McMains Crew News: September 26, 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fieldwork

Wow, what a kick-off to our fall expedition! Our 4 fabulous days and 3 nights in Lassen Volcanic National Park were filled with wildlife, shooting stars, and intense geological encounters. (Crew photos are now on our blog as well as the link to your right....)

Students presented the lessons they had prepared prior to the trip and taught us about the different types of lava flows, how to identify 4 types of volcanoes, how to interpret hydrothermal features, and about the ecology of the park. We experienced the information first–hand as we crawled through lava tubes, hiked down into a cinder cone volcano, smelled fumeroles, listened to bubbling mudpots and felt the temperature of runoff from hot springs.

We had special encounters with a black bear, a red-tailed hawk and a doe nursing twin fawns! The night sky was alight with green shooting stars.

We even had a reading adventure when we read and text-coded two passages at a high school level in order to learn about the park’s ecology!

Best of all, every crewmember faced challenges and overcame them through perseverance – some emotional, some physical, some intellectual.

Giant thanks to every adult who pitched in to drive, cook, shop, hike, encourage, hug, share, and sleep outside! Talk about it taking a village!

Remember to check our Crew Blog for assignments and fieldwork schedules:


As your child’s first and most important teacher, you can be a powerful force in your child’s efforts to become a skillful reader. Whether your child is already a proficient reader, or is a struggling or reluctant reader, your positive encouragement can help them make continuous strides toward success.

Here are some suggestions on how you can support reading at home.

  1. Encourage your child to read for 30 minutes before going to sleep each night.
  2. Create a quiet, special place in your home for your child toread. Keep books and reading materials readily available.
  3. Help your child see that reading is important. Set a good example for your child byreading books, newspapers, and magazines. Talk about what you are reading.
  4. Be attentive to your child’s interests and developing skills. Remember to be somewhat non-judgmental about the text your child chooses: cartoons, instructions for video games, fantasy, sports, or fashion magazines can be the key to unlocking a lifetime of reading pleasure.
  5. Allow your child to subscribe to magazines based on his/her interests to encouragefrequent reading.
  6. Read and discuss newspaper and magazine articles. An article beside the breakfast bowl can provide a great alternative to the usual, routine conversations!
  7. Visit bookstores, public and school libraries regularly to find materials for pleasurereading.
  8. Turn the television off at least once a week and read as a family. Discuss whateveryone is reading.
  9. Remind your child that sometimes adults have “homework” to do as well (i.e. reading reports, doing performance appraisals, research, etc.). This will allow your child to see the connection of reading to real life.
  10. Create a family “word wall” on a bulletin board or the refrigerator. Share new words you came across in your reading and what they mean.
  11. Take reading materials with you to shared outings. Encourage your child to readwhile riding in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office, passing time between activities.
  12. If your child has an assigned reading, try to read the same book so you can havemeaningful discussions about the story. If your child is struggling to complete an assigned reading, try taking turns listening to him/her read, and reading aloud to your child, checking frequently for understanding.
  13. Ask your child about reading strategies he/she has learned at school. Have your childuse these strategies when reading at home.
  14. Encourage your child to re-read material to get a deeper understanding of itscontents. This is particularly true for non-fiction material (textbook content) andmaterial written above grade level.
  15. Discuss the importance and approach of reading for different purposes: to entertain,to inform, to persuade, etc. Reading for different purposes helps to define the speed and depth of understanding to apply to that reading.
  16. Distinguish between skimming, scanning, speed reading, and reading for deep understanding. Help your child to understand the appropriate applications of each.
  17. Encourage “engagement strategies” such as highlighting, using post-it notes, underlining, and developing questions as your child reads. These behaviors help to habitualize the process of making-meaning and to ensure your child is doing morethan reading the words on the page. Although your child should never mark in alibrary or school textbook, cutting post-it notes into smaller “flags” can serve a similarpurpose.
  18. Write notes recognizing your child’s accomplishments. A little praise can go a longway!
  19. Reward progress with a trip to the bookstore to select a special book.
  20. Consider purchasing an electronic reader (i.e. Kindle, Nook, etc.). E-readers havebecome very popular and may entice your child to read more often.
  21. Emphasize the importance of reading as a life-long habit and encourage its frequent practice.

