By: Andrea Brophy, Friends Environmental Educator
For the past six months I’ve been bringing Mr. Dennis’ 2nd and 3rd grade class of San Antonio Elementary to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. They come every other Thursday, and as of March the kids have been to the refuge eight times. For a kid, going somewhere eight times or even two times can get boring, but the refuge never ceases to provide entertainment. One trip we saw a tarantula hawk eating a spider, then a snake, and some coyote scat. The next visit there was a bald eagle right in binocular view, and a group of javalina scurrying across the road. Even after the umpteenth time the kids watched a group of snow geese take flight, they still stopped in their tracks and said, “WHOOOAAA”. This amazement and discovery is exactly what environmental education is.
In addition to all these field trips I go to their classroom every other Tuesday. During these in class sessions, I teach about the scientific concepts and prep them for the Thursday field trip. There are three units that consist of 4 weeks, and each unit has a different theme. In correlation with the program Mr. Dennis assigns projects to enrich the experience. During the bird unit, the students each had a different bird that they were writing a report on. Watching their faces light up in delight when they saw their bird, in real life, on the refuge was priceless.
ECOLAB is about creating a relationship with a natural place, and understanding that new things can always be revealed and learned by taking the time to observe and enjoy. The students are taught what a habitat or a carnivore is, but for a child to discover how to take true pleasure in nature is a lesson that is invaluable.
If it wasn’t for your support, this program would cease. Your support is fundamental for programs like this to continue, and we are very grateful to have members that care so much!
If you’re interested in volunteering for this program please call 575-838-2110 or email Friends Environmental Educator for more information.
Memberships and donations to the Friends of the Bosque de Apache NWR make programs like these possible.
Thank you for all your help!
Refuge Ecologist Gina Dello Russo, engages students with a planting project at the refuge. The kids planted over 200 plants that day!
Matt Mitchell was back with his birds. This time he had an Aplomado Falcon to share. The kids each got a turn holding her.
Before going out to bird, the kids wanted to check the bird count. They were very impressed with the numbers.
The kids fine tuned their crane behavior skills with a behavior scavenger hunt. They got to observe all the cranes’ fancy moves.
The refuge has given the class their own monitoring site. The kids are monitoring groundwater levels, precipitation and weather. The students also set up 2 plots to monitor vegetation throughout the year.
Students learned about how fire helps habitat at the refuge. They even got to watch a prescribed burn! Andy Lopez, Fire Operations Specialist, answers all the kids' questions.
Anthony Montoya, heavy equipment operator for the refuge, lets the students climb up into many different tractors used for habitat management.
Bald eagle sighting on the Marsh Deck! The students took a good look at the eagle through their binoculars and were excited to look it up in their guide books.
“Ms. Andrea, this is not a juvenile and they only lay two eggs.”
Vole, mole, mouse or bird?
Each student dissected an owl pellet, and then identified what the owl ate with help from the bone chart.
Students gather at the Marsh Overlook to write in their nature journals.
We saw Tyler’s bird the merganser and Olivia’s bird the cormorant at the boardwalk. They also put those binoculars to good use with a noisy flock of snow geese off in the distance.
Bird banding was on the agenda for this field trip.
Students learned about the different kinds of ducks at Bosque, but I think holding them was the highlight of the day. Hands on learning at its best!
Dr. Dave Love with the NM Bureau of Geology led a hike on the refuge’s canyon trail. On the way he stopped and used the ‘fizz test’ on a rock to check for calcium carbonate. Students also had fun exploring the canyon.
Grab your trowels! Students dug into the river bed to investigate the different clay
and sand layers. They learned that the different color sediments represent specific arroyos in the area.
Refuge Biologist, Ashley Inslee catches a Western Coachwhip for the kids to see up close. The brave were allowed to touch!
What's the difference between looking at something and really seeing something?
Students hone their observation skills by exploring a 3'x3' area, and listing the tiniest things they can find.
Who's the sneakiest fox?
Students learn that predators must be very quiet and sneaky to catch their prey, while prey animals need to listen carefully and be alert to avoid being eaten!
Matt Mitchell, Friends Vice President, shows the class one of his peregrine falcons, and discusses their amazing adaptations.
Students draw the clay and sand striations in a pit dug by Refuge staff. Refuge Biologist, Ashley Inslee explains different soil types indicate what water does on the surface and below.
Students increase their understanding of wetlands when they use a sponge to simulate how wetlands capture, store and release water.
Each child in the program is equipped with a discovery pack that includes
a backpack, nature journal with pencils and crayons, a track and scat guide, a pocket guide of common plants and animals, and a magnifying bug box.
Students take a break from catching macroinvertebrates to watch a flock of snow geese take flight.
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