  

Ladies Closest to the Hole Winner, Dana Morfin, with her sons who won big at the Raffle and Silent Auction during the inaugural Fire and Ice Golf Tournament held at Spring Creek Golf Course.

On September 11, we held our 13th Annual Buckaroo Dutch Oven Cook Off at Vesco Park in Winnemucca, sponsored by Winnemucca Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.  After last year’s virtual event, it was wonderful to be back in person!  Fifteen teams competed in four categories: Youth (under 16, any dish), Chuck Wagon (main dish), Bean Master (main dish and a dessert), and International Dutch Oven Society (main dish, bread, and dessert).  Winners received a cast iron accesories, cash, and bragging rights.  First place in the Youth category went to Team Mario Brothers made up of Kayden Yowell and Kyler Enochson.  Second place went to the Spice Sistas, led by Ashley Rookstool and Catherine Welsh.  In the Chuck Wagon category, Team Voodoos Vidles led by Pedro Castro came in first place.  Second place went to Dos Hombres Blancos with cooks Mike Erquiaga and Mitch Weber.  Third place went to Savannah and Emily Roman on Team Gone Fishing.  In the Bean Master Category, first place went to Team Country Calf-A, led by Gene and Chrissy Hunt.  Second place was earned by Michael McCampbell and Charlie Beringer for His Watchman Christian Motorcycle Club.  Third place went to Team Silver Sage Grange consisting of Jacklyn Orr and Jessica and Jacquelyn Sibbert.  In the IDOS category, first place went to the Rose Creek Duo made up by Betty and Dan Rodgers.  Second place went to Dutch Oven Deb Basquez & Her Dude, Brett.  Third place went to Team Sonoma Safety led by Bob Lage.  Finally, the coveted People’s Choice Trophy went to Team Hot Pots, Jared Kifer and Alicia Bengochea.

Spice Sistas preparing their food at the 13th Annual Dutch Over Cook Off in Winnemucca.  The Spice Sistas placed 2nd in the Youth category.

Without the support of our communities, NOS could not provide meaningful outdoor education experiences throughout northern Nevada.  Connecting Nevadans of all ages to the natural world, and inspiring creative, healthy, active, and engaged citizens who choose to explore the outdoors responsibly is what love to do.  Because of our supporters we were able to interact with over 3,000 youth and hundreds of community members through our in-school lessons, summer camps, and community events.  We look forward to serving our communities in the coming year.  Be sure to check our website for upcoming events and opportunities to get outside, it is good for humans everywhere! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Fire Stinks, but Brings Life

With the smoky skies looming over us for such an extended period of time this summer, we cannot ignore the visual impacts of fire.  Without a doubt, fire can be and is destructive when unexpected or not well managed.  However, in the midst of the smoke and haze, it does our souls good to think about what comes after the fire.

Fire is a natural component in nature and is important in many ecosystems.  Ecosystems include living things like plants and animals, plus non-living things like rocks.  Ecology is the study of how the living and non-living interact.  Fire Ecology is the scientific discipline that investigates the natural processes and interactions involving fire and an ecosystem.   Fire Ecologists give us good insights into the positive impacts of fire.

Like our closets, forests have a way of collecting clutter over time.  Old logs, dense undergrowth, and fallen leaves tend to accumulate on forest floors.  There may also be invasive weeds, insects, and disease in a forest.  After a fire, this clutter is removed and broken down into important nutrients resulting in a rich forest floor soil that is ripe for microbial life and regrowth.  

Fireweed in a burned section on the Seven Devils Loop in Idaho, 2019 

                                                         Photo Credit: Brandolyn Thran

Sunlight is often blocked by the forest canopy, which may result in a shift in plant species over time.  Nature is highly competitive, and shade intolerant plants cannot outcompete shade tolerant plants.  After the fire, sunlight streams into the forest floor allowing shade intolerant species a chance to thrive once again.  The inundation of sunlight is also helpful for saplings (young trees) to become established. 

While we picture complete destruction in our minds, and it may appear so from first glance, fires usually do not wipe out a forest, but instead burn in a patchwork pattern.  Naturally occurring moist spots become a source of resupply for seeds and a refuge for surviving animals. 

Regrowth begins soon after a fire passes through an area.  Fireweed quickly brings a beautiful sight of color back to the grey landscape.  Wildflowers and other fast-germinating plants return first.  Later, shoots regrow from stumps and stalks that were protected from the fire by bark or soil. 

We can learn a lot from Fire Ecology and Fire Science (study of fire behavior).  A well-managed burn with controlled temperatures may be a feasible approach to help reduce the risk of a more damaging and severe fires, in particular ecosystems.  Mother Nature uses fire as a mechanism important in sustaining ecosystems, and human interference with that cycle may have impacts that are unexpected and monumental.  That is why it is important to respect and not play with fire.

Like the song goes, there is a time for everything, and sometimes that means fire.  It is hard to see the destruction in your beloved spot, but rest your mind and trust that Mother Nature will adapt and out of the ash life will emerge.  Get outside and watch for the evidence of life in your favorite spot.