Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Buenos Aires NWR Launches New Education Project
Southwest Region, April 4, 2008
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The Blue Goose Greets the Kids
The Blue Goose Greets the Kids - Photo Credit: n/a
Biologist Dan Cohan at the geology table with Jennica
Biologist Dan Cohan at the geology table with Jennica - Photo Credit: n/a
Dan Cohan and kids at the biology table
Dan Cohan and kids at the biology table - Photo Credit: n/a

On April 4, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge launched an innovative and interactive educational program to encourage school field trips to the refuge. The riparian zones and grassland of Buenos Aires create an inspiring outdoor classroom. This potential has been largely untapped because of distance from schools. The field trip curriculum is designed for use at Arivaca Cienega, a rare wetland that attracts an abundance of birds and birdwatchers. 

Volunteer Sheila Beck provided the organizational expertise and designed the materials, aided by information provided by Buenos Aires ORP Bonnie Swarbrick. Start-up funding for supplies came from the Friends of Buenos Aires. The attractive and innovative materials are fun to look at and inviting for kids. The Educator's Manual prepares teachers for their field trip, including pre-trip and post-trip activities. For the students, the manual is full of colorful flash cards, information booklets with enticing images of animals and plants, and a journal for them to take home. Materials are geared for kindergarten through third grade, with another set for fourth through eighth graders.  

The new program was premiered with Sopori Elementary School of Amado, Arizona. In March the Blue Goose and several staff and volunteers surprised the school with a visit to all classrooms. The Blue Goose danced and "high-fived" with the kids, while staff invited them to the refuge.

Then in April, for the premiere of the Cienega Discovery program, first-graders from the school were brought for a visit. The Blue Goose waved them in to the trailhead and started them on their nature adventure. After a snack, subgroups rotated to several stations along the trail to study plants, animals, and other aspects of nature. Microscopes, nature artifacts, and hands-on activities held their interest.  Friends, staff, and volunteers instructed at the stations and later helped the children reflect on their learning through drawings, poems, and journals. On the boardwalk, an unexpected highlight was a long track of paw prints made by two mountain lions.

At the end of the day, many kids didn't want to leave, and now they are urging their parents to bring them back to the refuge. This program will be embellished in the future, bringing more children to the outdoors to learn about our natural heritage.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov
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