GARNA’s Youth Ecological Literacy Program (YELP) goals are to foster environmental stewardship and to encourage young people to explore careers within the field of natural resources. The program provides science-based, experiential activities and education through school field trips, career exploration, enrichment programs, and summer camps. The goal of the school-based programs is to tailor lessons for each grade level, both to bolster students’ academic knowledge through hands on experiences and to raise the next generation of youth with a better understanding of stewardship and what makes their environment so unique.

Longfellow Elementary 3rd grade Fall Field Trip – Wednesday, September 28

3rd grade fieldtrip

GARNA board member, John McCarthy, teaches 3rd grade students how to navigate using a compass to complete a scavenger hunt.

Longfellow Elementary third grade students hiked along the Monarch Crest Trail and visited the Maysville Picnic area September 28. They learned from community experts including the US Forest Service Geologist, Anthony Davila and volunteer naturalist, Sally Waterhouse, as well as other GARNA volunteers. As a part of their pre-trip lesson, students learned both how compasses work and compass navigation and had the opportunity to put those skills to use through a compass scavenger hunt. Additionally on their field trip, students learned about the habitat and adaptation of bats, the Continental Divide and glacial formation of the area, and ecology of subalpine and alpine life zones. Students hiked along the Crest Trail giving them great views and access to an extensive outdoor classroom.

We would like to thank all our volunteers for teaching and making the day a great success: John McCarthy: GARNA Board member, Sally Waterhouse: GARNA volunteer, Anthony Davila: US Forest Service, and Nancy Powers, GARNA volunteer. We would also like to thank the Longfellow Third Grade Teachers:  Morgan Love, Mark Tameler, Jaime Giorno, and Carol McIlvaine, as well as the parent chaperones who supported each class.

As a part of their ecology study this October, the Salida High School Biology students participated in an in depth water study of the South Arkansas River.  Heidi Slaymaker and Candace Bryans’ classes completed the study with partnership from GARNA and Trout Unlimited.

Salida High School Biology classes at SARELC – October 3 and 4

Students completed their study at the proposed South Arkansas River Ecological Learning Center (SARELC) in Salida. The location is important ecologically as it receives water from 6 tributaries upstream before the survey area and is relatively near the location where the water joins the main branch of the Arkansas River. This survey location gives students a chance to analyze water used for local irrigation and to study the water that flows through town along many businesses and residential areas of Highway 50 before entering the Arkansas River.

Students completed 4 assessments as a part of their stream study to analyze the health of the river. They completed a habitat assessment and vegetation plot, assessing the area as a wildlife habitat for providing varied food and shelter and looking for evidence of erosion.  Students used the depth of the water in various locations to determine the stream’s velocity so they could compare their data to other survey locations along the South Arkansas. They collected and observed macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) as an indicator of river health. Lastly, they performed an array of water quality tests collecting data on the amount nitrates, phosphates, dissolved oxygen in the water, the presence of E.coli and heavy metals, and the river’s pH level. The water quality tests in combination with the other assessments provide great data to discuss the overall health of the stream and how human impacts may have influenced the data they collected. This project was made possible by a Partners in the Outdoors grant from Colorado Parks & Wildlife / Colorado Parks & Recreation Association.


The students did a great job in this outdoor learning laboratory: wading through the river, collecting insects from under rocks, and sometimes having to take a break to warm their hands from the cold river water just to write their data.  We would like to thank Heidi Slaymaker for inviting organizing the program and to Keith Krebs and Eric Heltzel of the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited for devoting time to partner in this great opportunity!  We look forward to next fall!

Salida Middle School 6th grade Fall Field Trip – Thursday, October 6

The Salida Middle School 6th Grade Class gathered at Mount Ouray State Wildlife Area on October 6, a beautiful and windy fall day to engage in outdoor learning. The Youth Environmental Literacy Program (YELP) focuses of the day included erosion and the rock cycle, GPS navigation, and riparian ecology with a focus on aquatic insects and birds. The students participated in stations led by the US Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, Chaffee County 4H, and the Bureau of Land Management.

6th grade fieldtrip

Salida 6th Grade students build erosion tables as a hands on way of learning about the watershed.

Right from the students’ thank you notes:

“It was really cool that we actually got to get in the river with those boots so our feet didn’t get wet. My favorite thing about the field trip was when we caught the bugs in the Arkansas River.”

“Thank you so much for letting us come up there and learn and have a great experience.  I had so much fun using the GPS to find the flags because it was fun to use a navigation system to find things.”

“Thank you for letting us go on this field trip.  It was the most fun I had this month.”

A special thank you to our volunteers: Sean Shepard: US Forest Service, Justin Abeles: Bureau of Land Management, Christy Fitzpatrick: Chaffee County 4H, Keith Krebs and Eric Hetzel, Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Paul Smith: GARNA volunteer, as well as the 6th grade teaching team: George Mossman, Jean Dyer, Cory Scheffel and Michael Williams, and the parent chaperones

Avery Parsons Elementary School 4th grade Fall Field Trip – Friday, October 14

4th grade fieldtrip

Avery Parsons 4th graders learn the conditions to form a fossil and the kinds of fossils that are present in Colorado from AHRA Volunteer Geologist, Bob Hickey.

This fall marks the first year GARNA has had the opportunity to offer a Youth Ecological Literacy (YELP) Field Trip to the 4th grade classes at Avery Parsons Elementary in Buena Vista. Thanks to GARNA memberships and additional funding through the Every Kid in a Park Initiative (EKiP), the 4th grade was able to spend a full day learning at Ruby Mountain Camp Ground with no cost to the students or school district. GARNA hopes field trip will become an annually offered program.

During the day, the students rotated to 4 stations throughout the newly renovated campground and also on a trail leading them into Browns Canyon. Students engaged in the following stations; Fossils: how fossils are formed and what fossils tell us about Colorado, Our Watershed: Colorado’s transmountain diversion tunnels and erosion models, Navigation: how a compass works and a compass scavenger hunt, and a Reflective Hike: a discussion on the formation of Browns Canyon as a National Monument and what makes the location so unique.

Students enjoyed lunch along the bank of the Arkansas River and participated in a communication game demonstrating the teamwork that goes into forming and protecting our public lands. The students’ curiosity and enthusiasm for learning were an invaluable factor into making this field trip such a great day!

Thank you to our many volunteers: Jamie Tackel, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Molly Pitts, GARNA volunteer, Bob Hickey, AHRA Volunteer Naturalist, Linda Skinner, Bureau of Land Management, Logan Myers, GARNA Board Member and Friends of Browns Canyon,  Bill Dvorak, Friends of Browns Canyon, Jeanne Younghaus, GARNA Volunteer. Additional thanks to the Avery Parsons 4th grade teaching team: Dave Bott, Heidi Atha, Kathy Keidel, and Lisa Seeberger.