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!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Building a Better Community

 Nevada Outdoor School has a three-part mission.  First, inspire the exploration of the natural world.  Second, promote responsible stewardship of our habitat.  Third, be dedicated to our community.  We find great joy in serving in all three of these components, but the third one, dedication to our community is where we are really learning to expand our wings, and we are excited about that because this is where we get to directly connect with our community members, and grow alongside you!

For many years Nevada Outdoor School focused on serving youth, specifically through classroom lessons in our traditional schools or at summer camps.  Since our inception in 2003, we have met and spent time outdoors with thousands of school-aged children.  Having students react to us like superheroes in the grocery store is pretty good for our egos, but we want to see that reaction from not only school-ages kids, but from others as well!

Like others, as we recovered and emerged from a pandemic world, we took the opportunity to evaluate and redesign our programs.  The result of that is the desire to serve kids ages 0 - 99+, to move our focus away from just youth, to zoom out and instead bring our entire community into focus, not just the school-aged kiddos.  Why?  Because big-kids need to get outside, too!  A lot of people over the age of 18 have the desire to get outside, but may do not have the skills, knowledge, or abilities.  We know happy people are the key to building a better community.

This year, we have started to build two programs that will support everyone spending more time outdoors via our Outdoor Skill Workshops and our Community Nature Programs. What is the difference between these two programs?  Our Outdoor Skill Workshops focus on learning a skill, our goal is to teach you something and for you to leave with improved skills, knowledge, and abilities.  Our Community Nature Programs are a bit more relaxed and are intended to gather people of like-interests together to experience something outdoors.  Of course, if you leave with increase skills, knowledge, or abilities, that is fantastic (and hopefully happens!), but that is not the primary driving mission of the time spent outdoors, it is more about being social.  


Both of these programs, the Outdoor Skill Workshops and the Community Nature Programs, are designed to serve people of all ages, abilities, and skill levels.  If there are ever any requirements or a limitation, they will be announced ahead of time so you can choose wisely.  Come and participate as a family, our activities are intentionally designed to be fun for everyone!

As we move into spring and summer, being outside is a great place to be!  Learn more about our upcoming events by going to our website.  Let this be the year you stop thinking about becoming more active, and do it!  Do you need help getting outside?  We can help with that! Find our current events at   Get outside, it is good for humans everywhere! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Dutch Oven Cooking!

Do you love Dutch oven cooking like we do here at Nevada Outdoor School? 

First off, what is a Dutch oven? A Dutch oven is basically a deep-dish cast iron or enamel pot with an accompanying lid.  There are a lot of ways to cook when camping.  Grilling over the campfire or boiling in a pot of water on a stove are common, but Dutch ovens are ideally suited for recipes that require baking.  When you set up a Dutch oven to bake, you generally pile a specific number of coals both below the pot and on top of the lid.  This allows the iron to absorb the heat from the coals and then slowly release this heat into the oven inside creating the perfect baking environment.  

So now that you know what a Dutch oven is, let’s get ready for baking.  If you have an outside location where you can heat your Dutch oven like a fire pit or a bar-b-que and you have a ready supply of charcoal, perfect.  You are set!  If not, you can always use your Dutch oven in your regular oven at the temperature stated in the recipe.  Your Dutch oven itself might also require some preparation.  If you have never used your Dutch oven before you will need to season it.  This means scrubbing it down with a plastic scrubber to remove the wax layer from production, coating it with shortening, and then heating it in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  If your oven is rusty from neglect, you can also use an SOS pad before seasoning.  After it is seasoned, you are ready to go.

Now, you will need a recipe.  There are many sites on the internet for Dutch oven recipes.  They are a great place to start because they will probably give you some tips that I do not provide here.  I did a quick search and both 50campfires and Dutch oven recipes made my mouth water.  I recommend trying your hand at pizza, cinnamon rolls, a casserole, or a dessert like a fruit cobble because that is where the Dutch oven shines and where you will win over your family this week and your friends later on this summer.  You may want to try a soup or stew eventually, but there is nothing novel about that since you could just as easily cook them on a camp stove.  Use a Dutch oven for what only it can accomplish.  

Once you are familiar with Dutch oven cooking you can start experimenting by using recipes from your general cook book or by creating new dishes that are completely your own.
To figure out how many coals you should use, use the following calculation.  Take the diameter of your oven, say 10 inch, and multiply it by two.  This gives you the amount of coals to reach 350 degrees.  A 10 inch would be 20, a 12 inch would be 24, and a 14 inch would be 28. After you get the coals started, you will place 10 coals on the bottom and the additional coals on the top.  To raise the temperature above 350 degrees, add additional coals to the top of the lid.  Each coal raises the temperature approximately 20 degrees.   To maintain this temperature be conscious of the size of your coals.  They will need to be replaced when they are smaller than the size of a quarter. 

Bake and most importantly eat!  I think that you can figure out these steps without my help.
Last but not least, don’t let your food coma set in before you clean your oven.  This is an art which most people who use cast iron take very seriously.  Never use soap to clean your oven and don’t use anything metal, just really hot water and a plastic scrubber. After it is clean, you will need to store your oven with something between the lid and the pot to maintain airflow.  This will prevent the oven from becoming rancid.  

