Exploring the Banks of the Rio Chama

Last Wednesday was a gorgeous day, and we were finally able to get out on the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam with our 4th-6th grade River Classroom students from EspaƱola. We’ve struggled to get out on the river because until January 1, flows were much too high to be wading. Since January 1 it seems like every Wednesday has been bitterly cold. Wednesday was just right!

We started off by talking about wader safety for the kids that haven’t had waders on before.

IMG_2399
Discussing wader safety

Soon we were heading out to wade across the Rio Chama.

IMG_2401

 

IMG_2406

Our goal was to explore an area across the river where we would like to build a wetland. We were looking for signs of animal life.

IMG_2418
Exploring the proposed wetland area
IMG_2426
Exploring the proposed wetland area

We found several paths created by animals, and we followed those to see what tracks we could find.

IMG_2416
Looking for tracks
IMG_2419
Following a path
IMG_2427
Checking out a hole in the bank

We also learned about plants.

IMG_2443
Discussing one of the many plants in the area.
IMG_2458
A pack rat nest by a juniper

IMG_2446

IMG_2445
Rabbit scat!
IMG_2455
Somebody had prickly pear for dinner
IMG_2420
A beaver enjoyed this Foresteria

Soon it was time to head back across the river for lunch and measuring water quality.

IMG_2464

IMG_2465

IMG_2468

Our students also got to learn a little about fish that live in the river from USACE Ranger Nathaniel.

It was another gorgeous day outside with our River Classroom students!

Snowshoeing in Tierra Amarilla

Last week we were finally able to go snowshoeing with our awesome crew in Tierra Amarilla! Once again PEEC generously loaned us their snowshoes for this wonderful adventure.

IMG_1901
Heading out on our hike
IMG_1910
Fastening on our snowshoes
IMG_1913
Taking a few practice steps

Of course we had a few obligatory falls into the deep snow, but soon everybody had the hang of it, and we were cruising through a winter wonderland!

IMG_2006
Exploring a forested area

IMG_1984

Our students in Tierra Amarilla always have fantastic questions. We discussed the crust on the snow and how it got there.

IMG_1944
Checking out the sun crust

 

IMG_1993
“Look, Miss Christy! A mustache!”

We spent a lot of time walking through the trees looking for tracks.

IMG_1958

IMG_1956
A great example of prey tracks running from cover to cover
IMG_1939
Rabbit tracks!

We also had time to stop and enjoy the gorgeous views.

IMG_1970

IMG_1932

IMG_2019

These great students even put their snowshoes back in order!

IMG_2023

We had gorgeous weather, learned quite a bit, and covered a lot of ground. We continue to be so impressed with these students!

Building Kayaks: Finishing the Frames

Our goal for our January kayak-building class was to finish putting the strakes on the boats. We began where we left off in December.

IMG_1785
Keels and ribs
IMG_1788
Measure twice, cut once

We even learned how to use a new tool- a router!

IMG_1791
Demonstrating use of a router
IMG_1799
Students using the router

IMG_1804

We got quite a bit of work done!

IMG_1811

IMG_1823

IMG_1795

IMG_1819

 

IMG_2030
It’s starting to look like a kayak!

The next time we meet, we’ll begin the process of covering the boats. We can’t wait to get out on the water!

Weather in the Classroom

Last week our 4th-6th grade EspaƱola River Classroom students were supposed to meet us on the Rio Chama. We ended up having to change plans due to weather, so our students came back to NMWC for the first time since Christmas Break. It’s a new year and a new semester, and we began discussing a new topic- weather!

Our students had some pretty good ideas about weather before we even began class. Our initial discussion centered on the question “What is weather, and how do we measure it?”

Students then broke up into four groups. Each group investigated one aspect of weather, and the class rotated through all four “weather stations”.

