Environmental science center opens at Zephyr Cove Elementary | RecordCourier.com

Environmental science center opens at Zephyr Cove Elementary

by Claire Cudahy
Parents and teachers gathered for a ribbon cutting at Zephyr Cove Elementary School's new Environmental Science Interpretive Center on Friday, June 9.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

A new science center at Zephyr Cove Elementary School is helping students in Lake Tahoe to take their understanding of the environment around them to the next level.

Using a grant from the Nevada Division of State Lands Lake Tahoe License Plate Program, numerous local agencies have come together to create an Environmental Science Interpretive Center at the school.

“It’s a place where the teachers can come in and have all the science materials and lesson plans available for them to teach their students about water, geology, animal life, resource management, plant life and stewardship,” said Devin Middlebrook, sustainability program coordinator at Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Since 2008, South Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition has been implementing environmental education program on the California side of the South Shore for students, but funding never allowed Douglas County students to participate.

“It’s important because the students that are going to school now are the future stewards of Lake Tahoe so teaching them not only about the lake but the environment around it connects them to it. It could also inspire future careers and get students interested in science, engineering and math,” added Middlebrook.

The new science center has water sample kits that allow students to go out and collect water from streams and lakes and test for phosphorous, nitrogen and fine sediment, for example. A fish tank gives students the opportunity to raise native Lahontan cutthroat trout and release them into the lake. Outdoor flowerbeds are seeded with native plants for hands-on learning with flora, and a large wall chart allows students to plot data they collect on water clarity, temperature, and snowfall.

On one of the center’s walls, a mural created by Zephyr Cove parent Lisa Kirkman illustrates the fabric of Lake Tahoe’s environment.

“Part of our missions statement and vision statement for Zephyr Cove is about stewardship of our lake and our world. It starts where you live,” said Zephyr Cove Principal Nancy Cauley. “Many children, while they live at the lake, I don’t think they recognize everything it takes to make it the beautiful place that it is, and how many people work together to preserve it and make sure it stays pristine for years and years to come.”

The center is also available for students in South Lake Tahoe and in the Carson Valley. It was created with the support of Nevada Division of State Lands, Douglas County Education Foundation, Vail Resorts, ZCES Parents Club, TRPA, Tahoe Douglas Rotary, Tahoe Art League and other private donations.