We at Nevada Outdoor School host an annual Dutch Oven Cook Off in Winnemucca each September where people like you show off their skills on the Dutch oven.  There are both youth and adult categories ranging from one to multiple dish competitions.  It is a great event and I challenge you to participate this year with your newly mastered skills.  

Have fun baking, and remember the best way to keep your oven working well is to keep using it. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Feel the Rhythm

 Most people are familiar with the term “circadian rhythm”, that daily rhythm that your body lives by.  Each individual has their own rhythm, with some generalizations like during the day humans are awake and we sleep at night.  That is how we were made, and typically it is only by human intervention, like a work schedule, that we do not naturally follow that rhythm.  But humans are not the only organisms to have circadian rhythms.  Did you know animals, plants, and even microorganisms have such rhythms?

It appears that all living organisms have some sort of circadian rhythm, but the time scale is not always 24 hours, like it is for humans.  That is because for some organisms, 24 hours is more than their entire lifespan!  Microorganisms, like some bacteria, live for only 12 hours, so their circadian rhythm is based on an entirely different timescale.  Interestingly, natural light is the typical or usual dominating environmental factor from which circadian rhythms derive their cyclical nature.  But, but for organisms that are not exposed directly to sunlight, due to their physical location in your gut or at the bottom of the ocean, other environmental clues are utilized, like a change in hormone level or protein level due to metabolism-related activity. 

Why are circadian rhythms important?  Because without them living organisms are a mess!  Without circadian rhythms, the high priority items, like sleep and digestion, that support the most basic purpose of living, to survive and reproduce, are hindered, which decreases the likelihood of survival and reproduction.  If this decline continued for too long, species would vanish. 

In humans, we often times observe the dysfunction of our circadian rhythms through physical and mental health illnesses that we work to treat with a variety of other solutions instead of working to reset to our natural and intended rhythms.  Modernization (electricity), technology (screens), and urbanization (social pressure) along with school, work, and family schedules and commitments, continue our consistent disconnection from the natural rise and fall of the sun.  In the United States, the battle is real! 

What might be a possible piece in the solution?   Simply put, get outside!  Get outside on a regular basis.  Evidence continues to mount that simply being outside for at least 5 minutes a day can help begin to combat complex disease like insomnia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as many mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder.  Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, each that contain nuclear material that controls how that cell will ‘behave’.  More and more researchers are finding that cellular behavior is based on a given a point and time inside the circadian rhythm, for your optimal health one must be in natural rhythm.  Getting outside will not solve all your problems, and you may still need to use prescription medication to treat complicated conditions, but it certainly will not hurt your quest for health.  

At Nevada Outdoor School, we too, when off the Nevada Outdoor School clock, sometimes struggle to make outside time a priority.  But, we do notice as a staff that when we are intentional about spending time outdoors doing what we love to do, from painting, to walking our dogs, to practicing our archery skills, we sleep better, are more productive, and are easier to get along with.  That change in behavior is an effect of a human body working inside a healthier rhythm.  Do you need help getting outside?  We can help with that! Find our current events at   Get outside, it is good for humans everywhere! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Daffodil Watch!

Officially Spring is around the corner!  This year the spring equinox is on Sunday, March 20th!

Here in northern Nevada this time of year can be tricky, but I’m celebrating the glimpses we are having and have officially placed myself on “daffodil watch”.  

What is daffodil watch?  That is when, as you drive around, you keep your eyes peeled for daffodils and when you see one, you point and shout with great exuberant joy, “daffodil!!!!”.   This is what we do in our family because daffodils are my favorite flower and they only last for a short while.  Seeing a daffodil brings me so much joy, I just can’t help but squeal with excitement, respect and awe of nature.


Photo from:

The physical beauty of the daffodil delights me, but the science behind the re-appearance year after year is what really makes me say, “yea nature!”.  The daffodil is in the genus Narcissus and is part of the Amaryllis family.   There are many varieties of daffodils due to selective breeding, but all seem to announce the beginning of spring.  The cool thing about daffodils is that they are planted in the fall, as a bulb, and bust out in spring, even through snow!
What is bulb?  A bulb is a ‘storage organ’[2] that is a stem made of layers of modified leaves that store nutrients.  Roots will emerge out of the bottom of the bulb when conditions are right, and new growth will emerge from the top.  Bulbs are considered dormant, which means temporarily inactive.  They are not dead!  Dormant is not dead!  Plant bulbs are only one example of the many living things that utilize dormancy to overcome environmental stress or gather energy for future growth. 

Figure from:

After enough energy has been gathered, and the environmental conditions are correct (sunlight, temperature, and moisture) we will witness the new growth as it emerges from the ground.  All that time underground, in the dark and cold, important biological processes 
were occurring, we just couldn’t see them!  But WOW!  What a display we get to observe.   

The bright colors and the sleek leaf-less stem is a sight to behold!  Then, as the foliage begins to yellow and fade, the bulb begins to gather energy for the next season, and returns to dormancy once more.

When we see a daffodil, we are witnessing the evidence of a beautiful cycle in nature.  One that, as humans, we might be wise to learn from and begin to follow.  There is time for gathering energy and time for display.  Nature has an amazing way of balancing rest and growth.  

This spring, as you drive around, have fun with daffodil watch!  I hope you find joy in the beautiful evidence of the awesomeness of nature!!

-Brandolyn Thran

[1] The Farmers Almanac.  Electronically accesses 3/6/2020 at