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A Desert Oasis:
Keystone Park and the Wetlands

Shirley Sung Davis
New Mexico State University


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A desert Oasis: Keystone Park and Wetlands is a semester-long, engaged learning project that partners with New Mexico State University (NMSU) preservice teachers and Gadsden Independent School District (GISD) sixth grade students in an exploration of desert wetlands located in Southern New Mexico and West Texas. This project integrates science, math, language arts, and technology through a thematic approach. The preservice teachers in Mrs. Davis class at NMSU will be collaborating with Mr. Ortiz' sixth grade students at Desert View Elementary School to study the Keystone wetlands project to gain an understanding of what wetlands are, their impact on our environment and ways to preserve this precious resources.


Since Keystone Park and Wetlands have received much media attention the last few months, it is a logical hook for the local communities to study and to know their precious resource. The rationale of this project is to provide NMSU preservice teachers a practical experience while the students will gain valuable information about wetlands.

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Beginning/Getting Started

At a special assembly of six graders from Desert View Elementary School, Mrs. Davis announces that they had been selected to assist the Keystone Foundation. The students would be participating as Junior scientists accompanied by several preservice from NMSU teachers. Their job would be to inventory flora, fauna, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that make Keystone Wetland their home. As well as do water and air samples. With all the media hoopla about Keystone Wetland in recent days, the foundation knew about Mrs. Davis working with students in wetlands back East and most recently this area. Thus they requested her assistance. The kids had a very good picture of what Keystone looked liked from the news media. Many of these kids pass by Keystone with their parents on the way to Wally World, Peter Piper, or Mickey Dees.

The neat -o thing about Mrs. Davis is that she allowed the students to visit a whole bunch of Internet sites on wetlands. She even has her own web site dedicated to Wetlands. Kids were fascinated with the site, especially when she helped them make a simple web site. She even brought her collection of slides, videos, and specimens. Cooool on the specimens.

Mrs. Davis asked the students if they would like to help out Keystone Foundation. The kids all yelled, "YES!" Typical six graders. They always have to yell. Not one yell, but several. Humans!

Mrs. Davis also informed the students that a group of NMSU preservice teachers would lend a helping hand. They would learn from the preservice teachers and the teachers would learn from them. That did not faze them at all. These guys are all pumped up and ready to go. I best stay away from them.


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Middle/In Progress

Mrs. Davis role here is to assist the students. Through enthusiasm teaching and learning procedures, students are empowered to take action and help conserve Keystone Wetland. The students had learned something about wetlands from Mrs. Davis teachings. Students knew the three characteristics that make up wetlands and the four types of wetlands. From the Internet research and teachings from Mrs. Davis, the students set out to find answers to helping out Keystone Foundations. They came up with the following questions:

What makes wetlands an important part of a desert environment?
Why should be we concerned about the preserving Keystone?
What's types of plants live in wetlands?
What types of insects, animals, and reptiles live in wetlands?

Students then broke into several groups to explore several aspects of the environment at Keystone. They would be preparing a detailed description of:
· Soil
· Water
· Waterfowl

The role of the teacher has now shifted to more of a direct guidance. Mrs. Davis assisted the students in obtaining the proper apparatus for the students to conduct their investigates. She made contacts at the EPA office, local business people, local, state, federal, and even Fort Bliss Environmental section. The students themselves went hunting on the Internet for testing equipment.

Help also came from Texas Parks and Wild Life. Surprisingly, from an oddity of an organization "Ducks Unlimited.' They assisted the students in identifying the ducks. Once the students went out to the field, all specimens were collected and bagged. Back at the school's make shift lab, specimens were studied and cataloged. All material was then being turned over to the Keystone Foundation.

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Preservice teachers will gather information about oasis wetlands and develop a plan for addressing issues that they anticipate will be of importance and interest to sixth grade students. By working with sixth graders, they may list a variety of research tools that are to be used throughout the project. The students may choose to produce a database of waterfowl and provide evidence that they have researched the local wetlands and decide on the best course of action. Students' research may include the WWW, e-mail, word processor and database software, a CD-ROM science program, and on-line subject matter experts, under the directions of their student teachers. The report generated by this project, presentation, and classroom participation are used to assess student learning.

Field trip will facilitate the project by meeting on-site for activities they have worked out through various communications, e-mail, videocam conferencing, and/or other communications tools. The student teacher's role shifts to that of facilitator and manager, acting as the on-site consultant and troubleshooter to the various student teams. Student teachers will use a variety of research tools throughout the project and work with the sixth graders in guiding students through chat discussion on how to use technology in the documentation process.

Student teachers will give weekly mini-workshops on WWW, e-mail, water quality test kits, digital cameras, scanners, word processor and database software, web cameras, and scientists in the field. In turn they will be keeping a log of student interactions which will help them learn how to design curriculum for engaged learning projects. After these mini workshops for sixth graders, three mixed teams of eight are formed, with each team for the web site. The web site contributions like the waterfowl database, water quality tests, soil samples, classroom participation, and student presentations are used to assess student learning. The student teachers work together to ensure that each 6th student will have the opportunity to be the lead for a week. These sixth graders will be responsible for facilitating the work and communication. The results of the students' study will be posted on the World Wide Web.

As one can see, this project can easily be a semester-long endeavor. While assignments will be done in a timely manner as described above, however some may take place over a longer period of time. The goals for this project are twofold: 1) Students will develop an understanding of the wetlands and their impact on the environment; 2) Students will continue to share their findings with the class, local community and the Internet community through their webpages.


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Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Credit: Special thanks to Kathee Terry for granting permission to use her webpage http://inspire.ospi.wednet.edu:8001/curric/land/wetland/index.html for activities and also permission to use images.
Credit: Special thanks to I-Shüan Warr for creating the wetlands logo for her mom.
Also, special thanks to my team members, Michele, Albert and Ellen for their encouragement and for our fearless facilitator, Chris, for her constant care, feedback and wisdom.

Author(s): Shirley Sung Davis
School: New Mexico State Universities, Las Cruces, NM
Created: March 1, 2001 - Updated: April 12, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/nmsuwet/scenario.html

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