31st Annual Project Learning Tree International Coordinators Conference

Sean Hill, our director of education, attended the 31st annual Project Learning Tree International Coordinators Conference April 24-27. He had a great time networking with State PLT Coordinators and learned about new online professional development opportunities for Nevada teachers!

He journaled his week for us below:


Greetings from Bourbon Country!

I’m here at the 31st annual Project Learning Tree (PLT) International Coordinators Conference. The conference provides an amazing opportunity to network with other State PLT Coordinators, outstanding educators, various program sponsors and partners and other education professionals from around the country and the world. It’ll be action-packed this week as I’ll be networking, attending workshops and brainstorming sessions as I collect great resources and best practices to bring back to Sierra Nevada Journeys and ultimately, Nevada teachers and students (stay tuned for upcoming announcements for new online Professional Development options for teachers as well as for information about exciting new classroom curriculum, the new PLT e-units).

Project Learning Tree is keeping our schedules busy with excellent speakers, including a great session on Tuesday by Judy Braus, Executive Director for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

Don’t worry – we also have time built in for exploring Louisville, Kentucky, including a trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and a local arboretum.

I’m stoked to be here representing Nevada!

Help Support Science Education for Youth during Big Day of Giving on May 4

Sacramento, Calif. (April 25, 2017) — Sierra Nevada Journeys is participating in the Sacramento region’s fifth Big Day of Giving on Thurs., May 4. Sierra Nevada Journeys is new to the Sacramento area, yet has been growing at an incredible pace. To keep up with the demand, Sierra Nevada Journeys is seeking financial support to continue to deliver hands-on and engaging science programming to first through sixth graders.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy is in critical demand nationwide. According to the Science and Engineering Readiness Index (SERI), California ranks 34 out of 50, which is considered to be below average, in educating students in science. Sierra Nevada Journeys’ mission is to improve these scores, and to create the next generation of environmental scientists, geologists, ecologists and engineers.

After evaluating pre- and post-assessment data after one of Sierra Nevada Journeys’ core programs, Classrooms Unleashed, 90 percent of the participating students show an increase in comprehension of state science standards. Classroom teachers love the program and educational practices to teach and engage their students.

“The engaging materials and lessons were designed in a way as to make them accessible, tactile, and therefore memorable and meaningful,” said Mike Pickering, a sixth grade teacher at William Land Elementary School.

Sacramento programming includes the school-based programs Classrooms Unleashed and Family Science Nights. Classrooms Unleashed is a blended in-class and field trip experience taught by Sierra Nevada Journeys, which has grown from 12 schools and 930 students in 2015 to 30 schools and 4,500 students this year. A Family Science Night is an interactive and rewarding way for students and their families to engage with their schools through STEM-related activities. In 2016, they hosted 25 Family Science Nights across the Sacramento region. Sierra Nevada Journeys growth can be greatly attributed to the dedication and leadership from Sacramento Program Director, Sarah Barnes.

“Our programs give kids an opportunity to problem solve, collaborate and connect with nature,” said Barnes. “It makes me feel like we’re helping to grow capable future stewards of our world.”

To support the work of Sierra Nevada Journeys and ensure an exciting future for students and community success, please support Sierra Nevada Journeys and science education during this year’s Big Day of Giving. Help build the next generation of leaders, scientists and stewards.

For more information or to donate, please visit: https://www.bigdayofgiving.org/sierranevadajourneys

Sierra Nevada Journeys Inspires Student to Pursue Outdoor Education as a Career

Melissa Mazzuca, a 3-year employee at Sierra Nevada Journeys, was the 2016 Senior Scholar recipient for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno. This is one the most prestigious awards at the University. It is given to students from each school or college who meet exceptional program standards. During the reception, Melissa spoke about how Sierra Nevada Journeys inspired her to pursue outdoor education

We were able to connect with her during finals (of all time) to talk about her Sierra Nevada Journeys experience.


You just received your BS in Environmental Science. What's next?
I am excited to take a much needed breather for a few months this winter and spend some quality time with my family at home. I am also taking a trip to the east coast to visit friends and explore! In April, I am extremely excited to be moving to Oregon to continue my work in environmental education at Camp Tamarack Outdoor School.

How were you introduced to Sierra Nevada Journeys?
One of my freshman professors required our class to attend a natural resources career fair. It was there that I met Sean Hill, the Education Director for Sierra Nevada Journeys. I immediately applied to work as a counselor at Grizzly Creek Ranch.

