A Desert Oasis: Keystone Park and Wetlands Project


NMSU Team: Shirley Davis, Ellen Treadway, Michele Stafford-Levy, Albert Ortiz

Title of Project/Unit: A Desert Oasis: Keystone Park and Wetlands Project


Grade Level: 6th grade and Pre-service teachers

Subject: Thematic Unit-Biological Science, Math, and Language Arts

Learner Outcomes:


Students will use evidence, models, and explanations to explore the physical world.

        Identify and organize evidence needed to predict changes in natural and artificial systems; design and develop models

New Mexico State Content Standard 2

Students will understand the physical world through the concepts of change, equilibrium, and measurement

        Illustrate that constancy and change are properties of objects and processes;

        Use elementary scientific devices to measure objects and simple phenomena;

        Employ mathematics to quantify properties of objects and phenomena; and

        Relate the contributions of external and internal forces to change in the form and

        Function of objects, organisms, and natural systems.

New Mexico State
Content Standard 4

Students will acquire the abilities to do scientific inquiry.

           Use the scientific method within the classroom and school environment; and

           Employ equipment, tools, a variety of techniques and information sources to gather,

           Analyze, and interpret data

New Mexico State Content Standard 5

Students will know and understand the characteristics that are the basis for classifying organisms

             Use information about living things including:

             The roles of structure and function as complementary in the organization of living


New Mexico State Content Standard 10

Students will know and understand the synergy organisms and the environments of organisms distinguish among organisms based on the way an organism regulates its internal environment in relation to changes in its external environment

           Describe how organisms obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain a stable

           Internal environment while living in a constantly changing external environment;

           Predict behavior in relation to changes in an organisms internal and external environments

           Use knowledge of population characteristics to distinguish specific populations

           Categories organisms based on the function they serve within their ecosystem;

           Examine the impact humans have had on other species and natural systems over time

New Mexico State

Content Standard 11

Language Arts

Strand: Reading and Listening for Comprehension

Students will apply strategies and skills to comprehend information that is read, heard, and viewed

Standard I

Gather and use information for research and other purposes

1. Understand concept of primary source.

2. Research multiple sources to deepen understanding and integrate information and ideas across varied sources and content areas by:

           Conducting research (with assistance) from a variety of sources for assigned or self-selected projects (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people, libraries, databases, Internet, computer networks)

5-8 Benchmark I-B

Apply critical thinking skills to analyze information

2. Evaluate the usefulness and quality of information and ideas based on purpose, experiences, text

5-8 Benchmark I-C

Strand: Writing and Speaking for Expression

Students will communicate effectively through speaking and writing

Standard II

Use speaking as an interpersonal communication tool

Use language to:

     formulate hypotheses

     evaluate information and ideas

     present and support arguments

5-8 Benchmark II-A

Demonstrate competence in the skills and strategies of the writing process

Produce a variety of written products that demonstrate competence

5-8 Benchmark II-C


Students will understand and use statistics.

             collect, organize, and describe data systematically;

             construct, read, and interpret tables, charts, and graphs

Content Standard 10


The Hook


Dear Mr. Ortiz Sixth Grade Students and New Mexico State University Pre-Service Teachers,


A 5,000-year old village, possibly the oldest and largest of its time ever found, has been discovered inside El Paso's city limits along an ancient, and rare, desert wetlands. Water from the nearby Rio Grande River has always been seeping into this old bosque, or marsh, which provides a resting stop for millions of birds of all types as they migrate yearly along the Rio Grande. Some of these migrating birds fill the sky, including blackneck stilts, egrets, and YES - hundreds of seagulls! http://www.keystonepark.org/



A group of El Pasoans determined that the Keystone Site should be preserved. EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Their applications for funding from The TX DOT (Texas Department of Transportation) and Junior League grants have been approved. The rare desert wetlands, the Keystone site in El Paso is now protected from development.


Students of El Paso, this is our great chance the Keystone Foundation, comprised of parents, teachers and businesspersons, want this place for our children. They want us to help develop this Keystone Center into a place for us to learn about the desert wetlands and its impact on the environment. Funds will be available to build botanical gardens, wetlands, archeological site, interpretive center, hike and bike trails, and more. We want inputs from you to help develop the project into what you feel would be a learning opportunity to preserve our wetlands.


In order to help preserve this desert wetland, you need to learn about wetlands and its impact on our environment. As you learn about wetlands, we would like for you to send us your proposals on how we could keep Keystone Center a habitats for the migrating birds and other wetland animals and leave this desert wetland unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. We are also accepting proposals for the best ideas to transform Keystone Center into a learning center for the community.


We need your help.




Bernie Sargent

Keystone Foundation


Information taken from http://www.keystonepark.org/


Authentic Task:

Participants in a teacher preparation course for technology integration and sixth grade students have been recruited by the Keystone Foundation to work on the desert wetland in El Paso. The Keystone Center is an endangered wetland, home to millions of migrating waterfowl along the Rio Grande project. Using digital cameras, scanners, Internet images, students will document and publish online the local migrating waterfowl that live in this desert phenomenon and track that migration so that students would understand the scope of the problem of "What would happen to these birds if the wetlands were not there? NMSU pre-service teachers will co-investigate with 6th graders on the Texas/New Mexico border to serve as a team of junior scientists. This study will not only document our local wetlands but also learn about the wetlands in the U.S.


Student Direction:

        Students will brainstorm and develop strategies and methodologies for studying the site.

        Students will conduct a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the site. Data will be shared

        with both pre-service teachers and students studying wetlands along the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande)

        from Albuquerque, New Mexico to San Elizario, Texas.

        Students will decide upon appropriate groupings for the investigation of the project.

        Students will employ equipment, tools, a variety of techniques and information sources to

        gather, analyze, and interpret data.

        Students will study aerial and topographical maps to select at least 10% of the 50-acre site

        for investigation.

        Students will meet with representatives from Keystone Foundation to present data, support

        inferences, and other information to prepare an informational Web Site for Keystone*.

        Students will identify and organize information to publish to the Internet for El Pasos

        Keystone Foundation.


Best Use of Technology:

        Students will investigate their topics and work with experts such as the Texas Parks and Wild

        Life and the International Boundary and Water Commission (U.S. State Department).

        Students will be able to use aerial maps and GPS to map out the ecosystem of the proposed site.

        Students will be able to use such software tools as MS Access to build a database regarding

        local waterfowl, environmental issues, soil, and water study.

        Students will create a web page to document the local and migrating waterfowl and post to the

        Internet an image database for the Keystone Foundation.

        Pre-service teachers will be able to research web sites about wetlands on the Internet and

        share lesson plans with their peers, university professors, and local and regional


        Students will communicate on the Internet with other students and pre-service teachers

        researching the local wetlands.

        Students will present their findings on the Keystone Web site.


Authors: Michele Stafford-Levy, Shirley Davis, Ellen Treadway, Albert Ortiz
Collaborators: LInC Leaders
Created: February 25, 2001 - Updated: March 22, 2001

URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/nmsuwet/proposal1.html