K/1st Grade - At Home in the Desert
Phenomenon: What are the needs of desert animals, and do these needs determine where we find them?
Students will participate in four field trip stations to understand the different resources needed by animals living in the Chihuahuan Desert and how the presence or absence of those resources can determine the habitats where the animals are found. Burrowing owls and black-tailed prairie dogs will be used as the primary focal species to tell the story of how the desert meets the needs of many animals.
2nd / 3rd Grade - The Land We Live On
Phenomenon: Wind and water erosion can change the shape of the land, and different professions deal with this process in different ways.
Students will participate in an introductory activity to understand how wind and water erosion happens. Then they will complete four field trip stations to explore the idea that we all use the land, and depending on how we use it, there are different ways to limit erosion. Ranchers, farmers, city planners, and wildlife biologists all need to consider the effect of erosion from wind and water.
Jornada Experimental Range with walk at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park after lunch (time permitting)
4th / 5th Grade - Conservation Research
Phenomenon: How can we use science understanding to protect wildlife and the environment?
Students will engage in four field trip stations as wildlife-biologists-in-training to understand how people can use scientific information to protect wildlife and natural resources in the Chihuahuan Desert. They will use three field methods to examine the suitability of desert habitat for black-tailed prairie dogs, a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Students will then use data collected during this investigation to create a black-tailed prairie dog reintroduction plan. In another station, students will use a large, Jenga-style game to model interactions between biotic and abiotic factors and effects of human and natural changes on the stability of the ecosystem. Finally, they will learn how range scientists are studying the use of a desert-adapted heritage cattle type, Raramuri Criollo, to reduce the impacts of cattle ranching on the desert environment.
6th / 7th Grade - Restoring Connections
Phenomenon: Shrub encroachment and restoration affect biodiversity and the abiotic components of the desert ecosystem.
Students will explore how the ecosystem in the Chihuahuan Desert has changed from grassland to shrubland over time. They will participate in activity stations located around the 1.2-mile Desert Discovery Trail, where they will collect and analyze data, create a field guide, and make detailed observations about the landscape around them. Students will discover how the BLM’s Restore New Mexico initiative is restoring native grasslands by removing shrubs. They will then take on the role of a scientist and collect measurements on demonstration plots modeled after the project.