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The opportunity afforded in January 2001 by the Keystone Heritage Park, Inc, to conduct a survey of Keystone Wetland is welcomed because it permits the examination of a rare desert wetland that is now protected from development. Six grade students in the computer lab will be conducting field reconnaissance of the Keystone Wetlands. They will collect archival or published work relating to the area, and the inspection, analysis, and compilation of recovered data from wild life on Keystone Wetland. The information gathered by the students will assist in the development of "botanical gardens, wetland, archaeological site, interpretive center, hike and bike trails, wildlife and more."

As part of a preservice teacher program, teachers will team up with the six grade students to research wetlands. Teachers will gain insight into working with students on a large scale research project, in so doing, they will guide the students throughout their investigations.

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The Golden Egg is Laid

Mr. Ortiz read a letter the school received a few days ago from the Keystone Foundation asking for their help in doing an inventory of the site. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Ortiz's 6th grade classes,

"A 5,000- year old village was excavated, possibly the oldest and largest of its kind, has been discovered inside our city limits along an ancient, and rare, desert wetland. Water from the nearby Rio Grande has been seeping into this old bosque, or marsh, and serves as a resting stop for millions of birds of all types as they migrate yearly along this ancient river in the desert. Birds fill the sky at sunset every night all year long..."

"Students, this is a great chance to preserve our history of the desert southwest. The Keystone Foundation is compromised of parents, teachers, and businessman who want this place for our children. We want you to help develop this Keystone Center into place for you to learn about our desert wetlands and its impact on the environment."


Bernie SargenT, Vice President of Keystone Foundation

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It was perfect timing. The instructor had been talking to the students about the physiography, geology, pedology, and native flora and fauna of this area. The students had been accessing the school's own web site to see maps and aerial photography of the surrounding area.

The Rio Grande, as the teacher explained, "Had been one the mechanism which helped formed the Keystone Wetland." The students were then shown a videotape of the Upper Rio Grande taken from the MRE (Mission Radio Evangelist) station some 6,750 feet above sea level from the Franklin Mountains. The video offered the students an opportunity to see the modern position and geomorphology of the Rio Grande Valley in the Las Cruces/El Paso/Sunland Park/Juarez, Mexico area.

The Rio Grande is a "true exotic stream of the American arid zone." Receiving its water from snowmelt in Colorado Mountains and traversing the desert through much of its length with contributions of a few major tributaries and the runoff from summer thundershowers

Teacher asked the students if they would be interested in helping the Keystone Foundation. The student's reaction was, "Yes, we like to help the Keystone Foundation!"

Students located the Keystone Wetland from aerial and topographic maps. The City of El Paso, TX had supplied the maps. They found the site was only four miles from school. They began to compare the city's aerial photo from a later map, which a group of students had researched off the USGS web site.

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The Egg Has Hatched

The role of the teacher here is of a facilitator. Students are finding a reason and meaning for learning more about the environment of Keystone Wetland.

From their Internet research on wetlands, students came up with several questions they wanted to answer.

  • What are Wetlands?
  • How many types of Wetlands are found in the World?
  • What characteristics make up wetlands?
  • What plants live in wetlands?

Students, break into five groups. Each group set out on plans to do an analysis and reconnaissance of the area to gather information.

  • Soil analysis
  • Water quality assessment
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Create a database of animals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects inhabit the wetlands.
  • Using a GPS to plot flora and fauna species.
  • Collecting archival or published work relating to the project area.
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Teacher's role was more direct in helping the students obtain some of the tools for their research on the project site. Internet sources had a few suggestions in which the kids could make some of the testing equipment. Wherever possible, the students used available material from school or purchased it at Wally World. When it came to power tools, the teacher did all of that work. The New Yankee WorkShop method.

El Paso Water Utilities donate water quality test kits. The Community Health Services - Air Quality Control in El Paso donated air quality kits.

Lois Balin, Urban Biologist Texas Parks and Wildlife, acted as on-site consultant. Her help and connection to resources was an added plus.

Speaking about capturing animals, got myself (Fly on the Wall) trapped in a pool of Petroleum Jelly, which students set out to measure air quality samples. Fortunately the students had collected the sample and took it back to the computer lab for analysis. Students subjected me to the lens of the Intel Microscope. Could see myself on the large Mitsubishi 60" television they had connected via a TV ATOR to the Gateway Computer. I really scared the heck out of the students. Look kids, my eyes. Ha Ha! I made it on television.

Mr. Ortiz had to make a trip every morning to release the animals' from the cages. Otherwise the weather would have killed the animals. Before releasing, digital pictures were taken on the captured animals. Digital pictures where then identified by the students using Internet sites.

All students kept a record log of their findings. Samples were cataloged and stored in plastic bags, which would be turned over to the Keystone Foundation.

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The Flight Down South

"The summer sun is fading as the year grows old. Darker days are drawing near. The winter winds will be much colder. I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky. And one by one they disappear. I wish that I was flying near them." Forever Autumn/Moody Blue

Students had made several field trips to the project area. Every time they went out to the field, some news media went along to write a story about their research. Every group had to keep a journal so as to write a summary report. This report would be presented to Keystone Foundation, City of El Paso, and Gadsden School Board.

The research will not stop here with these students. It will continue for the next coming years.


Mpg movie has been tested on several versions of IE and Netscape. It does not work on all versions. So I am disclaiming all liability of any kind arising out of your use of, or inability to view and use the mpg movie.

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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.

Author(s):Albert Alvarez Ortiz (trekbi@dzn.com or netgod@dzn.com)
School: Desert View Elementary School, Sunland Park, New Mexico
Created: March 4, 2001 - Updated: Tomorrow, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/nmsuwet/scenario2.html