Dolores students learning hands-on science and math this summer

Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:10 PM
Retired forester Dan Wand works with students at The Nature Center at Butler’s Corner.
Students assess stratigraphic units in lake sediment at McPhee Reservoir.
Students map geologic structures in sandstone.
Students take a tour of the Burro Fire Incident Command Post.
Students from Dolores have been learning science and math at the Nature Center on Butler’s Corner at an extended science camp this summer.

Ten Dolores students received hands-on science and math lessons this summer by participating in an extended field science enrichment program at the Nature Center at Butler’s Corner.

The students are learning about science through extended classroom activities and some lessons in the Nature Center. “Each week was a stand-alone lesson that reinforced key science and math standards,” sixth-grade Dolores science teacher Glenn Smith said.

One student, Samantha Abat, 11, said she thought the program was a better way to learn because of the small number of students.

The trips during the three-week program have taken them to the McPhee Reservoir and Hawkins Preserve, where they studied sediment, trees and wildlife. They also visited the Burro Fire command center to learn about the science of a wildfire.

“We learned that the Burro Fire is stable now, and once the monsoons come, it is going to help put the fire out,” Kyligh Shilkoh, 11, said. “We learned how a firefighter lives his everyday life.”

The students were enthusiastic about what they have learned through experiments in the field and said it would help them when they go back to school in the fall.

“We learned about the layers of sediment, and the fifth-graders are moving on to sixth grade, and there is going to be a lot of sediment and layering going on in sixth grade, and I don’t know what to expect in middle school, but I can imagine all the knowledge I can get is going to be helpful,” Emmie Beckler, 12, said.

Graham Messenger, 11, is being home-schooled next year but said what he has learned during the program has helped him prepare.

“I think it is going to help me next year because we are learning higher grade stuff,” Messenger said.

The students agreed that learning in the field is preferable to being in a classroom and a lot of fun.

“We get to go on field trips every day. Instead of being in a classroom, we are out doing hands-on learning instead of learning from a book,” Sienna Parr, 11, said.

When asked what their favorite lessons, students answers included learning about the plants a goat prefers to eat, how to put together a stratigraphic column, and Yosi Waller’s favorite, learning how to read a compass to study structural geology.

According to Smith, stratigraphy is a practice of studying the geological time scale. At McPhee Reservoir, the students made a stratigraphic column of sediment that has accumulated in the lake.

At Hawkins Preserve, the students measured the direction in degrees that the direct cracks were going to get a rough estimate of where the center point of activity would have been during its formation.

“I have learned about different kinds of sedimentation of rocks,” Shilkoh said. “We learned about the older sediments and the newer sediments. We got to measure sandstone sediment, and they all have different colors.”

The students will end the program with a trip to study in Monticello, Utah, after some “service learning” by doing trail building and maintenance on Butler Trail.

According to Smith, the program was funded by a grant from Kinder Morgan, and no fee was required to participate. “We hope to expand this program to include two certified teachers and up to 20 students,” Smith said.

Kathie Butler, owner of the Nature Center, said she was excited to have the students there to learn. “We need kids out in nature learning hands-on,” Butler said.