This spring Colorado Canyons Association and the Bureau of Land Management turned Dominguez-Escalante and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Areas into excellent outdoor classrooms for over 1000 students across Delta and Mesa County.
During the first week in May, 350 seventh grade students from Delta County joined CCA in Escalante Canyon for a field trip into the NCA. As they rotated between interactive stations, students learned from professional wildlife biologists and regional historians about the wonderful cultural and natural resources located in the canyon. Trip highlights included participating in a radio telemetry exercise with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, hiking to the last remaining waterwheel on the Gunnison River and viewing the threatened Colorado Hookless Cactus.
The following week, we launched our Nature Knowledge Days for third grade students. Over the course of the week we brought over 750 third grade students, representing 12 different schools from within school district 51 in Mesa County, out into the McInnis Canyons NCA. Again, students rotated between eight different stations where they explored a specific topic before receiving a stamp in their personal copy of our newly created activity book.
The students had a blast showing off their knowledge of geology, enjoying the shade of the cottonwood and learning about predator and prey by playing a game.
We knew that for many of the students these field trips were going to be their first experience enjoying our public lands, so, prior to the actual field trip, we went into the classrooms to get the students excited while also helping them to understand how they can help take care of their public lands. During these visits, we covered the “Seven Leave No Trace Principles," explained the flow of the field trip, and handed out the activity books.
The goal of these annual field trips is to help students understand the importance of our public lands generally, while also providing them with hands-on learning opportunities which meet both Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and Next Generation Science (NGS) education standards.
We are enormously thankful to the Western Colorado Community Foundation and the Junior Service League of Grand Junction for underwriting the Nature Knowledge Days event, to local artist Ryan Smith for creating the illustrations in our student activity book and stamps, to Amy Nuernberg of Amy Nuernberg Marketing, Design, Web for the design and layout of our activity book, to BLM for helping us meet our shared education goals within the NCAs, and to our countless volunteers and talented community partners for making these events such a huge success!