How long have you been involved with Sierra Nevada Journeys and in what capacity?
I have spent an incredible three years with Sierra Nevada Journeys in numerous roles. I started up at campus as a cabin counselor for summer camp. I immediately knew that a few weeks of summer camp was not enough for me and reached out to Kristen Fenstermacher, the campus director at the time, and asked her how I could get more involved. She brought me on for the fall as a part-time instructor where I got to come to campus on the weekends and facilitate the challenge course with leadership programs. Still seeking more involvement with such an amazing organization, I applied for an internship in the Reno office for the following spring. For the next few years I worked with the Classrooms Unleashed program as a field instructor.

My second summer with Sierra Nevada Journeys I took on two new roles. First, I was able to move up to campus a month before summer programs began to finish out the outdoor school season as a Residential Outdoor Science Instructor. Then once summer began, I had the pleasure of being the Arts and Crafts Specialist for all summer programs. I had such an incredible second season with Sierra Nevada Journeys that I went ahead and continued my same roles for a third!  

What were some of your favorite moments with Sierra Nevada Journeys?
I absolutely loved being the Arts and Crafts Specialist over the summer. One of my favorite parts of the position was when the older girls would come and we would all craft together and sing Taylor Swift; it was beautiful. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know all the campers really well, not just one cabin.

I also really enjoyed working the registration table at check-in. I loved getting to experience camper’s very first impression of Sierra Nevada Journeys or seeing how excited the returners were to be back at camp.

A specific favorite memory was during a very stormy day of summer 2015. The campers probably spent more time inside than out due to the weather that week, but you'd never be able to tell based on their spirits. As a special rainy day activity, a few counselors planned a lip sync battle. No one anticipated how into it all the campers would get with elaborate dances and costumes. I even got to take on the role of Katniss Everdeen as a judge. Every camper and staff member had an incredible time despite the weather and it is one of my favorite summer camp memories to date.

How has Sierra Nevada Journeys helped you personally and professionally?
I have grown so much since I started with Sierra Nevada Journeys in 2013. I am more confident, social, and open to trying new things. Sierra Nevada Journeys is like a home to me and I feel like it’s where I really found myself. It’s also where I found what I like to call “my people.” From my incredible mentor Kristen, to my camp mom Debbie, to all my amazing friends, I have never felt a greater sense of belonging. I believe this sense of belonging is what really made me feel and act like my true self.

I have also gained a long list of professional skills to grow as an environmental educator. My growth is due largely to the amazing people that I have been surrounded by at Sierra Nevada Journeys. I have received an incredible amount of guidance and support for the last three years. I have had the pleasure of learning a ton about teaching, challenge course facilitation, and just working with children in general from observing and being in the company of my fellow instructors. I genuinely loved being the baby of the staff because I had the opportunity to learn so much from my peers.

If I haven't already communicated it, Sierra Nevada Journeys really has meant the world to me. I’m sad to be moving on, but I am incredibly thankful for the growth that I have experienced through Sierra Nevada Journeys and am eager to apply it to my next adventure.  

Sierra Nevada Journeys is a proud sponsor of the Family Estate Planning Series

Sierra Nevada Journeys is proud to be a sponsor of the Family Estate Planning Series. Seven classes taught by local estate planning professionals on topics such as wills, probate, trusts, power of attorney, health care directives and more are offered free to the public. Classes begin March 29.

For more information or to register, contact Karen Senger, Development Director, at 775-355-1688, and she'll send your information to the Community Foundation of Western Nevada.

Let’s Make Nevada’s Big Give Bigger in Northern Nevada

Join thousands of Nevadans in supporting your favorite nonprofit organization on Thursday, March 23 for the 6th annual Nevada’s Big Give. Nevada’s Big Give is a statewide 24-hour online giving initiative to raise awareness of, and funds for, all nonprofits and schools that improve the quality of life for Nevadans.

The concept of Nevada’s Big Give was developed and initiated by NevadaGIVES board member, Stacey Wedding, a lifelong Nevadan who has committed her professional life and much of her personal life to the philanthropy sector. Wedding presented the concept to the NevadaGIVES board in early 2011. Soon after, Nevada was celebrating the first ever Nevada’s Big Give. In just the first year, online donations totaled $413,048 from 2,063 generous individuals throughout our great state. Fast forward to 2016. Nevada raised over $638,000 from 5,567 individuals. That’s a 35 percent increase in funding in five years. These numbers show that Nevadans have big hearts when it comes to giving.

