Writer: Beth Sitzler
The Regional Alliance for Science, Engineering and Mathematics (RASEM) held a summer institute for middle school students July 21-25 at the New Mexico State University campus and the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center.
The RASEM Summer Science Institute is funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to encourage students with disabilities to participate in scientific fields. This was one of several RASEM outreach programs held throughout the year.
Twelve students participated in the program created by Ron Taylor, an instructor of technical studies at the Dona Ana Branch Community College; Mark Sechrist, a recent anthropology master’s graduate; Beth O’Leary, an anthropology professor; and Christina Butcher, a current anthropology undergraduate. The program is based in part on curriculum created by the Human Systems Research under a New Mexico Historic Preservation Division grant.
“We put together a program to teach science and math skills based on archeology, while providing students with real world encounters into New Mexico’s unique history and prehistory,” O’Leary said.
The program consisted of both classroom work and field trips. During classroom activities, the students learned how to layout a metric grid to map a site that was created on campus and to identify artifacts, features and ecofacts, which are items like charcoal, corncobs and other organics that are consumed. They also learned how to create their own rock art.
On Thursday, the students went to NMSU’s Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center to examine 12 prehistoric rock art sites on the National Register of Historic Places. While there, they learned how to properly document actual sites.
They also went to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, sponsored by the Asombro Institute for Science Education, to investigate the paleontology and archaeology of the Jornada Basin. Sechrist, secretary of the institute, guided a tour of a mammoth rub that he had discovered.
On Friday, the students went to Gila National Forest to take a guided tour of the cliff dwellings.
“Many of the students haven’t been hiking before or gone to these places,” Taylor said. “This is a great hands-on learning experience for them to learn how people lived in prehistory.”
For more information about the RASEM Summer Science Institute, call Taylor at (575) 527-7595 or O’Leary at (575) 646-2560.