Summer day camp shapes future public land ambassadors

This July 2018, thirteen 4th grade girls from Sunrise Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico participated in an Every Kid in the Park summer day camp. A collaborative effort between the BLM Las Cruces District, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the week-long camThis July 2018, thirteen 4th grade girls from Sunrise Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico participated in an Every Kid in the Park summer day camp. A collaborative effort between the BLM Las Cruces District, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, the week-long camp was an opportunity for these girls to experience public land from a personal point-of-view.

BLM staff Daniella Barraza (left kneeling), Courtney Platero (left standing), Amanda Munro (second to left standing) and Eileen Davis (right standing) and the girls pose before a hike in Cloudcroft, NM.
BLM staff Daniella Barraza (left kneeling), Courtney Platero (left standing), Amanda Munro
(second to left standing) and Eileen Davis (right standing) and the girls pose before a hike in Cloudcroft, NM.

The BLM Las Cruces District staff, including Volunteer Coordinator Eileen Davis, Monument Park Ranger Daniella Barraza, and DOI VISTA Volunteer Amanda Munro, hosted and transported the girls to public land all over southern New Mexico. The areas visited included the White Sands National Monument (NPS), Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (BLM), Lincoln National Forest (FS), and Dripping Springs Natural Area and Aguirre Spring Recreation Area and Campground (BLM).

DOI VISTA Volunteer Amanda Munro (center holding the yucca leaf) teaches the girls how to make yucca paint brushes.
DOI VISTA Volunteer Amanda Munro (center holding the yucca leaf) teaches the girls
how to make yucca paint brushes.

Through hands-on activities and outdoor exploration, the camp participants learned about ecology, wildlife biology, geology, botany, archaeology, wildland firefighting, "Leave No Trace" outdoor ethics, and the BLM/NPS/FS missions from female land and resource agency professionals in the field. The girls made their own walking sticks from Sotol stalks and paint brushes from yucca leaves, as well as participated in reflective and educational nature journaling.

Many of the girls started the camp feeling afraid of bugs and other wildlife. However, by the second day, they were comfortable enough to observe and handle bugs like millipedes and snails. One girl wrote to the BLM guides a letter saying, "the camp changed my life… and I went from not wanting to go outside to take out the trash, to loving nature and wanting to go hiking and exploring."

BLM Las Cruces District Outdoor Recreation Planner and Wildland Firefighter Edna Flores (right) lets a camp participant wear her gear.
BLM Las Cruces District Outdoor Recreation Planner and Wildland Firefighter Edna Flores (right)
lets a camp participant wear her gear.

When camp was over, there were many tears shed by the girls who enjoyed their time at the camp. In the end, the BLM Las Cruces District staff were confident these young girls learned a lot and had a valuable experience that will help them become the next generation of public land ambassadors.