So far, there are 33 Northern Nevada nonprofit organizations that you can help support on Nevada’s Big Give – including Sierra Nevada Journeys, Note-Able Music Therapy Services, Immunize Nevada, Reno Philharmonic Association, Nevada Humane Society, Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, and United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, to name a few. Some organizations have even partnered with each other to double their impact in the community.

For example, Sierra Nevada Journeys is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada for the second year to send 20 Littles to Sierra Nevada Journeys’ Summer Camp at Grizzly Creek Ranch in Portola, Calif. Summer camp immerses children in outdoor learning, teamwork and leadership, promoting achievement well past the campfire. To send 20 Littles to summer camp, Sierra Nevada Journeys has set a fundraising goal of $11,980. Donations will be matched up to $3,000 by a generous donor.

Note-Able Music Therapy Services is seeking $5,000 to provide weekly music therapy at The Eddy House, helping engage at-risk youth with music. Music has shown to be a powerful way for people to express difficult emotions, while experiencing the joy of expression and creating art.

The Reno Philharmonic Association wants to offer a free children’s concert at Wingfield Park, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, to Artown this July. This event will help introduce children in our community to classical music in an engaging setting. In order to bring the performance to Reno, the Reno Philharmonic Association needs to raise $7,500.

These three examples are just a glimpse of what organizations are fundraising for during this year’s Big Give.

Seek out your favorite nonprofit organizations or learn about new ones that match your passions, be it education, arts and culture, children and family, or the environment. Visit www.nvbiggive.org and make Nevada’s Big Give even bigger in Northern Nevada by participating and donating on March 23.

- Written by Megan Duggan, Marketing and Communications Director for Sierra Nevada Journeys

Sierra Nevada Journeys Receives $10,000 Grant from NV Energy to Support Science Education for Elementary Students in Northern Nevada

Reno, NV – Jan. 12, 2017NV Energy recently awarded Sierra Nevada Journeys a $10,000 grant to support their Classrooms Unleashed program. Through this grant, 324 northern Nevada elementary students will have access to effective, high-quality science instruction during the 2016-17 school year.  

"Sierra Nevada Journeys is proud to have the support of the NV Energy Foundation,” said Karen Senger, director of development for Sierra Nevada Journeys. “Their partnership is helping to build a community of youth who are leaders, scientists and stewards of the natural world.”

Students in grades first through sixth will receive three hands-on classroom-based lessons and one field-study experience to help increase their understanding of science standards and their interest in STEM subjects. 

Classrooms Unleashed uses hands-on, experiential outdoor education as a framework for children to study, think and learn. The program is aligned to state and national standards and the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. 

Nevada currently ranks 44th in the nation on the Science and Engineering Readiness Index. With support from partners like NV Energy, Sierra Nevada Journeys aims to improve these low scores and works diligently to ensure that all students have access to high quality science education. 

Sierra Nevada Journeys Receives $10,000 Grant from PPG Industries to Support Science Education for Elementary Students in Northern Nevada

Reno, NV – Jan. 9, 2017 PPG Industries recently awarded Sierra Nevada Journeys a $10,000 grant to support their Classrooms Unleashed program. Through this grant, Sierra Nevada Journeys will deliver Classrooms Unleashed to 324 northern Nevada students in second through fifth grade during the 2016-17 school year.  

"Sierra Nevada Journeys is proud to have the support of PPG Industries,” said Karen Senger, director of development for Sierra Nevada Journeys. “We applaud their commitment to enriching children’s live through outdoor science education.”

Students will receive three hands-on classroom-based lessons and one field-study experience to help increase their understanding of science standards and their interest in STEM subjects. 

Classrooms Unleashed uses hands-on, experiential outdoor education as a framework for children to study, think and learn. The program is aligned to state and national standards and the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. 

Sierra Nevada Journeys is dedicated to improving Nevada’s below average science education ranking (44 out of 50) by bringing science to children and supporting the educators who teach them. In 2015, 90 percent of students attending our Classrooms Unleashed programming demonstrated improved understanding of science standards based on assessment data.

