The Review Games

Yesterday was our final class session before the holiday break, and what better way to spend it than reviewing with our 4th-6th grade River Classroom?

We actually began the day by discussing blood and blood cells. Students (who wanted) had the opportunity to test their own blood sugar level and examine their own blood cells under a microscope.

A few students were slightly anxious about the part where they had to prick their finger!
Everything is ready to collect a sample
Pricking fingers to test blood sugar


Looking at blood cells under the microscope
We also got to examine samples from mammals and ducks, thanks to NMWC’s ICU unit


After checking out the blood cells, we played our review game. Students divided into two teams and were given a white board. Each question was worth a number of points determined by the instructors, and students had 30 seconds to write their answer on the white board. The winner got the points! We even had a few Candy Bonus questions, where members of the winning team got peanut butter cups AND points.

Writing answers as quickly as possible


Our students are so smart- they remembered so much! One student even remembered “cohesion”. Most importantly, everybody had a wonderful time!


More Kayak Building

Last Friday our 7th-9th grade River Classroom met at NMWC to continue our year long endeavor to build kayaks. This time we got all of the ribs attached.


Refining a few edges
More sanding
Attaching the bow to the keel
Gluing the stern
Attaching the stern to the keel
Marking where the ribs will go
Marking where the ribs will go
Using teamwork to attach a rib
A kayak skeleton

Now that we have the ribs attached, we’re ready to add strakes. These boats are really coming together, and we can’t wait to get out exploring local riparian ecosystems on our own boats!




Reviewing in Tierra Amarilla

It’s almost Christmas Break, and that means it’s time to review everything we’ve learned over the last several months! This time during our trip to Tierra Amarilla, we reviewed past topics and learned a little about water.

We began with a brief discussion of the upcoming solstice and what it means as far as hours of sunlight in the day. This discussion inspired some brilliant questions, and we ended up calculating how many miles are in one light year. Answer: a bunch!

Beginning a bunch of multiplication on the board

After this discussion we began our review. Our students in TA are all wonderful athletes, and our review game was inspired by our class location in the gym.

The classes divided into two teams- boys against girls. The teams were asked the same question. Each team got a chance to answer the question. If a team got the answer correct, they got the chance to make a basket. If they got the basket, they got the points.

Questions were based on material we’ve covered through the year.

Ready for the next question
Will it be a difficult question?

Everybody had a great time answering questions and having the opportunity to move around.

After this fun game, we moved on to discussing water. This was an opportunity to review atoms and molecules, and students built molecules of water and learning about water’s unique properties, include the fact that the molecule is polarized.

1 Oxygen + 2 Hydrogen = WATER!
Another great water molecule
More water molecules

We discussion cohesion, and then we tested it out and compared the cohesion of water to that of isopropyl alcohol.

Getting a dropper of water
Blowing on the water to make it move across the wax paper

After a few minutes of scientific observations of the properties of water and alcohol, everybody was clear!

One of the neatest things was that when our students place drops of water on the wax paper and blow on them, they create little shapes that look just like bow echoes with bookend vortices!

We hope our students in Tierra Amarilla have a wonderful Christmas break, and we can’t wait to see everybody again in January!


Tracking Across Campus

Yesterday was a prep day for a really cool field trip we have in the works for McCurdy Charter School’s 7th grade. The students practiced their tracking skills on campus!

First, we held a short discussion about tracking. What kind of questions are we wanting to answer? Well, we would like to know what kind of animal made the tracks. It might be nice to determine how many of the animal were there, and ideally we can determine a direction of travel, if not a purpose. It’s very similar to solving a crime- what happened here and why?

Since tracks aren’t very easy to come by on pavement, our students created their own. We secretly placed these across campus, and students had to explore to discover the track. As we found tracks, students were responsible for recording the type of animal, the latitude and longitude of the track, and notes about the tracks (such as direction traveled, number of animals, and the animal’s purpose).

Which way did it go!?
Turkey tracks
“A bigger turkey?”
Examining the tracks
Recording latitude, longitude, and other characteristics
Grouping up to review photos and create conclusions

We’re really looking forward to applying our tracking skills to tracks in the snow after the Christmas break!


Water Quality on the Brazos and Chama

Our trip to Tierra Amarilla last week to work with our 5th and 6th grade River Classroom was particularly exciting because for the very first time we tested water quality on both the Brazos and the Chama on the same day!

We began with a short refresher on water quality parameters.

Discussing water quality

We began at the Brazos, where students also held a contest to see who could make it to the river and back (with water samples) without making a sound.

We found some neat tracks on the way to the river.

After collecting our samples (and measuring water temperature on-site), we returned to our mobile field lab to test pH, turbidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and nitrates.

Testing a sample
Testing a different sample
Testing turbidity

After testing the Brazos, we loaded the kids back on the bus and headed to the Rio Chama. The Brazos is a tributary of the Chama. Understanding the water quality in both rivers is crucial to understanding the Rio Chama watershed.



Checking out the ice on the Rio Chama

The results of our water quality tests were really interesting. In terms of temperature, DO, and pH, both rivers were similar (although a pond near the Brazos had a considerably lower DO). The Rio Chama had a higher turbidity and conductivity, and the level of nitrates was double that in the Brazos. These results brought up some interesting questions from the students, and we had a discussion about factors that influence water quality.

Discussing factors that affect turbidity, conductivity, and nitrates on the different rivers

We’ll continue monitoring these rivers throughout the year to see how water quality changes with the season.


Exploring the Banks of the Rio Chama

“An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

The vast majority of our students have grown up in northern New Mexico. Many of them spend at least some time outside with their families. It’s very important to us to help our students learn about their local environment and to learn science in the context of their local environment.

In our 4th-6th grade River Classroom, we’ve been learning about Biology. On Wednesday we took our lessons to the Rio Chama, where we spent the day exploring the riparian ecosystem and learning about the types of animals and plants we find there.

Setting out on a hike
Learning about willows
Demonstrating one method of seed dispersal
Demonstrating one method of seed dispersal
We collected trash along the way
Mixing Plaster of Paris to create a cast of a raccoon track
Mixing Plaster of Paris
Mixing the plaster
Pouring plaster into a track
Pointing out cool shapes in sandstone
We found a large nest

Exploring the bosque like this is a fantastic way to get kids started at observing the environment around them. Our students were quite excited and distracted for a bit, but after a while they began making excellent observations of the world around them.

After our hike, we took a time out for lunch.

This student found a gorgeous spot to eat.

After lunch we took the time to prepare a few slides so that we can look at more plant and animal cells the next time we meet.

Preparing a slide
Dipping a slide in fixative
Placing a slide cover on a slide

It was a wonderful day of exploration, and our students left knowing much more about the Rio Chama and it’s ecosystem. Getting our students outside is one of our most important goals!