Whiptail Trails Club Helps Students Experience Nature's Wonders
Seventh grade girls in the Whiptail Trails Club at White Sands National Park.

In today’s digital era, where nearly everyone, including the younger generation, carries a smartphone and spends part of their day screen-based activities, there is an ever-growing need to introduce young people to the pleasures of outdoor exploration. The Whiptail Trails Club of the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA) is designed with precisely this purpose in mind.

The Whiptail Trails Club has a dual purpose: it provides classroom instruction to seventh-grade students, followed by engaging outdoor excursions, and arranges extensive week-long summer camps exclusively for girls. Collaborating closely with government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service, PLIA is wholeheartedly dedicated to fostering a profound bond between the youth and the natural world during this critical time in their lives.

Collaborating with Schools to Explore the Great Outdoors

In collaboration with schools throughout New Mexico, PLIA and its partners join forces to present in-class sessions that focus on the marvels of the natural world, all while aligning with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) standards, tailored for seventh-grade students. Some of these sessions also infuse artistic elements, transforming them into engaging STEAM experiences. These educational modules serve as a cornerstone of knowledge that students can draw upon when embarking on subsequent field trips led by PLIA experts.

For example, students delve into the world of native plants, their various roles within Indigenous cultures, the ethics surrounding plant collection, and are encouraged to express their findings through watercolor paintings, capturing the plants they encounter in their natural habitat. Additionally, students are instilled with the principles of Leave No Trace to ensure their outdoor adventures have a minimal impact on the environment.

In-class activities expand to include wildlife presentations and interactive experiences that delve into the rich tapestry of Indigenous and Spanish heritage. During field trips, students often engage in outdoor scavenger hunts or the creation of handcrafted artifacts.

The Whiptail Trails Club selects destinations close to the participating schools for their presentations. For instance, students in Las Cruces may venture to the Dripping Springs Natural Area, while their counterparts in Albuquerque may explore the Petroglyph National Monument.

An outstanding benefit for schools is that PLIA assumes all financial responsibilities related to classroom sessions and field trips, including transportation expenses. This initiative primarily focuses on Title 1 schools, where financial constraints may limit opportunities for camping and outdoor exploration, providing a gateway to these experiences.

Importantly, these lessons are tailored to align with state STEM requirements, making them a dynamic addition to the curriculum. Beyond the confines of the classroom, this initiative empowers students to step into the great outdoors, forging a connection with the natural world, breaking free from screens, and fostering a transformative educational experience.

To find out about inviting the Whiptail Trails Club to your school or classroom, visit the website.

Whiptail Trails Club exploring native plants
Whiptail Trails Club exploring native plants.

Whiptail Trails Club Summer Camp Program

Another remarkable feature of the Whiptail Trails Club is the summer camp offered at no cost to girls going into or out of the seventh grade. That’s correct; it’s absolutely free! Every aspect, including transportation, outdoor gear, and nourishment, is fully provided for the young campers.

This week-long adventure is structured to reinforce girls’ self-reliance and familiarity with outdoor environments. In preparatory sessions leading up to the camp, the girls are introduced to the essentials of public lands, animal behavior, and survival strategies. Afterward, their wilderness outing offers an array of skill-building exercises such as land navigation, outdoor cooking, essential backpacking, and first-aid basics. Activities could also extend to visiting significant historical sites or engaging in the scientific study of tree rings to determine a tree’s age.

Such an enriching experience has the capacity to serve as a pivotal moment in a young girl’s life, helping her discover an unexplored passion for engaging with the natural world firsthand.

To learn more about this opportunity, visit the PLIA website.

Whiptail Trails Club members and a Forest Service employee looking at a tree sample.
Whiptail Trails Club members and a Forest Service employee looking at a tree sample.

Fund the Whiptail Trails Club Efforts

The Whiptail Trails Club’s activities are primarily financed by the New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund, and are supplemented by donations from individual supporters and corporate sponsors. Further reinforcement is offered by staff and intern involvement from both the BLM and Conservation Corps New Mexico.

As for PLIA, they count on donations from individual donors, civic organizations, and business entities to sustain these enriching programs. If you’re interested in advancing youth experiences in the outdoors, you can lend your support by either donating funds or acquiring merchandise from the PLIA online store.

Read about PLIA’s Fort Craig virtual reconstruction project here.


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Posted by Ruidoso.com

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