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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 352

'Hands on the Land' teaches science

For years, elementary school students have learned about natural and heritage resources through programs at BLM’s San Joaquin River Gorge.

This year, 19 middle school and high school students from the Sierra Unified School District worked and learned through a new, month-long, “Hands on the Land” Summer Science program. (text continues below)

Students collect water samples along the San Joaquin River
Students collect water samples along the San Joaquin River

Students laid their hands on the land by building trails, cleaning up debris, improving riparian habitat and performing other maintenance work. They visited a hydropower generating plant and collected water samples along the river to learn about the environment and uses of the river.

“This program was so valuable because the students were exposed to many types of projects and resources.  They got their hands dirty, learning by doing,” said Tracy Rowland, BLM San Joaquin Gorge manager.

The program benefited both BLM and the students, she explained. “We got a lot of our maintenance backlog taken care of that we couldn’t have done any other way,” she said. In addition to the environmental education, students learned leadership and problem-solving skills and how to work as a team. “They did a lot of work under very hard conditions,” she said. Temperatures reached 110 degrees some days.

She has seen students who participate in the educational programs at the Gorge form an emotional attachment to the land and some have said they want to work in natural resource jobs.

Stephanie Cobb with the school district, said the program was a success from the schools’ perspective. The district started with 12 students enrolled and added seven more who asked to participate. They are looking at ways to expand the program next year based on students’ interest.

A student dumps a bucket of rocks during a work project

Students and advisors look over their progress on lining a trench with stones

- D. Christy

BLM-California News.byes, issue 352

Last updated: 10-03-2008