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News.bytes Extra, issue 476

Career and Technical Education Students Discover the Desert at El Mirage

Seven students from the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) refused to let the threat of rain in the weather forecast dampen their camping adventure at the El Mirage Off-Highway Vehicle Area last month.

CTEC is a project of the Los Angeles County Fair Association’s Learning Centers at Fairplex, whose motto is to “create a lifetime of learning cleverly disguised as fun.” Despite cold and windy conditions over the weekend, students and adults alike definitely had fun while learning firsthand about the wonders of the California desert. After pitching their tents and preparing camp on Friday night under the full moon, the students learned how to make a safe campfire, then experienced the tradition of roasting s’mores over an open fire. When unexpected visitors appeared around camp, they used night vision goggles to unlock the secrets of the desert night.

hikers take to a rocky hill
Though Saturday morning dawned cold and blustery, it proved to be a perfect combination for a discovery hike out into the desert with BLM Park Ranger Art Basulto and his family. Photo by Lucas Basulto

After lunch, the intrepid explorers climbed into 4-wheel drive vehicles to experience the El Mirage Discovery Trail. Dani Haskell of the Friends of El Mirage taught important lessons about abandoned mine safety and off-highway vehicle use, as well as the importance of Joshua trees as wildlife habitat and the story of the historic 1930’s Hess ranch site.

students and advisors pose for a group portrait amid an expanse of yellow flowers
The students were awestruck by the fields of desert wildflowers blooming in an endless yellow carpet across the desert floor. Photo by Lucas Basulto

a young man in a cap holds a snake offered by a woman
Late in the afternoon, Art treated everyone to a live desert animal show, which included tent worms, scorpions, geckos, snakes, tarantulas and tortoises. Photo by Lucas Basulto

As the weather turned colder and rain threatened, the trip chaperones decided to cut the trip short and leave Saturday evening before the storm came. The students unanimously voted to brave the weather and stay the night. Kudos to them!

CTEC educates and prepares students for real world careers and professional success through classroom instruction and hands-on training. In its classroom without walls environment, CTEC provides pathways in various fields that lead to sustainable jobs and careers in fields such as environmental studies.

Thanks to the efforts of Chuck Robbins, Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist with the Palm Springs Field Office, BLM has become an important partner in CTEC’s Wildland Management and Conservation class. Chuck provided logistics support for this trip along with Barbara Croonquist, Public Contact Representative from the California Desert District Office and volunteers Page Robbins and Terry Barker. Thanks also to Viola, Lucas, Teresita and Abraham Basulto and Ray Starling and Britanny Darbin from Friends of El Mirage for all their help and enthusiasm. Funding for the El Mirage staff came from the Safety Education grant provided through the OHV Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the California State Parks system.

- Barbara Croonquist, BLM California Desert District, 4/7/11

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 476
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Last updated: 04-14-2011