Yosemite Sense of Place

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NatureBridge's environmental science educators lead interactive online sessions designed to introduce the elevation life-zones and ecosystems of Yosemite National Park with a focus on its landscapes, organisms and the history of the people who have called Yosemite home for thousands of years.


Two NatureBridge educators lead each 40 to 60 minute session using a video conference platform such as Zoom. Attending teachers participate as chaperones who observe and assist students as needed. Interactive technology tools may include Google Earth, Jamboards, breakout sessions and participant polls. NatureBridge educators provide teachers with information to share with students who are unable to attend.

Session 1: Community Building 40-60 minute live session

Students meet NatureBridge educators and work as a group to establish community norms and guidelines. Students will engage in team-building activities that help to create a fun and safe learning space to share and interact for future lessons. Students will learn introductory information about Yosemite, such as geography, ecosystems, human history and will participate in a land acknowledgement of the traditional tribes of Yosemite as well as the students' home communities.

Session 2: Intro to Yosemite, Peaks To Canyons 40-60 minute live session

Students are introduced to the life zones and ecosystems in Yosemite National Park, while exploring the adaptations the organisms that call it home need to survive and thrive. Students are taken on a virtual tour in Google Earth, following a flake of snow from the highest peak of Yosemite as it melts and flows into the river, making its way through a variety of ecosystems before it is eventually swept out into the Pacific Ocean. Students then think critically to understand what it would take to gather food, protect themselves from the elements and make it through a year in wild Yosemite. 

Session 3: Life Zones Adaptation Auction 40-60 minute live session

Students explore the elevation life zones across the 11,000 ft elevation range of Yosemite National Park that create habitat and ecosystems allowing a wide diversity of life to thrive. Student feedback determines a life zone for the group to call home. Based on the environmental conditions of their chosen life zone, students work in small groups to "build" an organism by engaging in an auction for unique adaptations that can help their organism gather food, water, and shelter. Once the groups have gathered their adaptations, students design an organism to share with the whole class and discuss the importance of each organism in their environment.



Students will be able to:

  • Build confidence sharing ideas and interacting working with others in a virtual classroom. 
  • Develop understanding of the geographic features responsible for the unique ecosystems and organisms found in Yosemite's elevation life zones.
  • Describe the relationship local tribes have had and continue to have with Yosemite's landscapes and other groups of people. 
  • Make connections between ecosystems in their home communities and those found in Yosemite.
  • Understand how different adaptations allow organisms to survive in Yosemite's life zones. 
  • Design an organism with unique adaptations to support its survival in one of Yosemite's life zones.

NGSS Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS4- Biological & Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Practices: Developing and Using Models

Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect; Patterns, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change, Energy and Matter




Materials Needed

Access to a computer, tablet or other online learning compatible device. Paper and drawing/coloring supplies.

Adult Expectations

At least one teacher will be present throughout each live online session. Other adults may attend by invitation from the teacher or group coordinator. All attending adults must complete NatureBridge’s Participant Registration Form in advance of the session. 

It is the responsibility of attending adults to support student learning and safety during large group instruction and small breakout sessions by following the expectations listed below. 

  • Support students in staying on task. 
  • Address discipline concerns, while allowing students to be engaged and answer questions on their own. 
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude and model inclusive behavior.
  • Communicate with your NatureBridge educator about the educational plan and offer constructive feedback when appropriate.

Schedule this program

We successfully piloted our first season of Distance Learning programs this fall and will resume programming in February 2021. If you would like more information about a Distance Learning program for your class, please fill out the form below and our outreach team will be in touch with you in January to discuss your interest in more detail. 

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