WRJH teachers to explore natural resources in New Mexico
Mark Friedel Staff Reporter
Will Rogers Junior High geography teachers Traci Smith and Heather Braucher began a week field expedition Monday in northern New Mexico.
Along with 14 other Oklahoma educators, Smith and Braucher will explore the past and present interface between indigenous and post-indigenous cultures during the expedition entitled “Rocky Roads and Resources.” The exploration is offered to K-12 teachers by the Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education (OKAGE) at the University of Oklahoma, and supported by a grant from the Oklahoma Geography Education Fund.
Educators will investigate Native American and Hispano villages and places of religious importance, visit mining and alternative energy sites, landmarks and museums, meet local experts and conduct comparative community studies of Taos and El Cerrito, N.M., said OKAGE Institute Coordinator Gary Gress.
“Studying both human and natural resources allows us to connect present-day geographic concepts with past times,” said Gress. “Land tenure and ownership are powerful issues that are being threatened by tourism, water usage and dwindling agricultural lands. Anglos, Native Americans and the Hispano culture are also changing; this institute will allow participants to see these changes first hand.”
Teachers will study the changes and relay the real-world experience into their curriculum and lessons, said Braucher.
As an OKAGE teacher consultant, Braucher will help teachers figure out how to work what they find into lessons for the students.
“We’re more than just tourists. I have a journal and will be taking notes wherever we go,” she said. “Traci (Smith) has been here before, but this particular area of New Mexico is somewhat new for me, so this week will be a tremendous eye-opener.”
Braucher said she has participated in similar summer educational explorations in the past with OKAGE, visiting Colorado and the headwaters of the Arkansas River.
Following the field experience in New Mexico, teachers will spend Sunday in Norman, digging deep on the importance of their findings and how to fit the information into curriculum for their classrooms.
“This is a great way to study the blending of history and geography first hand,” said Gress. “Expedition members will gain a better understanding of the breadth, importance and legacy of environmental and cultural issues.”
For more information about OKAGE, visit okageweb.org.