Summer Science Camp #2

Another fantastic Summer Science Camp has come and gone, and once again we had an excellent group of kids! This camp was held at Abiquiu Lake, thanks to our partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Campers came in from Santa Fe, Española, and Abiquiu to explore the habitats of Abiquiu Lake and learn some place-based science. This week was particularly hot, and we were fortunate to have the lake as a place to cool off!

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Decorating science notebooks and discussing the plans for the week

 

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Weighing a plastic cylinder full of rocks to estimate its density
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Testing our evaluation of the object’s density to see if it’s buoyant enough to float
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A ranger from USACE discussing buoyancy and water safety with our campers
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A camper getting fitted into a life jacket thanks to Abiquiu Lake’s life jacket loaner program
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Learning to tie a new knot that is useful for tying up boats
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Knot-tying session
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Cooling off in the waters of Abiquiu Lake
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Practicing teamwork

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Exploring the lake shore after a kayak excursion

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Trying out a new mode of transportation on the water
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Setting off on a hike in the Jemez mountains to learn where our water comes from
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Sketching a wildflower so that we can identify it later
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Watching a coyote move through a meadow
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Setting up emergency shelters
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Students set up their shelters with very little help!
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Emergency shelters turned into emergency ponchos as a quick afternoon shower passed over
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Roasting marshmallows at our camp out
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S’mores are one of the best parts of camping out!
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Enjoying a night in the tent

We had a fantastic week of camp. Why can’t we do this every week? Thanks to The Pantry Restaurant for their generous sponsorship of this camp. We wouldn’t be able to do this without our sponsors!

We do have one more science camp taking place this summer at Heron Lake State Park near Tierra Amarilla, and this camp still has a few openings! If you know a child in the area who would like to participate, send them our way.

2016 Chama Summer Camp

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!

 

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!

 

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!

Benthic Macrointervebrates on the Rio Chama

Due to unusually high flows on the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam through the end of 2015 and a very chilly start to 2016, our 4th-6th grade Española River Classroom hasn’t been able to search the river for benthic macroinvertebrates. That all changed last week, and we had quite a bit of exploring to do!

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Greeting students as the bus arrives

Our first task was pretty exciting. We met with USACE Ranger Austin to hear about some of USACE’s future plans for the area below Abiquiu Dam. Part of our goal is to collect data that can be used in evaluating the ecosystem for this project.

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Discussing future plans for the Rio Chama below Abiquiu Dam

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After this exciting discussion (during which our students showed off their knowledge of the Rio Chama), we put on waders and headed across the river to seek out more signs of life. This time we wanted to explore a little farther, so we carried shoes and left our waders by the river.

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Waders along the fence

This time we found some additional signs of life, like several bird nests and some new scat. We also went into a little more detail in discussing plants in the area and the cryptobiotic crust we found in a few places.

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A bird nest
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Unidentified scat
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Checking out a yucca
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Documenting some of the plants
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Looking at cryptobiotic soil

After fully exploring the far bank of the Rio Chama, we headed back across the river for lunch and to collect and catalog benthic macroinvertebrates.

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Demonstrating use of a kick seine
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Coming up with a game plan
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The “haul”
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Collecting our “bugs” into bowls
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Counting our catch
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A few students collected rocks
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Identifying benthic macroinvertebrates on rocks
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A few students doing a comparison with a pond that becomes part of the river when the water is higher.

We found a good number of benthic macroinvertebrates (of which a good proportion happened to be midges), and we collected some great data to share with our friends at USACE. It was a gorgeous day on the river, and we can’t wait to get back out there!

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 Española. 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.

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Discussing wader safety

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

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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.

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Exploring the proposed wetland area
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Exploring the proposed wetland area

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

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

We also learned about plants.

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

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

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

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Testing a sample
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Testing a different sample
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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.

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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.

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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.

Christy