Montessori Elementary students joined ecology experts on Tuesday morning to learn about water use and endangered species through hands-on activities at the Rio Grande Nature Center.
“You will be using all of your senses but one,” Water Utility Authority Outdoor Educator Byron McMillan told the fourth- and fifth-graders before venturing into the forest along the riverbanks. “There will be no tasting in the bosque.”
Inside the nature center, McMillan used a series of bins, plastic balls and strings to create a model of Albuquerque’s water system. After the lesson, the students hiked into the bosque to learn more about the Rio Grande, the fourth largest water system in the country, and the biodiversity along the forested banks and in the river.
Biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were waiting for the students at the edge of the Rio Grande, where they prepared for the release of the silvery minnows, an endangered species of fish native to the river. Each student got a cup full of river water and a small silvery minnow they got to name before releasing it into the Rio Grande. Minnow names ranged from Bubblegum to Jeff.
Fish and Wildlife Biologist Betsy Bainbridge explained that “getting kids interested in nature from a young age” is important to make sure plants and animals are around for generations to come.
“One of the things that really helps is having public support and I think is always really important,” Bainbridge said.
The educational program was organized by the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority.