Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Project Wild" Brings Outdoors Into The Classroom

Pojoaque Middle School Shop Teacher, Charlie Harrison, shows off the small mouth bass he caught  during a Project Wild Training Seminar on the Rio Grande in June.
Some teachers will be returning to the classroom this year and telling kids what they did this summer under a program designed to help bring nature into the classroom.

“This is great training,” Kelly Jolley, an alternative high school teacher at La Academia La Esperanza in Albuquerque said while learning to fish on the Rio Grande earlier this summer. “And I know that any time I can schedule an outdoor activity it improves attitude and attendance among my students.”

Jolley said she hopes to utilize the skills and materials she and 13 other teachers picked up during the training with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Project Wild program in June.

The program provides hands-on training, educational guides and other materials to help teachers incorporate outdoor activities and concepts into their educational regime.

“Sixty percent of teachers who take our training will end up using these activities in the classroom,” says program administrator Kevin Holladay of NMDGF. “The bottom line is it’s all about getting kids back outdoors.”

Holladay says competition from electronic media, video games and other indoor activities can sometimes make getting kids outdoors to learn about our environment difficult.

But with help from teachers the Project Wild Program is designed to do just that.
Teachers enjoy a float down the Rio Grande in  northern New Mexico courtesy of Far Flung Adventures.
The now nationwide program began over 30 years ago when a group of western state educators and natural resource administrators came together to promote outdoor education in the classroom.

Since then the program has trained over a million teachers in how to use its widely accepted learning guides and projects to stimulate an interest in the outdoors among students.

Here in New Mexico the project has trained about 4000 teachers and others since it began in 1984, Holladay says.

The project provides an extensive array of supplemental education materials to teachers as well as hands-on training.

For example, teachers can use one of the projects’ many coloring books to introduce younger kids to aquatic and other forms of wildlife.
Kirtland Central High School Teacher, Sonnin Dahl, poses with one of plastic fish used in the Project Wild program to familiarize participants with the many aquatic species found in New Mexico.
Teachers might want to use the educational guides to have older high school students participate in a group environmental action project that benefits local wildlife.

There are many unique educational opportunities that can be employed in all grades covering all sorts of subjects including civic, math and other disciplines.

More info about the many educational projects contained in the program’s activity guides and other materials can be found at the NMDGF website at

In the meantime Industrial Arts Teacher, Charlie Harrison at Pojoaque Middle School says he plans on having his students build fence post bee hives and bat and bird boxes to help educate them about wildlife.

“I love nature and this program will absolutely help me share that with the kids,” he says.

Harrison was one of the teachers from around the state who enrolled in the Project Wild Training on the Rio Grande this summer where he and others took a raft trip and camped out for a night near Pilar.
Far Flung Adventures Rafting Guide, Ricus Ginn, on the left, hang out with his boss, Steve Harris, during a Project Wild outing in June.
During the trip the teachers learned about the river’s history and ecology from Steve Harris, Executive Director of Rio Grande Restoration and owner of Far Flung Adventures rafting company.

They also learned to fish from the NMDGF’s contract fishing instructor, Ti Piper, who last year alone conducted 23 fishing clinics and 37 presentations reaching close to 3,000 kids and adults.
Renowned author of "Fishing in New Mexico" Ti Piper who has been teaching kids and adults how to fish for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) for years provides instruction on lures to Project Wild Participants during an outing to the Rio Grande in June, 2012.
Harrison listened carefully, worked patiently and then reeled in a small mouth bass he caught on a lure during the afternoon fishing session.

But it wasn’t all floating and fishing as the teachers had to sit down at camp and learn how to use Project Wild’s classroom instructional guides upon their return to the classroom.

Teachers interested in attending or holding their own Project Wild workshop can contact Kevin Holladay at (505) 476-8095 or by email at

Those New Mexico teachers sure know how to roll.

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