Connecting Concepts with Projects

Last Wednesday we met with our 4th-6th grade Española River Classroom. We met at NMWC this time so that we could begin working on our end-of-year projects.

We began by pulling out those lists of vocabulary words that we put into categories a few weeks ago. In between classes, we pasted those lists onto poster board. This time we asked the groups to make connections between the categories. For example, how are benthic macroinvertebrates related to cells? How is photosynthesis related to dissolved oxygen in the Rio Chama?

Our students spent quite a while making stories about the connections between the categories on their posters.

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Of course we had a motive for asking our students to think about these connections. Our next task for the class was to begin brainstorming about our final projects. They’re just so cool that we can’t give you any details right now, but trust me- you want to stay posted! For now, you’re stuck with these photos of our students collaborating, researching, and talking with their group mentors.

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These projects will be debuted at our Open House event for parents and the community. We’ll post details when we get them ironed out!

Painting Kayaks

Last week our 7th-9th grade GATE students from Española met again to begin painting our kayaks! It’s pretty exciting to see these boats coming together, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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Our resident road runner came by to check it out (it’s in the back by the edge of the sidewalk).
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Sealing a few last seams
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Sealing a few last seams

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Putting on a first coat of white

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Taping up the kayaks to add personalized designs
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Opening a few colors

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Each student got to choose their own colors and design.

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We’re getting so close to finishing these. One more painting session and a few more little details, and we’ll be out exploring lake habitats!

Talking Trees in Tierra Amarilla

Teaching the 5th-6th grade at Tierra Amarilla Elementary is so much fun, especially when we get to introduce new, local scientists like Mary Stuever, from New Mexico State Forestry Divison.

Mary met us at the school to help answer some of the fantastic questions our students had about trees and how they grow. We split into three groups and rotated through three stations, one of which was all about trees!

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Checking out some tree cookies
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Looking at photos of wildfires

Not all of the groups were about trees. Our second group learned about ratios using wheels of different sizes.

 

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Doing some math as a group
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Building a machine with wheels of two different sizes

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The third group learned how to calculate rate from distance and time. We also tested how the height of a ramp affects the rate of a car rolled down the ramp.

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Discussing our measurement and precision.
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Testing a double-ramp with multiple cars (just for fun).

Once again our students in Tierra Amarilla proved just how smart they are by answering questions and by asking excellent questions of their own. We just can’t get enough of these kids!

River Classroom at the Rio Chama

Last Wednesday our 4th-6th grade Española River Classroom headed up to the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam to place our game cameras in different spots and to collect more benthic macroinvertebrates.

 

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Reviewing a few things on the bus before braving the wind
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Passing out waders

We’re really excited to have three new students in River Classroom, but we did have to review our wader safety rules.

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Discussing wader safety

Soon we were wading across the Rio Chama and searching the far bank for tracks and other signs of animal life.

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Checking a muddy area for tracks
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Pointing out an area with many tracks
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One student found a sign that a beaver has been here!
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Checking out signs of life in the river.

We placed our game cameras in different spots this time, hoping to catch some new animals.

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These students selected the first spot for a game camera.

 

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Placing the second game camera

After a quick lunch break, we headed back across the river to survey benthic macroinvertebrates in two different spots.

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Taking GPS points of our collection locations

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Our students love the Rio Chama!

We suspect that this may be one of our last benthic macroinvertebrate collections of the school year because the water level is expected to rise soon. We brought the samples back to NMWC, and we’re really excited about the data that we’ve collected!

Exploring the Geology of Northern New Mexico

The switch to Daylight Savings Time can be pretty difficult when you’re stuck in a classroom. Fortunately, last Monday we got to spend the day outside with our 7th graders from McCurdy Charter School!

We headed north to hike in the Abiquiu area. This region is a really nice spot to discuss geology because we were hiking right in between the Colorado Plateau and the Rio Grande Rift. What better place to learn about and explore the geology of northern New Mexico?

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Headed up the trail
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Checking out the Entrada Sandstone
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Observing the Ritito Conglomerate

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Entire class with Entrada Sandstone

We climbed a good deal on this hike, and the higher we went, the better the view seemed to be.

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Admiring the view

We had a contest to see who could find (and explain) the coolest rock, and there were many contenders.

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We had a fabulous hike, and we found fantastic examples of metamorphic, sedimentary, and igneous rocks. We learned about weathering and erosion. Most of all, we had a great time getting outside and exploring the world around us on foot!

Exploring Higher Elevations on Snowshoes

Last week we headed back up to TA with our snowshoes loaned from Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC). Instead of sticking to the area around the school (elevation: ~7,400 feet) with piñon and juniper, we headed up Highway 64 to an elevation around 10,000 feet where we could explore some new species of trees.

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Headed out on snowshoes
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By now the students are all experts at moving through the snow with snowshoes!
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Checking out some tracks
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Enjoying the views

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Taking a quick breather

After some important unstructured time for our students to explore, we discussed the environment around us. How is this different from the area around school? What trees are here?

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Learning the types of evergreen trees

 

Our goal for the day was to collect some scientific data on trees. We introduced the word silviculture. Our students had recently discussed π and how to use it to calculate circumference from diameter.

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Discussing how we can measure tree diameter given circumference.
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How many students does it take to measure a tree’s circumference?
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Discussing what height is appropriate for the measurement.
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Measuring our “measuring string”
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This tree is a little smaller.
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By the end of the class, we just decided that we all love trees.

We ended up getting tree diameter samples from Douglas fir, aspen, and spruce trees. What a great, practical way to do calculations with π and apply math and science to a real life scenario!

-Christy