Kai Lokey, 12, found the ancient history of the geological forces that formed the Animas River watershed fascinating. Mila Champagne, 11, enjoyed hiking Chaco Canyon as sixth graders studied the Triassic and Permian systems.
During Geology Night held Thursday, Mountain Middle School sixth and seventh graders gave public presentations about what they’ve learned during their yearlong studies while compiling their geology projects.
“I didn’t even know what a watershed was until we did this project. It really opened my eyes,” said Kai, whose mother is Jen Lokey.
Josh Fix, seventh grade science teacher, said students studied the Animas River watershed in three units, first studying the geologic forces that formed the watershed, then studying the water quality, then studies will culminate with an examination of ways to make adjustments to the watershed to protect water quality.
Students went on a field study to Silverton, where they met with researchers from the San Juan Mountain Association. Researchers described their studies of water quality in Cement Creek. Geology students from Fort Lewis College came to talk to the sixth graders about the watershed’s geologic history.
“They described how plate tectonics formed the watershed and how they created the outside features, the mountains, the rivers, the basin, that they can see,” Fix said.
Mountain Middle Head of School Shane Voss said all the school’s learning projects end with public presentations that help build students’ public-speaking skills and self-confidence. “They present their learning publicly. It shows their mastery of the subject matter. It helps to teach what you’ve learned,” Voss said.
The school requires the students to dress professionally for the presentations, and it invites the public to come and participate in the presentations by asking the students questions about their studies.
The whole idea is to make the night memorable to the students, to make their learning more meaningful and to reinforce an ethic of professionalism to the youngsters, Voss said.
“You can feel the excitement in the building tonight. It’s palpable,” he said.
Mila, the daughter of Christian Champagne and Katy Pepinski, noted that amphibians were the dominant animal during the Permian and Triassic periods. She added, “But my favorite was the saber-tooth cat.”