By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Tucumcari’s Outdoor Classroom came alive April 16 as children from Tucumcari and San Jon elementary schools gathered to celebrate Earth Day by touring demonstrations of environmental, conservation and safety exhibits.
in all, 615 children from both cities, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, were guided through 10 exhibits, where they touched reptiles and amphibians, stroked wolf and coyote pelts, and even got wet under a spray of water produced by a solar-powered pump.
The kids said “E-ew,” when Robert Martin, a volunteer with Ogalalla Commons, a conservation group, pulled an enormous bullfrog from a cooler.
They all pointed to cleaner water when Sean Lewis of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, asked them which they would rather swim in if they were fish. That was after he had reproduced a rainstorm over soil with grass, which produced the cleaner water, and bare soil to demonstrate erosion.
Bob Hockaday, a Tucumcari scientist and inventor, entertained children with demonstrations of solar energy, and made them squeal when a solar powered pump sent water from a tank into a long pipe that sprayed them lightly from above.
Relissa Nials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, coordinated the event and found places in the outdoor classroom for all the exhibitors.
The Outdoor Classroom’s “kivas,” small auditoriums, were occupied by Ron Jones, master specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who passed around animal pelts, and Gretchen Gutler of Mesalands Community College, who, with help from students, showed life-size dinosaur bones.
Debra Mitchell, a retired teacher and volunteer, held forth on bats near the “bat box,” a narrow wooden box suspended about 10 feet off the ground on a metal pole and open on the bottom so bats can fly in an out.
Ashlee Martinez, a recycling advocate, demonstrated the composting frame that was installed last fall in the Outdoor Classroom, and showed them ways to recycle materials that are commonly thrown away.
This was the event’s 15th year, Nials said, and said April 16’s Earth Day was another in a long series of successes for the event.