From The Craig Daily Press (Michael Neary):
At Yampa River State Park on Thursday, Josefina Kuberry, Jayden Evenson and more than 130 other third-graders were thinking about rocks.
“We glued different rocks on paper,” said Josefina, as she, Jayden and a group of other students began reciting the types of rock — igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic — that they’d just seen.
Third-graders from East, Ridgeview and Sandrock elementary schools gathered on Wednesday at the park to learn about cycles of water, rocks and various life forms. And they did it with the help from local agency experts who congregated at the park with the students.
Among the topics broached by Dusty Jager, rangeland management specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, were the roles plants play in filtering running water and the importance organic matter to the soil.
Bugs, Jager explained, are among those vital agents.
“They break down the organic matter, and they also help with infiltration of water when it rains,” he said.
Jager said the students were especially interested in the water trailer, or stream simulator, that NRCS staff members brought to the park.
Becky Jones agreed. She’s a private lands wildlife biologist working for NRCS, Colorado Parks & Wildlife and Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.
“They love it when you flood it, and when they can float things down the river,” she said.
Donn Slusher is a rangeland ecologist working for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. He’s in partnership with NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Slusher is also one of 26 sage grouse biologist specialists in the nation.
“We just kind of start out talking about where streams come from — the head waters and stuff — and how they move through the river,” he said, as he recalled during lunch break the talk he’d given to students. “We talk about vegetation and the importance of it to protect the banks from erosion.”
Gina Robison, outdoor recreation planner and program leader for the Bureau of Land Management, focused on the way “weathering and erosion” shaped the rocks scattered throughout the park — and throughout the region. That sort of knowledge, Robison said, can cultivate an appreciation of the environment.
“If you know a little bit about your environment, you’re able to appreciate it more,” she said. “You know how it works, you know how it got there, you know how it survives.”
And getting out into the environment in the first place was a key goal of Wednesday’s trip. Sam McCloskey, Colorado Parks & Wildlife ranger, said he and others staff members delivered presentations about plant life cycles. The students then went outside to examine those concepts by scrutinizing dandelions.
“One of the reasons we do a program like this is to increase their interest in (the outdoors),” McCloskey said.
Throughout the activities, students were moving through third-grade science standards, said Bobbi McAlexander, the East Elementary School third-grade teacher who coordinated the trip with the help of Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Those standards, she said, included learning about the water cycle, the rock cycle and the life cycle.
“They get the outdoor-education,” McAlexander added. “For a lot of (students), games take precedence (in their lives) — and this gets them in the outdoors.”