U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 333


Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program winds up season

Sand Canyon is an ideal setting to explore aquatic and riparian ecosystems and to contrast these with the surrounding desert ecosystem. The babble of the flowing stream is beautiful music to all of us from the desert. Through Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (SEEP), students come to observe the variety of life in the canyon today – and hear about the primitive living conditions of the family who lived in Sand Canyon in the 1930s and 1940s. (story continues below)

"Everyone gets excited when they spot a hawk soaring above them or a shrike perched in a treetop, scanning the desert floor for an unsuspecting lizard"
Students with binoculars: Everyone gets excited when they spot a hawk soaring above them or a shrike perched in a treetop, scanning the desert floor for an unsuspecting lizard.

SEEP recently conducted its final field trip of the season, and followed up with an ice cream social for volunteers and contributors at BLM-California's Ridgecrest Field Office. SEEP is a community-based program in Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley. Partners include the Indian Wells Water District, Maturango Museum, Audubon Society, Historical Society, Sierra Sands School District, Benz Disposal Co., Aqua Bonita fly fishers, CA Native Plant Society, Quail Unlimited, and many other local groups and businesses that donate to the program.

The program serves all fourth-graders in the area -- about 500 students from eight different schools. The experience is designed to give the children an appreciation of natural ecosystems and to emphasize the importance of water conservation in our desert environment. BLM is one of ten different community partners involved in the program, donating use of equipment and providing a SEEP supervisor and personnel who volunteer their services.

The learning begins before each field trip, when community volunteers visit classrooms. These sessions introduce the actual hands-on learning in the field.
The volunteers enjoy sharing their knowledge, and the students enjoy being out in nature and away from the classrooms. The children often develop life-long interests from these new experiences.  

The field trips are all-day events in Sand Canyon where groups of about 12 to 15 students visit the different learning stations: Aquatics, Birds, Plants, History, Archaeology, and Art.

The students pull on rubber boots at the Aquatics Station, gently step into the stream, and scoop up aquatic invertebrates in their nets. They are always excited to spot frogs and crayfish hopping or swimming in the stream. They empty their nets into tubs of water, and observe the differences between caddisfly, mayfly, dobson fly, and stone fly larvae, as well as many other organisms.
Students walk single-file in their rubber boots on the way to the stream

The volunteers who instruct at the Bird Station are from the local Audubon Society. They pass out binoculars to the students and lead them on a bird-watching hike. Everyone gets excited when they spot a hawk soaring above them or a shrike perched in a treetop, scanning the desert floor for an unsuspecting lizard.

California Native Plant Society members volunteer at the Plant Station where they emphasize adaptations to intense heat and drought. In addition, they contrast desert plant species to the nearby aquatic and riparian and aquatic plants, including shady cottonwood trees and lush green water cress.

Students sketch and take notes as a volunteer from the California Native Plant Society points out features of a desert plant:
Students sketch and take notes of plants presented by volunteers from the California Native Plant Society

We have had volunteers at the History Station who actually lived at Sand Canyon Station as children when their father worked as an “aqueduct patrolman.”  These volunteers demonstrate how the giant siphon in Sand Canyon works. They also show how the old wash tub and ringer were used and how the heavy iron was heated and pressed across clothing since the luxury of electricity was unavailable.

"Old-timers" show a group of youngsters how to use an old wash tub and clothes wringer:
"Old-timers" show a group of youngsters how to use an old clothes-washing tub and hand ringer

At the Archaeology Station students learn about Native American crafts and how Native Americans made use of different plant materials.

At the Art Station students creatively express themselves through drawings of the fascinating features in Sand Canyon.

- Shelly Ellis, wildlife biologist, BLM-California Ridgecrest Field Office, May 2008


BLM-California News.bytes, issue 333


 
Last updated: 05-28-2008