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Area kindergarten students learn about aquatic organisms at NMSU lab

Las Cruces kindergarten students learned aquatic organisms are a crucial part of river ecology and preservation on a trip to the New Mexico State University Fisheries Research and Teaching Lab, made possible by a Toyota Motor Corp. science grant.

Desert Hills Elementary kindergarten students visited the New Mexico State University Fisheries Research and Teaching Lab to learn about river preservation and water conservation during the Native Fishes Event, Oct. 21-22. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The Native Fishes Event, Oct. 21-22, gave more than 100 kindergarten students from Desert Hills Elementary the opportunity to visit the Fisheries Research and Teaching Lab in Knox Hall. NMSU associate professor and U.S. Geological Survey fisheries biologist Colleen Caldwell taught the students the basics of river ecology through numerous activities.

The visit to the lab provided the children with hands-on, site-based science instruction. The students were able to view algae and zooplankton under microscopes, look at tanks with fish from several different continents and touch and feed the federally endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, the state fish of New Mexico.

The kindergarteners also observed the equipment needed to raise fish and learned about different species and anatomy at specimen "feel stations."

A grant awarded to Desert Hills Elementary School kindergarten teacher Michelle Estrada made the trip possible. Estrada applied for and received the $10,000 Toyota Motor Corp. Tapestry Grant to help educate kindergarten students about the need for river preservation and water conservation. The grant is titled, "The Rio Grande and its Grand Importance."

"Water conservation and river preservation are relevant subjects to kids in Las Cruces, but they also can apply what they've learned on a larger scale," Estrada said.

The grant has allowed the school to purchase binoculars, microscopes, digital cameras, guided reading books, read-aloud books and clipboards. It also funds buses for field trips and allows the school to purchase materials from Project Water Education for Teachers. These resources are available to the kindergarten team at Desert Hills Elementary, with some also shared schoolwide.

Throughout the year, the students will learn about the animals, plants, endangered species, migrating birds and the importance of the Rio Grande. Conservation and weather and water cycles also will be studied. After learning about aquatic organisms, the students will begin studying food chains and migratory birds of the Rio Grande.