Sagehen Outdoor Education Program

The Sagehen Outdoor Education Program (SOEP) was founded and organized by 3 Truckee-Tahoe Unified School District (TTUSD) teachers, the Berkeley Natural History Museums, and Sagehen Creek Field Station. The program began in 2007 and now serves approximately 350 students from five schools every year. Program operation assistance is provided by parent volunteers.

The students attend either a 2-day or 3-day overnight program at the field station in the Fall. In the Spring, all 5th graders attend a 1-day program. The students of Truckee Elementary participate in a second 1-day program when they mentor 1st graders, and become their teachers for a day at Sagehen. The SOEP program provides local students access to a learning environment that is literally in their backyard.

Students learn a variety of skills and gain knowledge about many different topics. Classes include team-building exercises as well as lessons on local ecosystems, identification of flora & fauna of the Sierra Nevada, macro-invertebrates, and water quality. Classes are taught by outdoor educators and educators from two local non-profits: Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP) and Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS). The students also learn to live and work together as a group. These 5th graders leave Sagehen with a greater appreciation of nature, science, their local environment, and each other. The nagging land use conflicts we used to experience in the basin completely dried up after we began offering the Sagehen Outdoor Education Program (SOEP) to 5th Graders. The SOEP has increased science scores in participating classes by 20%. Check out photos of the program below:

Our innovative education programs also provide research opportunities. To date, 5 completed graduate theses having examined ARC and SOEP:

  1. Examining the effectiveness of a standards-based, outdoor education summer program for English Language Learners. Harsemma, 2008. Master’s, Sierra Nevada College
  2. Bridging the gap: the union of personal and academic growth. ARC: Delivering literacy and personal growth for English Language Learners through outdoor education. Hooper, 2008. Master’s, Sierra Nevada College
  3. Transforming Thoughts into Words: Using Photography and Dialogue to Help Immigrant Students Write with Voice. Gorin, 2009. Master’s, UC Davis
  4. “That’s My Kind of Animal!” Designing and Assessing an Outdoor Science Education Program with Children’s Megafaunaphilia in Mind. Migliarese, 2011. Ph.D., UC Berkeley
  5. Place, Literacy Learning, and Civic Engagement: A Case Study of Adventure Risk Challenge. M. Lundahl, 2017. Ph.D., UNR