For the kids: a week outdoors around their town w/ notebooks

I just finished another week teaching Art Adventures for the NM Museum of Natural History and Science.

Sandia Crest view on the last day of camp

Teaching the use of a notebook to record one’s observations is a bit tricky to a random group of 9-11 year olds. And as my partner teacher and good friend remarked again and again this week, it is not regular school, it is camp and supposed to be fun. (Smile.)

Janis and Rachel helping to document the location of Abert Squirrel skull.

Because it IS a fun practice to record one’s thoughts, observations, drawings into a notebook that becomes ones own private concoction. It should be fun, anyway, not drudgery. But for some youngsters, this is unknown territory and a gentle touch is needed, not a hard shove, into the realm of journaling.

Mike Sanchez shows the kids a Vinagaroon and how to sketch it.

One student remarked on the first day in the first hour, “I cannot draw.” I have encountered this mindset in a student at least once each year. And to guide such a one into the act of desiring to respond with words and sketches to places is helped by the excitement of riding out every day to a different ecosystem, and balanced with the fact that some classmates take to notebooks like fish to water and are thus great models to their peers. As well, being exposed to staff members like Mike, amazing naturalist, educator and scientific illustrator, and to a generous program which opens its back doors, slowly a reluctant drawer can be transformed. It was great to hear his mom yesterday tell me, “He really had fun this week.”

The Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque has an other-worldly atmosphere. In part due to the treasure trove of fossils (from our state!) it safeguards in its displays, though in my years bringing regular classes here and as a summer camp educator, I realize the crucial role the staff plays as well. Decisions have been made at many junctures in its close to 25 years that have rounded out an institution that fully serves its state.

Sketching the big skeletons in the Jurassic Hall

It has a devoted and well-organized community of Docents. It has education programs that span early childhood through high school on through adult. It has a hands-on lab in the museum for round-the-clock, multi-age engagement with the four sciences – botany, geology, paleontology and zoology – that the museum espouses. It has two behind-the-scenes collections, staffed with experts, Bio Sciences and Geo Sciences, that are made available on a regular basis for tours. It has an outdoor laboratory it jointly manages with our local public school system.

I have diverted from original subject of teaching naturalist notebook into describing the institution that created the class. Maybe you can see why – the class fits in the context of all the programs surrounding it. Lucky are we to get to be a part of it!!

Climbing J-Cone on field reconnaissance, pre-camp


1 Response to “For the kids: a week outdoors around their town w/ notebooks”

  1. August 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    My, O, my, Cirrelda. What a time you must be having. Yes, I think your approach on getting them to write a journal is good. My college students that I took on field trips: I would require a steno pad and have them sketch, write info., etc. I told them that it was their log, but I would make copies of their notes when we returned. Of course, the result was uneven. The excitement of taking students in the field is really good. If they can get over their hangovers by mid-morning, we could get some good work done. But, the excitement was natural and not forced at all. I even had some students go on to Texas Tech and become anthropologists. I envy you in a way now. I don’t teach anthropology any more since I left Amarillo and I miss the field in the classroom. Of course now, all I have to do is walk out in my pasture and there are sites and tools. I leave them where they are. It’ll be a good project someday in the future to type the site and get it on the grid.

    Your work is invaluable. And, beyond that, you are an artist. You have a most interesting life out there, Cirrelda. Art adventures. What a time they must have had. Good photos.

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