School Programs

Environmental Education at Donner Summit

Our core programs take place on spectacular Donner Summit, at the top of the Yuba and American River Watersheds -- 7,100 feet elevation in the High Sierra. We are based at the Sierra Club’s historic Clair Tappaan Lodge.



Our Mission:

To provide spirited, adventurous and transformative explorations of the natural world.


To prepare tomorrow’s citizens and leaders for envisioning and creating roles in our emerging green society.


To highlight sustainability in oneself, our relationships, and with the earth’s ecosystems.


To foster systems thinking, intuition, wonder, inquiry, respect, health and confidence




* Serving 5th to 12th grade students.

* Shaped by California State Framework Standards.


Field Science

Forest Ecology

Carbon Sequestration Surveys, habitat assessments, fire ecology. View lesson plans.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a phenology study to help us measure changes in the forest over time.


Wetland Studies

Participate in a long term assessment that is done in collaboration with UC Davis Center for watershed studies:

Learn how to measure amphibians, identify and quantify macro invertebrates, do facies mapping, run transects, and more...


UC Snow Science Lab.  Visit the UC snow Science lab website.


Explorations of the volcanic and granitic landforms. View essay on Summit Geology.

Human History

We walk back in time passing through Tunnel Number Six (infamous as the most difficult-to-complete section of the entire Transcontinental Railroad) – to the craggy gap that the emigrant Stevens and Donner parties struggled through with their wagons – down to some of the oldest petroglyphs found in the Sierra. Along the way we will share readings describing the Chinese rail worker experience, harrowing stories from the emigrant pioneers, and tales of initiation from California’s Native American tribes. Students will do a creative writing assignment describing a “day in the life” from one of the periods studied.


China Wall              Railroad Tunnel



Streamside habitat, erosion control, forest fuels reduction

Planting Trees             Planting Trees


Mountain Adventure

Challenge Hikes, Rock Climbing, Back-Country Skiing and Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Flatwater Kayaking, Swimming in Mountain Lakes.


Rock Climbing   Snowboarding   Snow Cave


Our well-rounded programs feature -

* reflection activities highlighting embodied felt-sense

* art activities

* nature games

* take-home exercises for personal empowerment

* environmental films

* dance and music from the historical periods studied

* evening programs with campfires & student skits


Hiking     Campfire


Faculty:  Includes leading research scientists, credentialed and advanced degree teachers, gifted naturalists, world-class mountaineers, and local deep ecologists.  View staff bios.


The Sierra Club’s Historic Clair Tappaan Lodge:

Ideal for school groups:  plenty of places for gathering, a huge backyard with volleyball, soccer, and a campfire pit. Bunk-style accommodations, large single-gender dorms and smaller group rooms.   Hearty breakfasts and dinners prepared by professional chefs.  Students prepare their own sack lunches each day and pitch in with chores.


Visit the Clair Tappaan Website



Check out sample itineraries for different seasons!   Spring/Summer/Autumn, Winter

The average program is 3-4 days.


Cost of the Program

* $110 per person, per day: 

   Includes lodging, 3 meals per day, guide and educational services.

* Costs may vary depending on group size and activities. Scholarship funding is available.


Equipment List – What Students need to bring. 


For More Information contact:

Peter Mayfield at 

(530) 205-6245

10038 Meadow Way - A Truckee, CA 96161



“This great trip has broadened my perspective on the natural world, its history, and my role for its future.”  Kelly 12th grade
“My guide was extraordinary –brilliant, enthusiastic and energetic, the trip was a terrific success.” Mike McGarry – math teacher
“This program was superb, you met all my needs for educational, cultural, outdoor and social experiences.” Ms. Leslie Trook, Principal A.P. Giannini Middle School
“Can we secure your program for our next year's Freshman Enrichment Block?  From all I observed and heard this year’s experience was a home run for all participants, we are eager to keep it going!” Dr. Al Adams – Headmaster Lick Wilmerding High School