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Environmental Science Center

Photo of principal and student holding Native Plant Walk banner

Zephyr Cove Elementary School adopted Place-Based Education in the 2014/2015 school year to better align the students’ science education with the remarkable environment the school is in. We had an opportunity to create an indoor and outdoor classroom that could be used by K-6 grades to illustrate the several scientific disciplines relevant to Lake Tahoe environmental science. In creating that resource, The ZCES Environmental Science Interpretive Center (the Center) would be available for teachers throughout the Tahoe Basin and surrounding communities to use. The Center would provide hands on access to Lake Tahoe. Part of the project would be to create and implement curriculum that supports the NGSS and NvACS and aligns with Common Core. The Center would not only be for Douglas County teachers and students, but for all instructors looking for teaching opportunities about environmental science and Lake Tahoe. Key areas for exploration aligned to the Pillars of TRPA:

  • Watersheds- streams, pollution, natural filtration, habitat, animals and bugs,
  • Recreation and Scenic Resources- Instilling a spirit of environmental protection and stewardship, trails,
  • Applied Science- water clarity, water chemistry, invasive species
  • Forest Management- tree life cycles, fire, controlled burns, plant life
  • Air Quality and Transportation- renewable energy and resources Goals: • Deepen ZCES’s Place Based Educational effort with a hands-on learning resource on campus
  • Expand ZCES’s appeal to other area schools as a resource and destination for learning more about the Lake Tahoe environment
  • Provide a classroom for educators to utilize for lessons about environmental science and have materials and curriculum available on local water, geology, plant life, animal life, animal habitats, and resource management. • Provide an educational connecting point for area educators, students, environmental organizations and state agencies to share information about the health of the Lake. Possible Projects and Exhibits:
  • WATER : Wall sized bar chart tracking 45 water chemistry metrics from last ~50 years, with room for 30-50 more years of metrics. Annual ZCES 4th grade trip on water research vessel could be possible project to update wall each year as part of that learning module.
  • OUTDOOR: Standing exhibit plaques along the Native Plant Walk in front of school and possibly along trails north of the Center and to the Lake to explain genus, species, preferred habitat needs, symbiotic relationships between trees and plants.
  • ANIMAL LIFE & WATER CHEMISTRY: Create interactive exhibit around a small boat with actual aquatic invasive species i.e. Quagga, Zebra Mussels. Descriptions on boat decontamination and protection of water quality. NV Dept. of Wildlife could be a possible exhibit partner.
  • PLANT LIFE: Cultivation and care of native plants, forest ecosystem. • ANIMAL LIFE: Collaborate with US Forestry on raising Lahontan Trout, release fingerlings as part of fieldtrip.
  • TRAIL MANAGEMENT: Work with Tahoe Rim Trail and others to develop exhibit on trail maps, topography, basic trail management concepts i.e. “Leave No Trace.”
  • EXPERT TALKS: Develop schedule of local environmental science experts to host talks on current environmental issues, seminars, and training sessions. Other Long-Range Opportunities:
  • Add exhibits along the hallway to Room 19 about Washoe history in the area, Tahoe specific literature, and historic news coverage.
  • Use the Center to host external programs like Camp Invention and Nature Bowl, again drawing in students from surrounding schools. Timing: • Jan. 2016: Initial meeting with teachers, District staff and the “hatching of an idea.”
Timeline
Jan. 2016: Initial meeting with teachers, District staff and the “hatching of 
an idea.” Feb 2016: Approved by Douglas County School District to move forward. 
Mar-Dec 2016: Gathering and developing curriculum that ties in with NGSS and 
NvACS, and is grade level specific. June-Aug 2016: Preliminary painting, room 
prep and start the mural. Summer 2016 : Form an Environmental Science Committee 
of teachers and interested parties under the Parents Club to prioritize exhibit 
development that would support our teachers’ efforts. Aug 2016: ZCES teachers 
start using the Center as it complements their instructional plans. Fall 2016: 
Organize curriculum, supplies, host ZC “Enviro event.” Spring 2017: Host Minden 
Elementary School, meetings of local agencies, after school STEM club Sept. 
2017: DRI and Project Wet training for educators Oct. 2017: District Training- 
“A Day at the Lake.”
Organizers

Nancy Cauley, Principal, Zephyr Cove Elementary School
emailncauley@dcsd.k12.nv.us


Roger Cramer, PDC Science/STEM Trainer , Douglas County School District
emailrcramer@dcsd.k12.nv.us


Lisa Kirkman, Parents Club, Zephyr Cove Elementary School
emaillisakirkman@gmail.com


Devin Middlebrook , Environmental Education Specialist, External Affairs, TRPA
emaildmiddlebrook@trpa.org


Beth Quandt, Science Outreach Coordinator, LTUSD
emailbquandt@ltsud.org