Exploring a New Section of the Rio Chama

Last Thursday was our final outdoor adventure with our Tierra Amarilla River Classroom. The Rio Chama has gone up considerably, and so we decided to explore a new area of the Rio Chama. We headed out to Cooper’s to check water quality and do some exploring.

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Headed out for a hike along the river
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Studying the physics of skipping rocks
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Pondering the beauty of the Rio Chama
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Watching some Canada Geese cross the road with their babies
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Taking turns on the bridge across the river

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We had a fairly long hike, and along the way we discussed plants along the river (particularly willow), beaver, the importance of insects, stream gauges and how they work, why the water level is higher than it was last time, and how leaving lead sinkers on the river bank can cause lead poisoning in wildlife. We also picked up a lot of garbage!

Next we returned to the other side of the river to test water quality.

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Our students will add these water quality numbers to their posters for their presentations at our Open House!

We had a great last class session outdoors. These kids are absolutely fantastic scientists. They have mastered the powers of observation and asking questions to explain what they see. We’re very proud at how much they’ve learned this year!

 

Española Open House

Last Wednesday was not only our final River Classroom day for our 4th-6th graders from Española- it was also our Open House event for families to learn what our students have been up to this year.

We met at New Mexico Wildlife Center, where students unveiled their final projects. They created games to test their parents’ knowledge of riparian ecosystems and biology! Each group had a different game.

One group had a Pokemon-style card game with animals from New Mexico.

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One group created a board game in which players are subjected to certain physical hazards and must have the correct adaptation to stay alive.

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Another group created a model of a river with kayaks that moved along the river as the players complete trivia questions.

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Another group create a game called Battle Cells, where you answer questions about cell biology to get a chance to attack an opponent’s cells.

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Parents also got to watch a slideshow of photos from this year’s activities.

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And then we ate cake.

We had 47 people show up to Open House! I saw quite a few parents struggling to answer some of the biology questions. We are so proud of our brilliant students! The future is looking bright with these kids around.

Great Minds Think Alike

The school year is winding down, and this week we said goodbye to another one of our River Classrooms. Our 4th-6th grade students from Española met one last time at the Rio Chama to test water quality, collect benthic macroinvertebrates, and review everything that we’ve learned this year.

Everybody was excited to get waders on once again!

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Aspirating our Kestrel weather sensor to get an accurate air temperature
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Taking GPS coordinates and measuring water temperature

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Reviewing our benthic macroinvertebrate findings

Our review activity was one final River Classroom challenge! It consisted of 15 tasks, such as find an invasive plant, name it, and find its GPS coordinates.

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Discussing the challenge
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Recording GPS coordinates

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It was a wonderful day to end the year, and our brilliant students did a fantastic job on their final challenge. We were very pleased with how much they’ve learned this year!

We’ll see these students again in the fall!

 

Handbuilt Kayaks Making a Splash in Abiquiu

Yesterday was a big day for our 7th-9th grade students from Española. After months of hard work on their handmade kayaks and a brief test float, it was time for a celebration of our adventure.

Unfortunately, as is common with spring in New Mexico, the weather didn’t quite cooperate. It was cloudy and quite cool.

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Getting some instructions
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Carrying boats to the lake

We do have some very exciting news- Kelly Gossett from New Mexico Kayak Instruction generously donated paddles for our students!

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Picking out a paddle

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Once again our fantastic partners with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Abiquiu Lake were on hand with loaner life jackets.

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A brief water safety talk
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Getting life jackets

Our students demonstrated that they know how to launch their own boats and began to paddle!

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Finally on the water!

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Due to the weather (and very high waves thanks to high winds), we decided to hang out close to the ramp. Lake temperatures are still very cold!

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We caught our students showing off a bit this time as they became more familiar with their boats. We saw many kayak races and even some students paddling backwards!

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We saw lots of big smiles!

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After paddling all around our cove many times, our students worked up an appetite. We headed for our group shelter to roast some hot dogs!

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Warming hands on the grill

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Our students’ families joined us for this celebration of the hard work our students have put in this year.

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At the end of the day, our students carried their kayaks up from the lake, loaded them on their vehicles, and headed off.IMG_8266

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Before our students left, we conducted a little interview in which we asked the students how they enjoyed building their kayaks and what they felt they learned. Along with the comments about students enjoying the work with power tools and exploring the lake, we heard this:

“[My favorite part of building kayaks was] working with each other as a team and getting to know each other better.”

“[I learned that] you don’t have to buy everything. You can make your own.”

“[Building kayaks has] built my self confidence because I was able to know that I built something and it worked well.”

Keep an eye out for our students paddling around local lakes this summer! We’ve gotten them hooked on having fun on the water!

 

Capillary Action in Abiquiu

The school year is winding down, and we’re still trying to get outside as much as possible with our students! Yesterday our 4th-6th grade GATE students from Española headed back up to Abiquiu Lake to learn more about plants.

We began by taking a few minutes to finish those projects I keep hinting at. Our Open House is coming up on May 19, and our students are pretty excited to show off their projects!

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Putting final touches on a project
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Putting final touches on a project

Some of our student had already completed their projects, so they got to work helping us set up an experiment for later in the class. We collected some leaves and put some in a ziplock bag and others in clear bowls of water.

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Our goal for the day was to learn about how plants take up water and how the process of cellular respiration works. We spent some time explaining these concepts and discussing the difference between cohesion and adhesion.

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Reviewing past notes

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We found a great activity to demonstrate capillary action that allowed us to drag out the food coloring. Our students took detailed observations as the colored water moved up the paper towel and mixed in the empty cup.

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We also learned about stomata and transpiration!

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At this point we were ready to check on our two experiments. We found that the leaves in the bag were surrounded by condensation- water left the leaves through transpiration and then condensed on the bag.

When we checked our leaves in the bowl, we did see small air bubbles on the leaves that had not been there when the leaves were placed in the water!

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We also took a few minutes to investigate whether we could see the stomata on a leaf using clear nail polish to create a slide.

After all of this sitting and taking notes, everybody was ready to move. We headed out on a hike to investigate plants around the lake. We frequently stopped to discuss plants that we saw, whether they were native or invasive, and why we suspected they were growing where we found them.

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Wildflowers are blooming!
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Pointing to a particularly pretty rock and debating its formation

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What a great group of kids!

We had a wonderful day learning all about plants and how they work. We only have one more session before the end of the year. We just wish we could keep teaching these kids all summer!

Graphing data in Tierra Amarilla

Last Thursday we headed back up to Tierra Amarilla for a classroom day with our 5th and 6th graders at Tierra Amarilla Elementary. We’ve collected some great water quality data and identified some benthic macroinvertebrates since last fall, and we took this opportunity to create graphical displays of our data that we can present at our open house event.

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Beginning a poster is always the most difficult part!

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It’s no surprise that these students are wonderful scientists. We’ve learned that about them over the course of the year. Presenting your findings is a very important part of the scientific process, and these students buckled down and created some absolutely wonderful displays of their data!

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Each poster display was a little different. Students decided to use number lines, histograms, tables, and figures to display their data. These kids are excellent scientists, and we’re proud to present their work to the community at our open house!