National Wildlife Federation Certifies New Wildlife Habitat in Portola, CA

Portola, CA (Dec. 14, 2016) — The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, is pleased to recognize that Sierra Nevada Journeys’ campus at Grizzly Creek Ranch in Portola, CA has successfully created a Certified Wildlife Habitat® through its Garden for Wildlife program. NWF celebrates the efforts of Sierra Nevada Journeys to create a garden space that improves habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife by providing essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. Certification also makes your Certified Wildlife Habitat® part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators.

“We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Over the last 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat right in their own yards and neighborhoods,” said Dave Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an apartment balcony or a 10-acre farm, a schoolyard or a business park, or anything in between, everyone can create a home for local wildlife. Turning your space into a Certified Wildlife Habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife,” he added.

“We have a terrific campus and work to preserve and enhance the wildlife whose home we share,” said Mark Owen, campus executive director of Grizzly Creek Ranch. 

Sierra Nevada Journeys’ 1,500-acre campus at Grizzly Creek Ranch is home to many plants and animals. To name a few, a black bear, bobcats, whooping crane, osprey, bald eagles, rainbow trout, leopard frogs, hawks, a multitude of song birds and water fowl such as coots, mallards, blue heron and grebes. The campus is vegetated primarily by Jefferson or yellow pine trees as well as incense-cedars and sugar pines. The forest floor blossoms yellow and blue with mullein, mule’s ear and lupine. 

Sierra Nevada Journeys takes particular care to conserve and preserve this habitat for visiting youth. “The objective for them is to see nature and its inhabitants in their original, pristine condition,” said Owen. “Through observation, youth are then introduced to scientific principles and methods to transform what they see, smell and touch into ways to understand, communicate and engage with the world around them.”

NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive. It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. With nearly 200,000 locations and growing, NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats recognize individuals, schools, groups and whole communities committed to providing habitat for wildlife, including pollinators. Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provide food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries. For more information on gardening for wildlife and details on how an entire community can become certified, visit www.nwf.org/habitat or call 1-800-822-9919.

Sandra A. Daugherty Foundation receives 2016 AFP Outstanding Foundation Cornerstone Award

Sierra Nevada Journeys was ecstatic when one of its generous and committed funding partners, the Sandra A. Daugherty Foundation, was named the 2016 Outstanding Foundation by the Sierra Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals at its Cornerstone Awards & Philanthropy Day luncheon on Friday, Nov. 11.

The Outstanding Foundation award recognizes a foundation with an established track record of charitable contributions in the community, one that promotes innovation and sound management practices in the nonprofit sector, and is a true community partner.

Since 2001, the Daugherty Foundation has been tirelessly committed to improving science, technology, engineering and math - or STEM - education and supporting excellence in the teaching of science and medicine. In line with their mission, the Foundation has initiated and funded numerous innovative pilot programs in our area.

The Daugherty Science Internship is a partnership between the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Education, the College of Science and the nominating group, Sierra Nevada Journeys. This internship program provides high-quality, deep science education and scientific research practicum to six University of Nevada, Reno student teachers annually.

The Foundation also began a state-of-the-art STEM and Art (or STEAM) Program with the Nevada Museum of Art and Sierra Nevada Journeys.

The Daugherty Summer Science Experience program exposes middle school students from low socio-economic backgrounds to science and scientists. Participants spend a week on the University of Nevada, Reno campus with College of Science faculty and graduate students. The program also serves as professional development for Washoe County school teachers as they accompany the students during the week-long program.

Also recognized at the event was Christina Hale, volunteer field educator with Sierra Nevada Journeys. Christina was named a Spirit of Giving honoree for her enthusiastic dedication to providing science education to children.

2016 Governor's Points of Light Awards

Sierra Nevada Journeys’ volunteer, Marlys Pryor, was one of the prestigious finalists honored at the 2016 Governor’s Points of Light Award Ceremony in September at Bally’s Las Vegas.

Marlys was one of only three finalists in the Northern Nevada Individual Volunteer category. Sierra Nevada Journeys nominated Marlys because of her passion for sharing science with children as a volunteer field educator. As a retired aerospace engineer, Marlys knows first-hand the importance and fulfillment of science, technology, engineering and math and the exciting work that comes along with those fields.

In her video recorded for the ceremony presentation, Marlys said, “I start with the kids. What are you interested in?” If a child is interested in music, for example, she explains you have to be good at math to be a good musician. She is committed to getting as many children as possible interested in science-related fields.