Explaining the Cycles

Circles and Cycles, an environmental education guide to the watersheds in Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne Counties, was developed by the sponsorship of the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to provide educators with opportunities to expand their classrooms, to connect community resources with the students’ learning experience, and to bring a sense of awe about the beauty surrounding the communities in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Ultimately, the students become loving, well-educated stewards of the land. A circle in nature has a beginning and an end. The planets are round, birds make nests in circles, daisies and sunflowers are in a circle, a slice of an orange creates a wheel. A cycle is a circle that repeats itself: the cycle of the seasons, life of man, the water cycle, plant cycle, the salmon cycle, lunar cycle, the cycle of day and night. This guide, for kindergarten through twelfth grades, is arranged in a circle of four themes relating to the stewardship of a watershed: Energy, Water, Land, and Air, the four elements, centered around Mother Nature’s forces.
Four elements: Water, Energy, Land, Air

Planning the Field Trip

Presenting Watershed Activities

Science is everywhere. The key is to approach it as an investigation. There are seven steps to scientific discovery.

  1. Observe—Observing is the process of looking closely, noticing things from different view points and quietly watching and waiting without much doing. One needs to remind the student to breathe and to take time to use all of his senses to interpret the world around him.
  2. Compare—After observing objects or phenomena, the student then notices similarities and differences. He goes beyond telling what he sees to expressing the relationship between things.
  3. Sort and organize—From comparison the process moves to a more abstract and representational level of thinking. Matching groups, and organizing materials in many different ways, she will begin to understand that objects can belong to more than one group at a time.
  4. Wonder, predict, and hypothesize—This is the process of questioning and speculating based on what the student has learned in the previous three steps. The innate quality of curiosity will bring about questions and wonder, and predictions will come through experiences. Therefore, provide a lot of opportunities for this process skill.
  5. Experiment, test, and explore—Provide plenty of different materials and time to try out ideas and predictions. It is important to play with experiments over many days so the student can think about it.
  6. Record results—Now it’s time to communicate to others the findings of the experiment. This is an important step because it asks the student to take concrete experience, verbalize it, and represent the information abstractly using graphs, drawings, etc.
  7. Extend, expand and apply—Applying the information to a larger field of experience, broadening the scope of the experiments, and trying them again with new materials to see if one’s understandings are consistent, essential parts of any good science study.

The scientific process is incomplete without reflection. The student develops more complex, complete, and accurate ideas of the world through an accumulation of experiences and explorations with people and objects in that world. Finding ways to connect science with other learning areas such as art, music, and language (vocabulary building) can help.

  1. Circles and Cycles in Nature
  2. Walk with Respect
  3. What is a Watershed?

Maps of Local Watersheds


We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this second edition of Circles and Cycles: Watershed Guide for Educators in Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne Counties. For the past five years, this guide was developed with the help of many professionals who have worked to write, field test, edit and review this unique outdoor education resource.

Special thanks to:

Stewardship Through Education (LLC) Team, Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority: East Bay Municipal Utility District, Calaveras County Water District, Calaveras Public Utility District, Tuolumne Utilities District, U.S. Forest Service, Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District, Amador Water District, Jackson Valley Irrigation, Alpine Water District, Amador County, Calaveras County, County Offices of Education, School Districts and Educators in Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Amador Counties, Bureau of Land Management, California Oak Foundation, California Department of Fish and Game, Bureau of Reclamation U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Central Sierra Resource Conservation and Development, Mokelumne Hill Library, Mountain Oaks School and the Native Americans, the first stewards of the land.

Circles and Cycles: Watershed Guide for Educators in Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties.
2nd edition, 2013, by Stewardship Through Education, LLC.

Funding for this project has been provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an agency of the State of California, and the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority.

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