Students at pond

Sierra Streams Nature Camps

We are excited to offer our second year of summer camps for youth! Budding ecologists or kids just looking to have a great week will have a chance to not only enjoy the natural playground around them but to question, investigate, explore and discover. More information

Our curriculum guide

The Nature of This Place, an outdoor science K-8 curriculum guide we developed in collaboration with The Yuba Watershed Institute with funding from the Teichert Foundation, is available for sale or free download from Flicker Press. More information.

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Science Education

The Sierra Streams Education Program offers a variety of science instruction options for the youth of Nevada County. Rooted in the Yuba and Bear watersheds of Nevada County, our program offers an unparalleled educational experience where students of all ages learn core watershed science principles while exploring the rugged beauty of our landscape and waterways. All classes engage students through hands-on and place-based learning while promoting critical thinking and creative problem solving. Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are woven into all of our subject matter as it is developed. Come join us!

Our science education program has three underlying goals:

  • Provide students with a basic understanding of scientific principles through hands-on instruction in our watershed.
  • Promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers for rural youth.
  • Create a new generation of environmental stewards.

Sierra Streams Institute's two core science education programs fill a critical need for rigorous hands-on science instruction for Nevada County youth.

In a time of shrinking state budgets for education, schools are increasingly embracing creative partnerships that enable their students to have access to educational opportunities in the arts and sciences. Through our Science in the Schools program, we are proud to serve as the schools' partner for science education.

To help make science fun and meaningful to students in all arenas, we offer a variety of shorter-term activities through our Camps and Enrichment Activities program that augment classroom-based and book learning.

Click on a box above to learn more about that program.

For more information about the science education program, email Education Coordinator Kelly Hickman at kelly[at] or call (530) 265-6090 ext. 207.

Students examining insects from Deer Creek.

Curriculum Development

With grant funding from the Teichert Foundation and Yuba Watershed Institute, Sierra Streams Institute staff created a standards-based environmental education curriculum guide, The Nature of This Place, specifically for schools in the Sierra foothills. The guide consists of five broad lesson topics, such as Sierra Nevada plant ecology and Chinook salmon life history, with extension activities that allow for further study. The curriculum guide has been implemented in the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, the Yuba River Charter School, and the Nevada City School District in an ongoing effort to improve student performance in science.

We plan to develop a similar guide specific to the high Sierra, for use in classrooms in the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, and to develop additional lesson topics for The Nature of This Place.

College Internships

Sierra Streams Institute is particularly proud to offer high-quality scientific experiences to a large number of interns from several colleges and universities. Internships are a critically important way for young people to gain valuable experience in the working world while earning college credits. Our program offers the quality of opportunity that you might expect in a large city or college town. For Sierra Streams, it provides a much-needed supply of volunteers for our comprehensive summer monitoring and assessment program, as well as a stimulating infusion of youthful energy and enthusiasm.

We have proudly hosted student interns from Sierra College, CSU Sacramento, UC Berkeley, University of the Pacific, University of San Francisco, and UC Davis. These interns have completed a variety of projects, such as making an algae identification manual and creating designs and drawings for publications and notecards. They have also helped us conduct physical habitat assessments, do salmon habitat restoration work, collect survey data from community members for a research project, and teach our educational programs.

Community Service Learning

We offer students at area middle and high schools the opportunity to earn community service hours working on our science and restoration projects, or on projects the students design themselves. Students at Ghidotti High School, Yuba River Charter School, and Forest Charter School—all of which require community service for graduation—have taken advantage of these opportunities. We are delighted that several students became so invested in our restoration work that they come back to volunteer on their own time.

In addition, we have opportunities for Nevada Union High School students to develop scientific research projects for their senior projects, a graduation requirement. We also work closely with the Nevada Union Stream Club.

Early Childhood Education

Children are filled with natural curiosity, endless questions, and a desire to try things out with their own two hands—all the ingredients for making a scientist. Guided by board member Mary Anne Kreshka, professor of Early Childhood Development at Sierra College's Grass Valley campus, we recently began an early childhood education program for preschool-aged children that aims to guide parents and caregivers in nurturing and developing the natural curiosity of children at a young age, so that they enter their school years ready and excited to learn.

We work with students from Sierra College and Ghidotti Early College High School who are enrolled in classes at the Sierra College child development program, and guide them in exploring the wonders of science with young children.


With so much need for high quality science instruction in our schools, many local organizations are stepping in to meet the demand. We believe that our students are best served when we work together, and complement each other's work. Our staff are members of the North Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, an organization that meets regularly to share projects and ideas, and to create partnership opportunities. Member organizations include the following:

  • California State Parks
  • Great Basin Outdoor School
  • KidZone Museum
  • League to Save Lake Tahoe
  • Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships
  • Tahoe Maritime Museum
  • Tahoe Rim Trail Association
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station
  • UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center
  • And many more

It is our plan to replicate this model in western Nevada County, allowing for the many groups engaged in this field to work together to better serve our youth. These groups include the South Yuba River Citizens League, the Bear Yuba Land Trust, Foxwalkers, Live Healthy Nevada County, and the Nevada County Arts Council.

Collaboration with local environmental groups on the Salmon Tour in Fall, 2013. SYRCL, American Rivers, and ETC are represented in this photo.