Discovery Center Yurt

Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP) is a nonprofit based out of the Tahoe Truckee Region that promotes environmental stewardship by connecting students to their community and local environment through comprehensive watershed education and service-learning.

“Action fosters hope.” – Missy Mohler, SWEP Executive Director

What's Happening at the Discovery Center (yurt)?

The Tahoe XC yurt, aka the Discovery Center, or more commonly, and simply, The Yurt, is home to Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP) year-round programs. SWEP curriculum abides by national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) allowing students to be active in their learning through hands-on explorations that utilize models, incorporate real-world data collection and environmental monitoring. Together Tahoe XC and SWEP get local kids outside and learning with a focus on year-round forest ecology, watershed science, and outdoor recreation.

A Typical SWEP Day at the Winter Discovery Center

In the Winter, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade students arrive, get their ski equipment from Tahoe XC rental shop and ski over to the Discovery Center yurt. They begin their day with a 1.5-hour science lesson specific to their grade level inside the yurt. They complete hands-on snow science investigations, winter animal and plant adaptations or participate in place-based snow data collections. Afterwards, teachers lead self-guided cross-country ski tours on Tahoe XC groomed trails.

Animal Monitoring Program – SWEP staff sets up and monitors motion-triggered cameras within the Tahoe XC trail system to monitor wildlife. The captured images of wildlife are sent to classrooms that have participated in the SWEP program at the Winter Discovery Center. Through this program students learn about Tahoe’s wildlife.

Snow School Snowpack Prediction Contest – The Winter Discovery Center is an official Winter Wildlands Alliance Snow School site. Each year, in collaboration with Snow School, SWEP invites WDC participants to join in our annual Snowpack Prediction Contest. Students monitor current and historic SnowTel data to guide their predictions and submit their final predictions in mid February. Through this extension program students are further connected to their watershed, environment and the work of professional scientists. Winners are announced in mid-April and are rewarded with a pizza party with a local snow scientist.

SWEP Program Details

  • 10 weeks, January-March on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
  • Designed for 3rd, 4th, 5th students following NGSS
  • Teachers and students receive cross-country ski equipment rentals and a day ticket from Tahoe XC
  • Tahoe and Truckee Schools are invited to register (local TTUSD district & non-district schools are welcome)
  • Registration opens early December and typically books up within the first hour. Stay tuned for registration link and details.
  • To register your class please contact Ashley Phillips at

Your Donations at Work

Each year, Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Education Association (TCCSEA) sub-contracts SWEP to provide education at the Winter Discovery Center. TCCSEA fundraising includes donations, grant writing and events.

Get Involved

We need consistent funding to maintain SWEP programming as a part of the Winter Discovery Center. The TCCSEA donation is just enough to cover base costs. For the Winter Discovery Center to grow, we need to reach higher fundraising goals. We are also seeking consistent, annual fundraising opportunities and are open to ideas!

Donate to TCCSEA for Winter Discovery Center specifically. We need to raise at least $7,000 every year to cover base costs. Donors such as Clyde and Gail Batavia have had a huge impact on the success of the Winter Discovery Center programming.

Donate to TCCSEA for kids’ scholarships at the Winter Discovery Center to help students who cannot pay the small donation fee required to participate in SWEP.

Donate directly to SWEP to promote environmental stewardship, comprehensive learning and to connect students to their community and local environment through a variety of year-round SWEP programs.

“A lot of communities live near ski areas, but the kids aren’t exposed to snow science. The Winter Discovery Center is a unique opportunity to have kids experience winter in a cool, hands-on way” – Missy Mohler, SWEP Executive Director

Brief History of SWEP

Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships (SWEP) is a small, community-oriented non-profit organization based within the Tahoe Truckee Region. We started in 1994 as a small group of parents and teachers interested in providing comprehensive science & environmental education to local students that connect them to their neighborhood creeks and forests.

In 1995, SWEP received a grant from AmeriCorps and Adopt-A-Watershed and began to incorporate science programs, outdoor field studies, and ecological restoration projects into the curriculum of our local school district. SWEP was officially incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 1996. Through the years SWEP has collaborated with many new partners to promote stewardship through student and school sustainability efforts, student advocacy and winter science; alongside our steadfast and valued field work, science festivals and other environmental education programs.

We currently have multiple staff members, a committed volunteer core, and an active Board of Directors that collectively help us achieve our mission.

This is a partnership that works.

Your $5 donation today ensures SWEP remains a critical snow science program and partner of Tahoe XC.