Youth Education Program

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Mr. Ernie Lopez at the Conservation Education Camp
The staff at Taos SWCD understand that our youth will be the next generation of land managers, natural resources specialists, and scientists who will continue the challenging and rewarding work of wisely managing our natural resources.  In the words of the nationally-recognized Taos educator, Mr. Ernie Lopez, our youth are "the most important natural resource".   

Click here to email us if you are interested in learning more about our youth education.

Conservation Education Camp

Annual Celestino Romero Conservation Education Camp is held every July (minus pandemic years) and coordinated by Mr. Ernie Lopez and Claireen Espinoza.  Held at the Loma Verde Presbyterian Camp located east of Taos, this event invites elementary students from all areas of the county to spend two, activity-filled days with soil & water conservation professionals.

Food, Land, and People (FLP) Activities

Taos SWCD Educators Ernie Lopez and David Gilroy partner with local elementary and middle school teachers to engage students in natural resource conservation and science activities.  Over the years, they have reached thousands of students from schools in Penasco, Costilla, Ranchos de Taos, Red River, Questa, Arroyo Hondo/Arroyo Seco, Taos Pueblo and within the Taos Valley. The core curriculum, titled Food, Land & People (FLP), is a nationally accredited educational tool for K-12. It spans several disciplines such as science, math, social studies and English while stressing natural resource conservation concepts and practices.

NM Envirothon Competition

Since 2011, Taos SWCD has co-sponsored the annual New Mexico Envirothon competition. Envirothon is an environmental and natural resource conservation problem-solving, teambuilding and leadership experience and competition for high school students. District manager, Peter Vigil, saw the great value in this academic program when he brought it to New Mexico in 2010. Student teams from Taos, Penasco, and Questa High Schools compete regularly and other county high schools are encouraged to contact us if they have an interest in starting a team. Taos SWCD also supports regional Envirothon events to engage other northern NM schools, from Las Vegas to Shiprock.

Student Forest Monitoring

Teams of high school and community college students from around Taos County are hired seasonally by Taos SWCD to assess the ecological changes resulting from forest thinning treatments on projects in Taos County.  The students work in teams to collect, compile, summarize, and publicly share field data with forest managers and community members.  Students receive on-the-job training in professional-level forest stand and fuels monitoring techniques.  Support for this programming has been made possible by Taos County and the Taos CWPP Partners, USFS’s Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, the Rio Grande Water Fund, New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, Taos High School, UNM-Taos, and NM Highlands University. A primary goal of this annual program is to support students in technical learning while they work to benefit their community and increase the resiliency of their natural resources.

Science Fair Support

Taos SWCD’s Science Fair Program offers all fifth and sixth graders in Taos County financial and technical assistance for science fair projects related to natural resources.  Taos SWCD staff also participates in the various school’s science fair competitions as judges.

Groundwater Awareness Week

The majority of Taos County residents rely on groundwater supplies for their drinking and domestic water needs. As our local population grows and water demand changes, awareness of both groundwater quantity and quality is important to wisely use this precious resource. During the first full work-week in March, Taos SWCD hosts outreach events and supports school activities to highlight groundwater science and conservation.

National Stewardship Week

Taos SWCD participates in National Stewardship Week (last week in April) every year. The District visits partnering elementary school classes, providing them with conservation materials based on annually changing themes (examples include soil health, importance of pollinators, forest health, watershed health, etc.) 

Noxious Weed Awareness

Taos SWCD, the fiscal sponsor and collaborative partner with the Taos County Cooperative Weed Management Area (CDMA) team, hosts annual events to educate landowners and land managers about noxious weed management.  Thanks to Tanya Duncan, the staff lead for this program,  and the Taos CDMA partners, education on invasive weeds is being provided to students through a first edition of the coloring book, Invasive Weed or Native Plant? (click for link to pdf).  Free noxious and invasive weed identification books are available throughout the year and calendars are available in December and January (while supplies last).  

Partners in Youth Education

Taos SWCD partners with other government agencies, non-profits, and academic institutions through a variety of educational events and programming.  The staff at Taos SWCD appreciate these partnerships as they provide a strong foundation for quality educational programming that ensures the wise use of natural resources.