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RAs Laura Brinson and Emily Montoya Camp with 5th Graders at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

RAs Laura Brinson and Emily Montoya Camp with 5th Graders at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

On November 8-9, eight lucky 5th graders from the Paradise Professional Development School (PPDS) took to the canyon land for a two-day camping trip, co-led by GBI’s Laura Brinson and Emily Montoya. Joined by Daphne and Amalia from the Public Lands Institute (PLI), the four environmental educators loaded the Environmental Science Club students into vans for a fun-filled trip to Moenkopi Campground, located in Red Rock Canyon NCA.

Housed at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, the mission of the Paradise Professional Development School (PPDS) is to be a hub for teacher education, research, and innovative learning for pre-school through 12th grade students. Partnering with regional agencies, including nonprofits such as GBI, makes it possible for PPDS to provide access to environmental education opportunities.

As environmental educators trained in outdoor safety, Laura, Emily, Daphne, and Amalia are well equipped to manage an excited bunch of ten-and eleven-year olds on an outing like this one. After a safety lesson, the kids chose their own campsite and helped each other set up tents. Then they got down to the fun business of exploring their campground.

Later in the afternoon the group drove from Moenkopi campground to Red Springs for their first taste of hiking and rock scrambling. Afterward, Park Ranger Gina Mele met everyone at the base of the Calico Hills to introduce the students to Red Rock NCA’s geological wonders, including the Keystone Thrust Fault, as well as the surprising variety of native plants and animals that thrive in Red Rock Canyon NCA. One of three perennial springs in the Calico Basin, Red Springs feeds a grassy marshland area at the base of sandstone cliffs. Several Native American cultures have called this oasis home; Red Springs’ many petroglyphs—some etched into boulders, and others, such as a Blanket panel, carved into the cliff face—speak to the area’s cultural importance. Today, fencing protects the spring from wild burros and a boardwalk keeps people from trampling the meadow. After her talk, Gina led the group on a guided boardwalk hike for a closer look at the Rock Art.

Back at camp, Daphne showed the kids how to start a fire and taught them the importance of fire safety. Then they ate an authentic camp dinner of fire-roasted hot dogs and chips, which was of course followed by s’mores for dessert. That night everyone sat around the campfire telling ghost stories before capping off the night with a moonlight hike. The next morning everyone pitched in to make delicious breakfast burritos. After breakfast they packed up tents, sleeping bags, food, and trash before heading out to hike near Red Springs. For the next few hours the kids climbed, hiked, and scrambled up, over, and around the rocks. When it came time to leave, all the kids exclaimed, “This campout was fun!”

The four educators and their students worked together to make this trip special. Outings to places like Red Rock Canyon NCA give these budding scientists from PPDS a chance to explore the outdoors, and to shine as a group.  As Emily said, “The kids got along great and were very well-behaved.”

-Emily Montoya

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