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Showing posts from 2014

Mushrooms

The Sierra Outdoor School has been getting much needed rain showers, and with those showers appear nature’s oddballs—mushrooms.  Mushrooms are part of the Fungi Kingdom and are actually only a small part of a much larger organism.





Apples of the dirt A mushroom is much like an apple on a tree—existing to carry and spread seeds.  The mushroom version of a seed is called a spore.  The “tree” a mushroom grows on is called the mycelium, an underground network of hair-like fibers.  The mycelium can be as small as a few square feet and as large as several thousand acres. 


Mushroom examples and their lifestyles Shaggy Mane—Shaggy Mane mushrooms grow in the forest here at SOS but can also be found growing out of lawns in the suburbs.  They are characterized by a “shaggy” cap growing on the end of a stalk.  The underside of the cap contains gills from which spores will eventually drop.  Shaggy Mane is a common example of a saprophyte, an organism which gets its energy and nutrients by digesting de…

Pig Post Post

Here at Sierra Outdoor School, we do not believe in wasting resources. In efforts to reduce our waste we have many programs including an Energy Competition where students can monitor their energy usage, a kitchen with all reusable materials, reusable water bottles for sale, and finally our cutest way to minimize food waste is our "Pig Post". Some people may compost their food waste at home, here the pigs do that for us: we call this "Pig Posting" (get it? :D). 

One of our naturalists, Ed (or Squirrel), has four pigs that live here near the school. These pigs are fed all of the food that students and adults do not eat during their stay at SOS. As a part of a public school system, we are required to prepare a specific amount of food per person per meal, whether they eat it or not, according to California State guidelines. This leads to leftovers at each meal. Our "Pig Post" program feeds the pigs instead of adding to the landfill.

After each meal students …

Meet Our New Interns!

We have had an amazing first few months of the School year with many incredible schools discovering the wonders and beauty of nature.Our 2014-15 Interns have been working hard learning more everyday becoming proficient Naturalists. As great enthusiasts of nature and science, the interns cannot wait for the rest of this school year to take students out on one of our hands-on classes in the forest. See you soon!

Intern Projects - 2014

Each year, interns complete projects to improve the school and leave their mark. Past projects have included new trails, additional teaching spaces, and even a stream to keep the pond healthy.
This year the interns will leave behind a multitude of helpful and creative projects.


A lover of tracking, Devin captured the footprints of many four-legged residents and painted them all over main campus. Since natural tracks can sometimes be difficult to find, the painted tracks are a fun and exciting introduction to tracking. Try to figure out whose prints are whose.



Justin and Molly worked to improve a past intern project, a secondary amphitheater closer to main campus. They doubled the size of the stage area, added more benches, and added steps. Upon the completion of this project they dubbed the amphitheater, the Covanshrein Theater, a combination of the last names’ of interns who worked on the project. Now there is another place on campus to learn, sing, and dance!


Kim gathered GPS data and c…

Welcome to our new winged-ambassador!

Sierra Outdoor School has an exciting new ambassador at the Raptor Center! We received a female Western Screech Owl from Stanislaus Wildlife Center near Turlock, California on Monday. The owl is an adult that was being kept illegally as a pet. Due to being raised by a human, this owl cannot survive in the wild as it did not develop hunting or mating skills from its parents. This is the second bird of our Raptor Center that must be cared for due to being taken in illegally by humans. Remember, if you find a bird or raptor or any other wildlife, you cannot raise it as a pet. If it is healthy, leave it alone. If it is injured, call a veterinarian or wildlife center.

Western Screech Owls are one of three Screech Owl species found in North America but this occurred recently when Eastern and Western Screech Owls were classified as different species. Western Screech Owls are nocturnal animals, cavity nesters and carnivores that eat mammals sometimes bigger than they are, such as cottontail…

Gold Nuggets Everywhere!

There are gold nuggets all over the hillsides of Sierra Outdoor School! Although not worth over $1,300/ounce like the precious metal, these gold nuggets (Calochortus monophyllus) are still a valuable addition to the forest. They are one of the first wildflowers to bloom each spring and they sprung up just last week. Here's a photo of them scattered among the bear clover just below Sonora dorm. If you look closer there are beautiful maroon spots on each petal and at the base of each petal is where insects will find the nectar. These flowers are endemic to CA - that means they're only found in CA. Below is a photo of the very first kind of wildflower to bloom this spring.  It was in the same location as the gold nuggets, but about a week earlier.  This is the mountain violet (Viola purpurea) and its seeds are spread by ants as they feed on them. What is blooming in your area now? What are you looking forward to seeing bloom?  I can't wait for the leopard lilies and shooting…

Signs of Spring!

Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, you have probably noticed that the days are getting longer. With more hours of daylight than the short and cold days of December, the staff here at SOS has been getting pretty excited about spring! Over the past few weeks, we have been noticing some undeniable signs of a fast approaching change in seasons. I invite you to join me in discovering three recent signs of spring, including the shifting night sky, the early emergence of some spring buds and flowers, and the increasing number of frog encounters up here at Sierra Outdoor School. Enjoy, and happy spring!


Night Sky  Although longer days means more fun outside, the onset of spring and summer also means less time to see the night sky and the wonders it holds.  The past few months, we have had the pleasure of showing students “the Winter Hexagon” during star watches.  The hexagon is an easy way to identify 6 different constellations in the night sky, starting with Canis Major, and mov…

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and TerraCycle

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2011, Americans recycled or composted 34.7% of waste.  These numbers have improved from 28.5% in 2000, 16.7 percent in 1985 and 5.6% in 1960. Even with this growth there is still more that can be done.  In 2001, Tom Szaky, then a 20-year-old Princeton University freshmen, began producing organic fertilizer by packaging worm poop in used soda bottles.  Seeking further ways to recycle, Szaky expanded his operation to new realms and created the company, TerraCycle.















Today TerraCycle is considered the leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable, post-consumer waste.  The mission is to eliminate the idea of waste, by creating waste collection programs for previously non-recyclable, or difficult-to-recycle, waste. The collected waste is then converted into new products, ranging from park benches to backpacks.  The company works with 100 major brands in the United State and in 22 different countries.  In 2011, Terracycle added 30 n…

Great facts about common birds at SOS

Here at SOS we are lucky to see a great variety of wildlife, from Monarch butterflies to Scorpions and Mule Deer to Black Bears, the Stanislaus forest never ceases with activity around our campus. Of all the wildlife living in our forest, birds are the most frequently spotted. Although so called “common” species such as the Dark-eyed Junco and Stellar’s Jay are sometimes overlooked, they actually deserve a double take. Here are some interesting facts about birds which are regularly seen on and around SOS campus.
Dark-Eyed Junco - This species is one of the most abundant in all of North American with an estimated 630 million individuals -The most commonly seen Junco here at SOS belongs to the sub-species Oregon Junco, which proudly displays a dark hood and pink beak along with white outer tail feathers - Although females are responsible for nest building and incubation (the act of warming eggs in order to hatch them), both males and females share nestling (hatched birds still in nest…

Sierra Outdoor School’s Naturalist Internship Program

In addition to providing great learning opportunities for elementary and junior high students at Sierra Outdoor School, the program also plays an important role in training future naturalists. Every year SOS hires seven naturalist interns who teach day time classes, staff all night classes and learn and grow as students and teachers of the natural world.
The naturalist interns come to SOS with a variety of backgrounds in the sciences including biology, environmental studies, forestry, and geology. All interns have their Bachelor’s degree and many arrive with extensive teaching experience including formal student teaching, teaching certificates and experience in classrooms abroad.
While at Sierra Outdoor School, the interns learn to teach the daytime classes through the guidance of the permanent naturalists, many of whom have more than 15 years of teaching experience. Through observing and team-teaching classes before they are checked off to teach them alone, the interns are able to…

SOS’s Top 3 Most Impressive Animal Sightings in 2013

At Sierra Outdoor School, we are always observing the natural world around us.  Unique animal sightings make for exciting moments.  Here are the most remarkable creatures spotted by naturalists and students at Sierra Outdoor School  in the year of 2013.

Sierra Nevada Ensatina
http://www.wildherps.com/species/E.eschscholtzii.html#platensis

During hunts for decomposers, several groups of students have found the Sierra Nevada Ensatina, a type of salamander. As amphibians, salamanders are cold blooded and their body temperatures depend upon the outdoor air temperature. This explains why they can often be seen basking on rocks in the sun.  When it gets too cold, they take shelter underground where it is warmer and some even hibernate.  Some of these critters are special in that they breathe through their skin and can regenerate their tails.   

Flying Squirrel
http://www.sialis.org/flyingsquirrel.htm
The elusive and legendary Northern Flying Squirrel was spotted around the gym at SOS by several n…