MNPC Sponsors Field Trips to Zzyzx Desert Studies Center

posted on November 22, 2010

When Mojave National Preserve rangers visit classrooms in Barstow and other desert towns, they are often reminded that few area students have ever been to a national park… not even those in their own backyard, like Mojave National Preserve. Mojave rangers want to change that, by hosting local students on field trips. Dormitory facilities Zzyzx Desert Studies Center make overnight trips possible. Last June, rangers partnered with school teacher Cheryl Marino from Barstow and field tested our first overnight field trip to Zzyzx.

Mrs. Marino manages Cameron Elementary’s program for Gifted and Talented students, and it was this group of third- and fourth-graders that participated.

An overnight field trip requires a lot of support. Staff and volunteers from National Parks Conservation Association, Barstow College, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Desert Discovery Center came along as well, providing instructors, aides, and assistance with food preparation.

Students learned about and practiced Chemehuevi crafts such as rope making, seed roasting, and weaving blankets from rabbit skin. Desert Studies Center manager Rob Fulton pulled out microscopes, and students examined butterflies, stink bugs and other insects up-close. The second day, everyone boarded the bus to Cima Dome where students hiked Teutonia Peak Trail.

The highlight of the adventure was the nighttime scorpion hunt. Armed with black lights, students hiked in the sandy areas west of Zzyzx. Scorpions have a phosphorescence that causes them to glow like jewels under a black light, so they are easy and fun to find.

Field trips cost money for food, buses, and overnight accommodations. This year, the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy graciously agreed to fund a field trip. Other grants from Western National Parks Association are providing us with enough funding to complete three field trips this spring. Thank you for your support!

– Linda Slater

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