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Showing posts from 2015

Progress on the New Upper Education Building

SOS has been under construction for a few years now, and to our excitement the last building is almost complete! The construction progress has been long but extremely successful. We first received a new storage building, four residential houses, the Barn Classroom Building, and the Lower Education Classroom Building; Now the Upper Education Building is slated to be completed and in use by mid-January. Here are a few pictures to show how great it looks already!

This is from Old Oak Ranch Road side. The front entrance is just to the left. 
Just like the Barn Classroom Building we will have a great covered patio space.
Another view of patio and front of the building to the right.
A rear view from the dining hall side. 
Rear view from Old Oak Ranch Road side. 
The new building will have three classrooms, a museum space, a staff office, two sets of bathrooms, and a reception area, called the Lizard Lounge, which will be used as a place for the chaperones and teachers to relax. The Upper Ed…

Drought, Beetles, and Fire, Oh My!

Have you noticed any trees with browning foliage in your area? When looking up towards Sierra Outdoor School from the town of Sonora, the hillsides are dotted with brown. Sometimes this color is from deciduous leaves preparing to drop from trees like California buckeye and black oak, however this year there is significantly more brown on the hillsides. As you drive up to the school you see that the brown color is from ponderosa pine trees that have died over this summer. How did this happen? What can be done about it? Is this a fire risk?
After four successive years of drought, these trees have suffered and have been unable to respond normally to environmental stresses. One thing that can stress the trees are bark beetles. These insects lay eggs underneath the bark and the larvae feed on the wood. A healthy tree responds to a bark beetle attack by filling the hole with a thick, sticky, fluid called pitch. When the trees are under water stress, as they have been due to this drought, t…

Environment-Focused Children's Literature

“And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits.”

While Bar-ba-loots and Truffula Fruits only exist on the pages of The Lorax, they help illustrate some very real ecological and economic principles. Children’s storybooks provide a fun and visually tantalizing way to take abstract concepts and bring them to life through storytelling. Books can also be a great way for students to teach themselves independently. Here are some storybooks we use here at Sierra Outdoor School:
The Wolves Are Back by Jean Craighead George

This book tells the real-life story of the persecution and near-extinction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park and the subsequent ecological imbalance that occurs as a result of their absence. The story describes the wolf reintroduction program, the rise in wolf population numbers and the ecological balance that returns. The story is useful in explaining the role of apex predators,…

Meet The New Crew!

Our 2015-16 Naturalist Interns arrived about a month and half ago! They have just spent most of the month of August training and getting ready for school groups to arrive. We are super excited to have them join our team. If you are interested in what last year's interns are doing now, check out our previous blog. You are welcome to visit our Facebook page as well, to see updates and photos of how the last month of preparation and this school year has been going!
Andrew is currently a student at Fresno State University studying Recreation Administration.  He has lived in Fresno, CA most of his life and his natural habitat is outside.  He has worked as a white water river guide and a social media consultant at a mountain guiding company in southern Yosemite.  A few of his hobbies include photography, guitar, hiking, long boarding, and hammocking. Andrew came to SOS as a student, and is excited to be returning to SOS as an Intern so he can give kids the same great experience he had!

2014-2015 Intern Projects

The school year has come to a close, and that means the interns are moving on. However, they have been working hard all year to leave behind a project that will benefit the school for years to come.

Let’s take a look at what this year’s interns accomplished…
Sarah channeled her love of laughter, music, and theatre to revamp Sierra Outdoor School’s campfire program. She searched far and wide for the most fun, educational, and interactive songs and skits related to SOS’s classes and organized them in a new staff campfire book. With activities specifically connected to each of SOS’s classes, campfires now provide students with the opportunity to cement and recall knowledge during an exciting evening of music and amusement!  Check out the student version of the campfire book on our website to find your favorite songs from SOS!

Tommy helped to beautify SOS’s campus and educate our visitors by painting a large map mural! The mural depicts the web of trails around main c…

To Infinity and Beyond: Where The Interns Are Going Next!

After a fun and busy year spent learning and growing as interns at Sierra Outdoor School, our time on Big Hill is coming to a close. We are so thankful for all we have seen and experienced during the past ten months, and we will miss the great staff, students, programs, and facilities of SOS.  However, we are excited to bring our new skills and all we have learned to other communities and programs! Here’s where we are headed next…

Following her passions for the ocean and adventure programming, this summer Alli will be returning to her adopted home state of Washington to work on the San Juan Islands. As a returning staff member at YMCA Camp Orkila, she will be facilitating leadership development curriculum and weeklong sea kayaking expeditions with 15- 17 year olds.  After what is sure to be a salty summer of whale and bald eagle watching, Alli will continue working as a Naturalist at the YMCA East Bay Outdoor School at Camp Arroyo in Livermore, CA.  She can’t wait to continue teaching …

PHENOLOGY or Should I Say FUNology

Spring is that wonderful time of year when all types of new life are emerging. Beautiful birds, buzzing bugs, blooming blossoms, and many other interesting organisms are now flowing throughout the campus of Sierra Outdoor School.

Though it is very noticeable during these post-winter months, changes and "new life" appearances are happening year-round! The study of the timing of nature's cycles is called phenology. This can include life cycles, climate, weather, migration patterns, breeding, and flowering.

Let's check out some of the phenological happenings from around SOS:

We've all heard that April showers bring May flowers. The pictures below show our well known plant "bear clover" (aka mountain misery), which recently blossomed beautiful white flowers. This is the perfect time to see different parts of the flower's life cycle, from buds to blooms!

The new blooms have also been attracting many pollinators such as bees...

and butterflies! Which appea…

Eureka! There’s Gold in them there Hills!

Every year, over 2300 students and adults visit Sierra Outdoor School to experience the Gold Rush in the heart of the Motherlode country. Although SOS was founded as an outdoor based science and exploration program, we began welcoming students from around the state to our hands-on Gold Rush program in 2012. Read on to learn more details about our Gold Rush Experience, or call now if you're interested in booking your school: The Gold Rush Experience highlights a unique and impactful period in California’s history, and visiting students have the opportunity to try their hands at a wide range of both mining and Me Wuk activities.  At the center of our Gold Rush program is an emphasis on hands-on learning where students are able to feel and experience what life was like during the 1850’s.
During their stay, students are transported back in time during a visit to Columbia State Historic Park, which contains the largest single collection of existing Gold Rush era structur…