Josh Duran, left, Megan Rains, Miranda Lopez, Lindsey Thalman, Zayda Rodriquez and Karl Sinkula. Courtesy photo
From left, Elizabeth Adams, Ashley Hammond, Senna Luke, Carlos Herrera from Riversource, Inc. and Andrew Johnson. Courtesy photo
Teachers who work at Los Alamos Public Schools truly go above and beyond to provide fun and informative lessons for their students. Megan Rains, a 7th grade science teacher at Los Alamos Middle School, is one such teacher.
In the fall and spring semesters of this school year, Rains took a group of students to the East Jemez River to collect data for the New Mexico Watershed Watch program. The project not only gets her students interacting and learning in nature, but also exposes them to multiple disciplines of science.
According to Rains, Watershed Watch increases youth understanding of water quality, river ecology and fisheries health through hands-on science in a real-world context. Students gather data on biological, chemical and physical indicators and then present to local data users including acequias, school boards, federal agencies and watershed groups. Another benefit is that students become engaged in environmental studies of issues beyond the classroom that address critical water issues.
A project previously led by Eva Abeyta, Rains now continues the program at LAMS. She had her first group of students participate in October for the Fall Sampling Event and her second group of students participate in April for the Spring Sampling Event.
LAMS has been one of a handful of schools in New Mexico that have participated in this long-term project; in fact, they have been collecting data on the East Jemez River for over 10 years since the Las Conchas fire in 2011.
One of the greatest benefits this project offers to students is to show them the interconnectedness of chemistry, physics and biology. Although these subject areas are taught in isolation, Rains believes it is crucial that students understand how the stream flow affects the chemistry indicators (dissolved oxygen for example) which ultimately impact the amount and type of life that can thrive in a given stream.
Rains explained that while students today can be nature-deprived with all the alternative sources of stimulus, the minute you get them outside their sense of wonder never ceases to be heightened and contagious. “They are amazed at the complexity and depth of local streams and how they support the diversity of fish and macroinvertebrates.”
As an educator, Rains’ primary goals consist of finding and utilizing place-based projects that actively and authentically engage her students in real-world science.
“I don’t want them just learning new information but instead be empowered by this knowledge to help understand their sense of place just a little more. This sense of empowerment is what drives change and I believe our world needs an upcoming generation who is willing to tackle that.” Rains said. “She believes the Watershed Watch project promotes this mindset and provides students with the tools to support their communities. I hope to continue building on the foundation of this project by connecting our outlook to fire ecology and management practices.”
From left, Ashley Hammond, Megan Rains, Elizabeth Adams, Senna Luke and Andrew Johnson. Courtesy photo
Front to back, Andrew Johnson, Karl Sinkula, Zayda Rodriquez and Edith Acosta. Courtesy photo