Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We are now hiring Naturalist Interns for our 2015-2016 school year!

Experiential education is not only for students that visit the Sierra Outdoor School; it is also for the Naturalist Interns that spend time here. This program acts as a training ground for those interested in the field of Outdoor Education or Interpretation. Through a combination of hands-on and guided learning experiences, interns will become better educators and naturalists. Under the guidance and supervision of our experienced permanent Naturalists and Program Coordinators, Naturalist Interns will learn a variety of classes, activities, and skills. Over the ten month internship, interns will teach science and cultural history based classes, facilitate low ropes and team building activities, as well as learn how to belay and facilitate high rope elements and a zip line. Interns receive training in all classes before they teach on their own.

Additionally, paid trainings are provided throughout the year in areas including: pedagogy and educational theory, classroom and group management, background in relevant sciences, and local natural and cultural history. Sierra Outdoor School also has a Raptor Center with five birds of prey. Interns will have the opportunity to learn non-releasable raptor management including feeding, handling, and teaching with the birds if this is an area of interest.
If you are interested in becoming one of our seven interns for the 2015-2016 school year, please apply soon!  Open until filled.  Internship Commitment: August 9, 2015- June 11, 2016.  For more information on the internship position and for details on how to apply, please visit our website at:


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New classrooms ready for the Spring!

Meet the Barn!

As part of Clovis Unified School District’s Bond Measure “A”, Sierra Outdoor School has been undergoing campus wide renovations and this month construction bears fruit. Sierra Outdoor School staff are excited to announce the opening of the new science building “The Barn”. This building is on the site of the old barn classroom.  Conveniently located near the pond, the raptor center and many challenge elements, it provides a great addition to our program. The building provides a modern lab space to support our field science and lab classes including Pond Life and Owl Pellets. The building also includes indoor space for rainy days and a large classroom perfect for large group activities.

 The front of the Barn

One of three new lab rooms.   This one is set up with equipment for our Pond Life class

 One new feature of Barn is a large covered patio perfect for class a rainy day
or for shade on a hot spring day

  The covered patio overlooks the pond 

Campus wide renovations will continue for the next year with improvements to both infrastructure and buildings.  We look forward to these improvements which will help modernize our campus and make our program more effective.  So pardon the dust as this work continues.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Save the Date!

Friday, 2/27/15

SOS is launching its brand new, completely updated website!  With the help of CUSD's Technology Department, we have created a website that should be easier to navigate and provide more of the information that you are looking for about our school.  It's even complete with a Students' Space.
In the meantime, you can continue to use our current website for information at  You can also like us on Facebook,, as a way to follow all of the current action here at SOS.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What's Going Down at SOS? ... Our Energy Consumption!

Did you know… the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but consumes 19% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as approximately 2 Japanese, 31 Indians, or 307 Tanzanians.

As we fight to slow climate change, our daily choices regarding energy use can make a big difference. In California, about 44% of the total energy consumed is by appliances, electronics, and lighting. Luckily, this is something we have a lot of control over!

Here at SOS we reduce our energy consumption not only through our Pig Post program (see our December blog post), but also with a weekly energy competition! Wireless energy monitors located in each dorm record both real-time and cumulative energy use each day. Each monitor is surrounded by a poster explaining how the monitor works and why it is important. Read below!

Students learn about the competition upon their arrival and begin participating the first moment they step into their dorm. SOS staff then record data daily to compare between dorms and announce the results during lunch. The competition motivates students to be more conscious of habits like turning off the lights, closing windows and doors while heat or A/C is running, and unplugging camera/phone chargers. We hope that students will take these practices back to their homes and families! 

Who or what has influenced your household energy habits? 

For more information about household energy consumption in California, check out the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) website:

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Winged Ambassador for SOS Raptor Center!

Great News! SOS has an addition to its Raptor Center. Our newest bird is a female Western Screech Owl (WSO).

She has been at SOS for over 200 days now, and a lot of training has been done to get her ready to be seen by kids. She has gotten used to her new home (mew), learned to tolerate her handler, learned to step up on the glove and back to the perch, and learned to be outside on the glove. The next step is for her to be seen by her first class. If all goes well, we are hoping that she will be viewed outside by schools in January. Below are a few pictures of her in her mew and outside with the different perches.

The WSO tethered in her mew. Tethering provides a safe environment for her and trainer while she learns to be in a new home. 

Two of the perches built specifically for a raptor her size. 

Another perch. 

Learning how to be perched outside. 

Maybe the WSO's first time seeing snow. 

WSO with a piece of food to reinforce good behaviors. 

Check out the Sierra Outdoor School Facebook page later for updates on the WSO's progress. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


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. 

Mycelium in yellow.  Found growing under log.

What appears to be cob webs is actually mycelium.
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 decaying plant matter. 

Shaggy Mane just beginning to make an appearance.
Mature Shaggy Mane
Puffball—Unlike the Shaggy Mane, the Puffball lacks gills and a stalk.  Late in its life cycle it will dry out and emit a “puff” of spores.  Puffballs are mycorrhizal, which means they get their energy from trees through a mycelium to root connection .  The mycelium in turn acts as an extension of the tree's root networks and brings in more water.  
A trio of puffballs.
Turkey Tail—Can you guess how this mushroom got its name? Turkey tail is part of a group of mushrooms called polypores. Instead of having gills, polypores have a system of pores(like your skin) on their underside.  Like the Shaggy Mane, Turkey Tail is a saprophyte, getting its energy by digesting the wood it grows on. 

So the next time you see a mushroom remember:
1) An underground network of mycelium lies beneath it.
2) Their function is to spread spores for reproduction.
3) They assist in decomposition and can help the roots of trees.
4) They come in many shapes and sizes.

Monday, December 1, 2014

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 will bring up the food that is not eaten (see tater tots and tortellini bellow), and put it in the Pig Post Bin. 

After the food has been placed in the bin, the food gets placed into sealed (animal-proof) containers and left behind the kitchen until Ed (naturalist and pig owner) has a chance to pick it up.

The food is then stored in a refrigerator either on campus or at Ed’s home until it is dinner time!

The pigs are fed twice a day. They eat about 40 pounds a day (a little less when they are younger, a little more when they are older). The leftovers from one meal for 100 students feeds the pigs for an entire day.We host anywhere from 50-500 students a week generally eating 2-3 meals here a day. By feeding the pigs our leftovers about 11,000 lbs of food waste per school year is put to use instead being sent to the landfill (for us, that would be all the way to Nevada!). Since there is a little more food than our pigs can consume in one year, the extra food waste is given to fellow local pig farmers. And just in case you were concerned, we do not serve any pork! 

What do you do to limit food waste? 

What do you with your food waste?