Lee Vining High has adopted some of Bridgeport Academy’s practices since the recent merge last year. One of which is an “interim Period” of about four weeks after the students have completed the majority of their coursework for the year. The students have the opportunity to choose between courses such as: industrial arts, drama, and natural history. Each are a great opportunity for students to experience and try out something they may want to do in their futures; or just have a good time with classmates and learn things that are becoming more and more non-traditional in the classroom these days.

lvhs kids atop mt biedeman

The Natural History class is about 11 students, and they are learning all about the natural and cultural resources of the Eastern Sierra, from Bishop to the White Mountains, from Mono Lake to the Bodie Hills. Last week, I had the opportunity to take the kids up to the top of Mt. Biedeman (see photo) in the heart of the Mt. Biedeman Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the south end of the Bodie Hills. As I’m finding many places on the east side to be, this place provided great opportunity to discuss the history of the Mono Basin, from the Paiute lifestyle to the gold miners, to the story of Los Angeles in the region. It is also a great place to talk about natural resource management and how we’ve consumed resources, and used the land historically versus currently, and the impacts resulting from both.

It was a little windy and early in the season, making the birding and botanizing a little sparse, but there was still plenty to see and talk about. We did flush a Sage grouse hen, but it would be hard not to, what with all the leks within that particular WSA. We waded through the sagebrush and slid across spring snow patches, and made our way up the peak. For some of these students, it was their first time “bagging a peak”, and seeing a peak register, even for high school kids that have grown up in the area. The view atop Mt. Biedeman is fairly spectacular, as it is nearly 9,000′ in elevation, and very close to Mono Lake, which provides an unparalleled view of the Mono Basin from that vantage. In addition to having great opportunities to talk about the Mono Basin, the Bodie Hills, and the local natural history, the students can pick out mountain ranges including the Whites, Glass, Sweetwaters, Wassuck, and the Anchorite Hills, as well as the Sierra of course. For anyone that hasn’t been up there, it’s an easy peak that is quite rewarding, and a fun ski in the winter!

All in all, the students really enjoyed just getting out of the classroom, and getting outside for a break. Which, in my opinion, is a learning experience in and of itself. These students are trying to figure out what they want to do with their futures, and may learn what they don’t want to do. No matter what they go on to do through and after high school, I hope that this experience, along with the rest of their four week course, provides some insight into the natural world, the importance of the ecology of their unique backyard, and the importance of taking care of our last wild undeveloped spaces.