Modeling Watersheds with Santo Domingo

Last Thursday we headed south to Santo Domingo for another day on the Rio Grande. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and all of the students were ready to learn.

We began by discussing the Rio Grande- where does it begin? Most of the students thought that the Rio Grande starts at Cochiti Reservoir! Almost everybody was able to pinpoint the pueblo on drawing of New Mexico, and so we pulled out a map and added the Rio Grande and some of its tributaries.

This began a discussion of watersheds- what are they? Why are they important? Where does our water go?


Right about the time we were discussing this, a truck drove by and threw two giant bags of trash into the river. While it was absolutely horrifying to witness, it made for a good teaching moment. We talked about where the river goes and who will have to deal with that trash. Then we talked about what would happen if somebody upstream of the pueblo threw trash in the river.

After this discussion, the real fun began- students hiked up the river to the sandy arroyo where the Galisteo meets the Rio Grande and made models of watersheds using whatever they could find. At the end of class, everybody got together and demonstrated their watersheds by pouring water into them and explaining their design. Everybody did a great job!

A snowy mountain at the head of a watershed
Water rushes down a boulder-filled channel and into a lake
A “beaver pond” fills with water, thanks to the work of our dam-building beavers
Students were very creative in using resources they found around them- check out that vegetation!
This river has some nice meanders

We also discussed the importance of meanders and the difference between healthy riparian ecosystems and unhealthy rivers. Most of our students made great, healthy rivers. Those that didn’t were able to explain why their river wasn’t healthy.

Great job once again, Santo Domingo!


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