Outdoor Education Programs

On this page: Taking Root, Eastern Sierra Watershed Project, Family Science Nights, Science Camp, Summer Camp, School Gardens, Trout in the Classroom

Note that schools are currently on distance learning due to the pandemic. We are working on doing virtual lessons with “outdoor homework” and hope to return to field programs as students return to class.

Taking Root (3rd-Grade)

Taking Root is a monthly field study program for 3rd-grade students throughout the Owens Valley. It is supported by partnerships with the Bishop and Big Pine Paiute Tribes, Eastern Sierra Audubon, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA), the Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT), and the Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education (ESICE). The monthly lessons are presented by docent instructors. The docents and teachers walk their classes to a field site near their schools for an hour and a half lesson in the skills of a scientist, such as observation, documentation, experimentation, and journaling, culminating with the Audubon Birds in the Classroom lessons involving field birding with binoculars and bird books, observing and identifying birds in May at the peak of migration.

If you are interested in becoming a docent and committing to teaching a 3rd-grade class field lessons one day a month from September through May, we’d love to hear from you! Training, lesson plans, materials, and support are provided. We also need birding volunteers to help in May! Contact Maggie Riley, Outdoor Education and Science Specialist, at or 760-873-3262, ext. 2131.

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Eastern Sierra Watershed Project (Grades 2, 4, 6, 7, 8)

The Eastern Sierra Watershed Project (ESWP), started by the local non-profit Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education, began as a countywide, middle school science education program organized around the historic re-watering of the Lower Owens River. Middle school science teachers throughout Inyo County met with local scientists and land managers to create a curriculum to introduce their students to watersheds, watershed monitoring, data collection, and the management of water resources. Through partnerships with LADWP, Bureau of Land Management, California Fish and Wildlife, the Bishop Paiute Tribe, and the Inyo County Office of Education, ESWP expanded its field study programs to provide field science opportunities for grades 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

Eastern Sierra Watershed Project programs provide students the opportunity to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills.  ESWP curriculum includes hands-on, inquiry-based classroom activities to integrate the student field experiences into the classroom.  Science kits are provided by ESWP for the classroom activities.

Today the program is administered by Inyo County Office of Education (ICOE) and is able to continue to thrive and reach new generations of Owens Valley students through generous grant funding by the Branson Family Foundation and BLM Hands on the Land program, and the efforts of many, many dedicated volunteers. The Outdoor Education and Science Specialist at ICOE continues to work with local teachers to provide classroom kits, schedule field trips, hire and train docent field science instructors, and implement all field programs.

If you are interested in signing up to be a docent field instructor, please contact Maggie Riley at or 760-873-3262 x2131.

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Family Science Nights – “Exploring Extreme Environments Through Hands-On Science”

Family Science Nights are held every other year (odd-numbered years) in February, alternating with the Inyo County Science Fair. The event was developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science in conjunction with the Eastern Sierra Institute for Collaborative Education. The events are now coordinated by Inyo County Office of Education in collaboration with the schools, teachers, volunteers, and science docents. At the events, there are several stations where students and their families can come and explore learning about our local environment through fun hands-on activities. The target audience includes elementary to middle school students in grades 3 – 8 and their families. All students must be accompanied by a parent, and younger siblings are welcome! These fun events are open to the public from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

If you are interested in helping staff a table at one of our Family Science Nights, please contact Inyo County Office of Education Science and Outdoor Education Coordinator, Maggie Riley, at or 760-873-3262 x2131.

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Outdoor Science School (aka Science Camp – Grades 5 or 6)

What better place to study natural science than the meadows, streams, and deserts of the great outdoors? That’s what 5th and/or 6th-grade students get to do for a week at Science Camp with their classroom teachers and Field Science Instructors. Our Science Camp is not just camp, it is part of School – it is Outdoor Science School. We believe that the best science classroom has no walls! We will be learning about geology from inside a volcano – exploring lava tubes on Crater Mountain! We will study Ecosystems, Adaptations, Geology, Astronomy, and more in the Outdoor Classroom. We’ll be living, eating, breathing, singing, and acting out our Science lessons while having a great time in the outdoors.

Camp is usually held in October of each year. Classroom teachers will send camp information and registration materials home in September. See parent handbooks online for more information.

High School students who are interested in science, the outdoors, and leadership are encouraged to volunteer as counselors for Science Camp. They can earn up to 50 hours of community service credit, get a letter of reference, and valuable leadership training and experience.

For more information, contact Inyo County Office of Education Science and Outdoor Education Coordinator, Maggie Riley, at or 760-873-3262 x2131.

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Sierra Adventure Summer Camp (Middle School) CANCELED for 2020 due to COVID19

5 day overnight camp at Sierra Adventure Center near Big Pine
Register Online Starting in May!

  • Archery and Whittling
  • Hiking and Exploration
  • Swimming (at OVUSD pool with lifeguard)
  • Creek Stomp
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Fun and Games
  • Talent Night
  • Sleep under the stars (Thursday night)

Instructors: All current instructors are teachers during the school year who love kids and getting outdoors – we are so very lucky to have such wonderful instructors to make this experience for campers not only fun (and secretly educational at times), but safe and supportive as well.

Philosophy: Summer Camp is a chance for children to become more self-reliant, to challenge themselves in a safe environment of support and supervision, to grow, and to be proud of themselves for what they accomplish. This is an outdoor, nature camp, away from electronics, cell phones, video games, and other distractions of modern life. It is a chance for kids to get to just be kids and become comfortable having outdoor adventures. We start each day with appreciations, and actively work toward creating a kind, cooperative, supportive community during the week, and at our closing ceremony, the effects of that focus are evident in the wonderful things campers say.

Dates: last 2 weeks in June (first week boys, second week girls).

  • Boys’ Week – June 15-19, 2020 CANCELED for 2020 due to COVID19
  • Girls’ Week – June 22-26, 2020 CANCELED for 2020 due to COVID19

Registration will be available for 2020 dates starting in April: http://app.campdoc.com/register/inyocountyschools

Open to all Inyo County Students who will be going into 6th, 7th, or 8th grade the following fall.

See Parents’ Guide to Summer Camp for more information (also in Spanish). Also, see tips on preventing homesickness here.

Questions? Contact Inyo County Office of Education Science and Outdoor Education Coordinator, Maggie Riley, at or 760-873-3262 x2131.

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School Gardens Program (K-1)

Primary school students in the Owens Valley are learning about healthy eating and science concepts as they plant gardens, harvest their crops, and eat tasty dishes with the plants they grow. Sustained by grant funding, ICOE facilitates the school garden program.  For 10 weeks in the fall, kindergarten and/or first-grade students at each school participate in one 30-minute garden-related lesson each week. Students plant beets, chard, and carrots. After harvesting the vegetables, students make and eat vegetable soup. Another set of 10 lessons is offered in the spring where students grow lettuce, peas, spinach, and radishes. During the last lesson, students harvest their vegetables and make a delicious salad to share. Currently, the program is serving over 250 gardeners to be!

For more information, contact Inyo County Office of Education Education Services Department Specialist, Mini Doonan, at or 760-873-3262 x2106.

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Trout in the Classroom

Students learn first-hand about aquatic life by observing live trout as they hatch and develop over a six-week period. After the six weeks, students release the trout into local watersheds to continue their life cycle. This program is offered each year through a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Inyo County Office of Education.

For more information, contact Inyo County Office of Education Education Services Program Coordinator, Mini Doonan, at or 760-873-3262 x2106.

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