After an amazing year, we are sad to say that our AmeriCorps Member/Education Coordinator, Claire, has reached the end of her one-year service term. Claire came to us through the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) and did an outstanding job leading our Community Connections, Sunflower Kids, and Eastside Pollinator Garden programs among other roles. Claire organized many of our most popular events, taught numerous outdoor education classes, and strengthened our community’s ties to the Eastern Sierra. From everyone at ESLT, thank you, Claire!
We sat down with Claire and reflected on her experience at ESLT.
What were some highlights from leading ESLT’s youth education program?
The Sunflower Kids program is great. Students plant a sunflower seed and watch it grow through the duration of the program. The kids were excited to come back through the summertime to see their sunflowers grow tall.
I loved working with ESLT’s native plant garden – the kids got a lot out of that. They really enjoyed seeing plants that they already knew as well as learning about new species. Since those visits are in the spring, lots of different plants are blooming, and the pollinators are out.
There is a bunch of outdoor education in Bishop. I also took part in the Taking Root and Branching Out programs which take place at the COSA. The Inyo County Office of Education partners with the Bishop Paiute Tribe for those.
Claire led a lesson on plants and pollinators at the Lone Pine Tribal Environmental Youth Camp.
What was most rewarding about those experiences for you?
I love the “aha” moment when the kids are really interested in something. One moment that comes to mind is when we were learning about pollinators and how they eat. I printed out pictures of butterflies and their proboscis – the students thought the proboscis was crazy!
When I led the native plant field trip, I got really cute thank you letters, and that was super rewarding. All the kids wrote things like, “thank you so much. I had lots of fun painting!” With that program, too, it was cool to see how excited about just being outside and painting plants they were. I loved their excitement.
Coming into this role, I wasn’t sure that education was the thing that I wanted to do. I had done a lot of fieldwork in the past. Coming out of it, I know that outdoor education is very important, and that teaching can really help you grow as a person in the environmental field. Being able to communicate about nature and science is a valuable skill.
Did you learn anything about the local conservation community in the last year?
It is a great community. A lot of people that are interested in conservation are involved in multiple organizations. There are so many people that want to steward the land. I enjoyed creating opportunities for folks to do something meaningful and meet other like-minded people.
ESLT partnered with a number of local organizations and volunteers for this year’s Great Sierra River Cleanup.
Has your perception of the Eastern Sierra changed?
I learned a lot about this area – ecologically, community-wise, and geographically. There are many more small communities outside of Bishop that I was not aware of. It makes me optimistic to see what’s going on in conservation around here. People are finding creative solutions to the issues at hand.
I enjoyed seeing people’s gardens and learning how they’re using their space in a creative way. There are so many pretty gardens in this area, and a lot of them were nearly ready to be certified when I got there. It’s cool to see how many people in this area are into native plant gardening.
I got the chance to strengthen ESLT’s relationship with the Master Gardeners a lot while working on the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project – at events such as the Deep Roots Pollinator Garden Workshop and the Pollinator Garden Inspiration Tour.
What would you say to someone taking on your role in the future?
You’re going to meet a lot of community members and make connections with other nonprofits and businesses in town. There is so much room for partnerships around here since it’s a smaller town – people really want to work together. ESLT is very community driven. It’s energizing to be in touch with the community, especially if you’re an early-career professional. It can open a lot of doors for you in the Eastern Sierra
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m applying to graduate schools! I want to pursue a master’s in ecology.
A master’s related to the Eastern Sierra?
Maybe! This is a really special place for me – it would be amazing to do my research here.
If you enjoyed volunteering with Claire this year at an event and want to get in touch, you can reach out at