FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—September 11, 2012, Santa Fe, New Mexico

In October, Santa Fe Botanical Garden will launch its new middle school educational program, “Science at the Cienega”. All the programs will be offered at The Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve. The fall launch will introduce the program to four already chosen Santa Fe schools.

Science at the Cienega is an inquiry-based field experience for students in grades six through eight. It includes pre and post visit classroom activities and correlates with Santa Fe Public School Science Standards.

Goals for students

  • Develop environmental observation skills
  • Become familiar with three distinct ecosystems and their communities of plants and animals
  • Engage in field investigations using technology to gather and record scientific data
  • Use descriptive, comparative, and correlative inquiry to study different habitats

Senses at the Cienega – Our Powers of Observation

Activity Overview

Students acclimate to the wetlands by using each of their senses to detect and describe their environment. Through a guided awareness activity, they will experience different elements of the wetlands using their senses of smell, touch, hearing, and sight (and possibly taste). They then consider whether what they detected is a biotic or abiotic factor. The docent will lead a wrap-up discussion on the inter-connectedness and interactions of the living and non-living parts of an environment.

Seasons at the Cienega: Phenology in the Field

Activity Overview

Students will make observations on seasonal life history events of selected cottonwood trees, one seed junipers, and chamisa plants. Stops will be made at pre-designated plants where students will work in teams to make observations on the status of leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits following scientific protocols for data collection established by the National Phenology Network (NPN). The guide will lead a discussion on the value of collecting phenological data and its relevance to seasonal change and environmental conditions such as climate change.

Surveying at the Cienega – Biological Diversity of Life Zones

Activity Overview

Students gather and compare plant density and diversity data in square meter plots in the Preserve’s upland and riparian habitats. At pre-designated stations (in the riparian and upland zones of the wetlands), students will work in small groups to randomly select and temporarily mark study plots. Each group will observe and count the number of different plant species, estimate ground cover and record the data in their Student Field Journals. After they have conducted their studies at both sites, the docent will lead a brief discussion comparing the uplands and riparian zones.

Sampling at the Cienega: Macroinvertebrates as Indicators of Water Quality

Activity Overview

Students will conduct a study of the macroinvertebrate biodiversity and general health of the pond ecosystem at the wetlands. Students will collect, count, and identify the macroinvertebrates collected from the pond and use their findings as an indicator to determine water quality. Students will also test the water for dissolved oxygen and nitrogen. All data will be entered in Student Field Journals for further analysis and discussion both in the field and back in the classroom.