Teacher Training: Learning about Water

Last Saturday was the second in our series of Saturday teacher trainings for the Improving Teacher Quality Grant from the Title II New Mexico Higher Education Department, which NMWC is hosting in conjunction with Northern New Mexico University. Last month we discussed geology. This month we moved on to a very important topic in New Mexico- water!

We headed up to Abiquiu Reservoir. NMWC is fortunate to have a fantastic partner in the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at Abiquiu Dam, and a few rangers helped out with training.

Two teachers practice drawing landforms on plexiglass.
Two teachers practice drawing landforms on plexiglass.

Our first activity was one of our favorites- drawing landforms while looking through plexiglass. As in River Classroom last week, simplifying the shapes of the landforms allowed our teachers to notice important differences in the scenery around us. They correctly identified the path of the Rio Chama upstream by noticing the Rio Chama canyon.

Sketching landforms at Abiquiu Reservoir.
Sketching landforms at Abiquiu Reservoir.

We also examined maps of New Mexico and discussed not only the concept of watersheds, but which watersheds we live and go to school in.

Next we headed into the Abiquiu Lake Visitor Center, where ranger Austin Kuhlman explained how USACE manages our water. Most people don’t realize that the Rio Chama and Rio Grande carry more than just native water. The San Juan-Chama project carries water across the Continental Divide from the western San Juan mountains.

A map of the San Juan-Chama project.
A map of the San Juan-Chama project.

Ranger Kuhlman also explained a few intricacies of the Rio Chama ecosystem, including what USACE is doing to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels.

Ranger Kuhlman displays a length of PVC pipe that is covered in quagga mussels.
Ranger Kuhlman displays a length of PVC pipe that is covered in quagga mussels.

After a quick lunch break, we grouped back up for a brief overview of acequias. Tim Seaman, the commissioner of the Abeyta-Trujillo Acequia, shared his knowledge of the acequia system and its history.

Tim Seaman explains the ins and outs of acequias
Tim Seaman explains the ins and outs of acequias.

After all of this talking, it was time to get outside and move. We set up three stations. The first station used some really neat stream table activities from the River Cutters workbook, which was generously loaned to us by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. These complete kits are available to be checked out by local teachers. They use diatomaceous earth as a medium, which is unlike any other stream kit I’ve seen. They’re small and portable, easy to use in groups, and in my opinion, they are very, very effective at teaching many concepts.

One of the stream tables set up.
One of the stream tables set up.
These kits are doubly fun because you can get your hands messy!
These kits are doubly fun because you can get your hands messy!
Red "toxic waste" has leached into our river!
Red “toxic waste” has leached into our river!

The second group used several different methods to test water quality in the river. Dr. Brenda Linnell from NNMU helped out with this group.

Dr. Linnell explains the chemistry of testing water quality.
Dr. Linnell explains the chemistry of testing water quality.

The final (and let’s face it- most popular) group learned how to wade in the river and collect benthic macroinvertebrates. Dr. Pedro Chavarria helped out with this group and explained how to identify the tiny bugs.

Ranger Naranjo helps collect benthic macroinvertebrates.
Ranger Naranjo helps collect benthic macroinvertebrates.
Almost everybody got in the water.
Almost everybody got in the water.
Two teachers examine benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick net.
Two teachers examine benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick net.

We found some very interesting benthic macroinvertebrates this time.

Giant benthics!
Giant benthics!

There were quite a few fly fishermen around, and one of them showed up his fly box. These little guys look familiar!

A box full of fake benthic macroinvertebrate.
A box full of fake benthic macroinvertebrate.

All in all, it was a fabulous day. The weather was gorgeous, everybody was engaged, and I think we all learned a lot. Next month we’re on to wildfire!

Christy

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