Station 1: Cloud in a bottle

IMG_1727
Reading the directions at a station.
IMG_1726
Double checking the directions
IMG_1728
Cloud in a Bottle

Station 2: Density Currents/Convection

IMG_1761
Modeling density currents in a plastic container
IMG_1748
Making scientific observations
IMG_1750
Thinking about the experiment
IMG_1744
Recording observations

Station 3: Temperatures in the Shade and Sun

IMG_1755
Using an IR thermometer to determine the skin temperature of objects outside
IMG_1754
Using an IR thermometer to determine the skin temperature of objects outside
IMG_1756
Using an IR thermometer to measure the skin temperature of objects outside
IMG_1745
Examining the data to draw conclusions from our observations

Station 4: Blue Skies/Orange Sunsets

After completing our “weather stations”, our students got a short introduction to weather forecasting.

I’m sure that the next time we have a trip planned to an outdoor location, they’ll be able to help decide “weather” or not we should go!

Exploring a Snowy Forest

It’s been a bitterly cold weekend/week in New Mexico, but we didn’t let this put a damper on last Monday’s science exploration. We donned snowshoes and explored the Santa Fe National Forest around Truchas with half of the 7th graders from McCurdy Charter School.

For most of these kids it was the first time they’ve worn (or ever seen) snowshoes!

IMG_1630
Man, these things make my feet look big!
IMG_1632
Wait… how do I put these on my feet?
IMG_1656
With a little help from their friends, our students got the hang of it.

A big part of the trip was simply learning how to move around in snowshoes. It’s a very different form of winter transportation.

IMG_1638
Getting a little advice on staying warm from the expert.
IMG_1709
Grouping up to get going

Once everybody got the hang of walking in snowshoes (or at least after everybody had their fill of falling down in the cold snow), we moved on to the science topics of the day.

We talked about trees.

IMG_1642
Smelling a Ponderosa pine
IMG_1701
A very different type of tree
IMG_1668
Examining a pine cone

We talked about tracks.

IMG_1664
Looking for tracks on a south-facing slope
IMG_1696
Mouse tracks disappearing into a hole
IMG_1698
Mouse tracks running from hiding spot to hiding spot.

We talked about snow.

IMG_1673
A cohesive layer of snow, thanks to the sun.
IMG_1683
Looking at snow crystals with a crystal card and a loupe

Of course, we also spent quite a bit of time simply enjoying the peace and solitude of the forest in winter.

IMG_1679

IMG_1705

IMG_1650

IMG_1711

Despite temperatures in the teens, our students had a great time exploring the forest. After all of this hiking around, we enjoyed hot chocolate and apple cider before boarding the bus to return to school.

We’re very grateful to our partners at PEEC for loaning us the snowshoes and making this trip possible!

2016 Eagle Watch at Abiquiu Lake

Last Saturday we hosted our 2016 Eagle Watch at Abiquiu Lake! This event is held every year in conjunction with our partners the US Army Corps of Engineers. Every year citizen scientists from northern New Mexico come together to count the number of bald eagles on the lake. Data from mid-winter eagle watches all over the country are combined to get an idea of how our national bird is faring.

IMG_1484
Enjoying coffee and donuts in the Visitor Center.
IMG_1490
John Mueller, Park Manager at Abiquiu Lake, welcomes the citizen scientists to EagleWatch 2016
IMG_1527
Katherine Eagleson, Executive Director of NMWC, discusses bald eagles and their habits.

After a brief talk on bald eagles in New Mexico, some threats to these birds, and comparisons between juveniles, sub-adults, and adult eagles, participants headed outside to get a look at at least one eagle. Maxwell is a mature bald eagle housed at NMWC. Unfortunately due to his injuries, he’s not releasable.

IMG_1562
Maxwell and his handler, Scott Bol
IMG_1574
Maxwell is always a crowd favorite

After learning all about bald eagles, participants broke up into groups. Two groups went out on USACE boats to count eagles from the lake, and several groups went to fixed points on the land. All groups had radio communication and the lake was divided into sectors so that we made sure not to double-count any eagles.

IMG_1596
USACE rangers hand out life jackets for people going out on the boat
IMG_1611
Watching for eagles

Spotting eagles was a little more difficult this year, thanks to more snow than usual. We ended up spotting 10 eagles, although 2 of those were golden eagles (one adult and one juvenile). Of the 8 bald eagles spotted, only one was a sub-adult. This number is much fewer than last year, but it’s important data that will help us determine how bald eagles are doing as a species.

This event is always held on either the first or second Saturday of January. Join us next year!