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.