Torsten and Aven Heavner blow bubbles using recycled plastic water bottles. Courtesy/PEECMelissa Mackey demonstrating the ‘magic’ properties of air and water pressure. Courtesy/PEEC
Canyons, mesas, mountains and skies are the most prominent features of Los Alamos, not to mention the main focus of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s (PEEC) mission statement. The statement reads that PEEC strives to enrich people’s lives by strengthening their connections to these four elements.
Melissa Mackey is cultivating this connection with the younger generation. Throughout this month, Mackey is hosting Canyons, Mesas, Mountains and Skies 10-11:30 a.m., Wednesdays at PEEC. The program is aimed at children 6-10 years old. Admission is $6.50 for PEEC members and $8 for non-members. Space is limited to 10 participants.
During the program, children learn about fire safety and fire building as well as the history of the area’s early humans. Additionally, there are hands-on activities such as exploring canyons, playing with water and mud and talking about erosion.
“I hope they understand how special this area of the Southwest is and how people have been here thousands of years and how our relationship with nature is in some ways similar to way it was thousands of years ago.” Mackey said.
She explained people today and in the past faced the same issues such as floods and fires. Besides getting a good education about their surroundings, “I hope they have fun and that this inspires them to explore on their own,” Mackey said,
Mackey herself has a long relationship with the outdoors. According to a PEEC press release, she grew up hiking and camping and was a First Class Girl Scout. In fact, her first experience teaching others was through the Girls Scouts.
Based her own experiences, Mackey said she believes it is important to get outside and to be knowledgeable about nature.
“I think it teaches you … to be a better person. It teaches you about conservation and about the earth’s resources and it’s good for the soul.”
Others share Mackey’s view point. She said the first session in the program was full and six children attended this week’s session.
Mackey said one youngster, in a survey for the Canyons, Mesas, Mountains and Skies program, commented, “My favorite part was when we’re hiking, writing, painting and learning.”
The child’s parent noted in the survey, “Basically his favorite part was everything.” Another parent wrote in the survey that it was just the right length, with plenty of activities and it was informative and fun.
Mackey said for her, as the teacher, she enjoys the participants’ excitement with even the seemly mundane things. For instance, it is worthwhile to see “the kids’ excitement at how amazing sand can be,” she said.
The program continues Wednesday and June 25. The final class will feature building a fire and roasting marshmallows. Drop-ins are welcomed but parents can also call PEEC at 505.662.0460, e-mail at Programs@PajaritoEEC.org or visit www.parjaritoeec.org to register.