BLM conducts outdoor classrooms
Last week marked the last of four field trips the Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office sponsored for Farmington middle school students, with help from ConocoPhillips and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
"The students will remember these field trips for a long time," said Chris Pash, Director of secondary curriculum and instruction for Farmington Municipal Schools.
The field trips were a hike up Simon Canyon, beginning at the BLM Simon Canyon Recreation Area, where the entrance to the canyon meets the catch-and-release trout fishing waters of the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. Farmington Municipal Schools has four middle schools and each field trip was for 30 students from each middle school. The field trips were conducted in early to mid-May.
Seven "education stations" were spread out for a mile up the canyon. Educators at each station included a BLM wildlife biologist, botanist, geologist, entomologist, and paleontologist. Other stations had a BLM soil and water specialist, noxious and invasive weed specialist, and a riparian specialist. Students stopped for 15 minutes at each station to hear presentations from the educators and check out displays that went with the presentations.
Each student was outfitted with a BLM backpack that contained binoculars, a compass, a magnifying glass, weed book, and a mini-plant press, and other items for the field trip.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish focused on the environment of the San Juan River trout fishing waters and on the anatomy of trout. Mark Wethington of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish was on hand to electro-shock the water to bring up some fish, which he gutted to show students the body parts of a trout and insects the fish had been eating.
Unexpected sights during hikes up the canyon included a wild turkey and a seven-foot bull snake. The first mile of Simon Canyon is a riparian zone, and the canyon was bursting with plants breaking through the moist ground, signaling that spring is upon us. Small birds were chirping and bees buzzed as turkey vultures made occasional passes over the groups.
"The BLM believes that outdoor classrooms are an important part of secondary education," said Joel Farrell, Assistant Field Manager for the BLM Farmington Field Office.
Farmington middle school students examine aquatic insects during a BLM field trip to Simon Canyon and the San Juan River.
Part of the BLM field trip was Mark Wethington of the state Department of Game and Fish gutting a trout to show students a trout's heart, liver and stomach, and bugs the fish had been eating.