Send Appeal Letter

donate icon

Help us grow. We are dreaming big! Send out our donation letter

Donate via Check

Make checks payable to SELS and send to:
Sierra Expeditionary Learning School
PO Box 2179
Truckee, CA 96160

Donate Online


Setup a monthly recurring contribution for 12 months.

Monthly Options

NOTE: PayPal charges 2.2% of the donation as a transaction fee. If you'd like all your donation to go to SELS, please send us a check.

SELS is a 501c(3) non-profit corporation, Truckee Charter School Foundation, dba Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. Federal Tax ID: 27-1627347.

Latest McMains Crew photos:

McMains Crew 2012-13

McMains Crew Events Calendar (click 'McMains Crew' checkbox at the top)

The McMains crew email list is ''. To get added to this list, please contact Reenie.

For Parents

Staff Login



11603 Donner Pass Road
Truckee, CA 96161
Portable buildings M3-M7

Phone: (530) 448-8115
Fax: (530) 448-8223
Find us on a map


On top of all the teaching and learning, I'm struck by the joy in the faces of all the children as they go about their quest for knowledge. Thanks to all the courageous and energetic people who had the vision to make this school a reality. With all the challenges the world faces today and predictions of disaster, these committed teachers/staff, these engaged families, and these beautiful children are a beacon of hope.

SELS embodies everything that I feel is important in my child's education and I am so grateful that she has the opportunity to learn in such an enriching environment. Teaching our children how to think and how to treat others is critical to their future success. I am thankful every single day for all the wonderful staff at SELS.

What an amazing place. It has been everything for my son that I had hoped he could experience in school. Great teacher, stimulating learning environment, and a deeply caring and nurturing place.

I am grateful that my child is encouraged to interpret concepts and think about how they apply to his life, not just memorize and repeat material. I love that SELS asks kids to think about who they are and how they contribute to the community, locally and globally.

I greatly appreciate that SELS is a heart-centered school that teaches ethics and values along with academics. That approach makes SELS a unique and special place.

I appreciate all the teachers and staff and their responsiveness. I also appreciate all the work the staff are doing to help the kids figure out how to fill each other's buckets!

Our son is bubbling over with excitement for learning. This environment is gifting him with life long skills to succeed. We are so thankful for this school.

All the Adults and students challenge each other the THINK!

SELS is amazing in the way they teach topics hands on and allow the children to learn in practical settings. We couldn't be happier seeing our son flourish so much! Thank you.

I am very grateful to the SELS staff for offering my 5th grader their hearts, as well as their knowledge. Better yet, they make learning fun and adventurous! My youngster is THRIVING at your wonderful school!!

We are thankful for many wonderful ideals and principles at SELS, but what really brings those into reality is the caring, hard-working teachers and staff. We wouldn't have thought that someone else would care as much about the whole education of our daughter as much as we do, but there is a whole team of such people at SELS.

I am so thankful that my 5th grade daughter is a member and student of this beautiful community and school. She is receiving a fantastic education with hands on learning, caring, understanding, creative, out of the box thinking and intuitive teachers. She feels included, important, confident and is growing tons in her knowledge and place in this wonderful community. Thank you SELS for being an amazing part of my daughter's education and Life!

I truly appreciate all the staff, students, parents and families at SELS. It is these people that make SELS so wonderful.
This has become a new 'family" for us!

I am so grateful for the amazing staff; they are the most amazing guides. It is an inspiration to watch them help our children learn and grow into thoughtful, independent, productive human beings!
Scroll to Top