In this digital age, everyone, including kids, has a smartphone at their fingertips and log several screen hours daily, the need to introduce youth to the benefits of outdoor activities is greater than ever. Luckily, that’s exactly what the Whiptail Trails Club of the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA), aims to achieve.
The Whiptail Trails Club serves two purposes: it offers classroom instruction to seventh graders, which is then complemented by outdoor excursions, and organizes summer camps that last an entire week specifically for girls. In collaboration with governmental agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service, the PLIA is committed to connecting young individuals with the natural world during an essential phase in their development.
Exploring the Outdoors with Whiptail Trails Club Through School Collaboration
In cooperation with educational institutions across New Mexico, PLIA and its collaborative partners engage in classroom sessions centered on nature and aligned with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) standards, specifically designed for seventh-grade students. Some of these lessons also incorporate artistic elements, transforming them into STEAM lessons. These educational modules serve as a foundation of knowledge that students can draw upon during subsequent field trips led by PLIA experts.
For instance, students are taught about native flora, their various cultural uses by Indigenous communities, the ethics of plant collection, and are encouraged to express their observations through watercolor paintings of the plants they encounter in the wild. Additionally, students are instilled with the principles of Leave No Trace to ensure their outdoor explorations have a minimal impact on the environment.
In-class activities further extend to wildlife demonstrations and interactive experiences that delve into Indigenous and Spanish heritage. During field trips, students often participate in outdoor scavenger hunts or craft-making activities.
The Public Lands Interpretive Association is a nonprofit dedicated to enlightening and motivating visitors to America’s public territories.
The Whiptail Trails Club selects destinations near the participating schools for their presentations. For instance, students in Las Cruces may explore the Dripping Springs Natural Area, while those in Albuquerque might visit Petroglyph National Monument.
A notable advantage for schools is that PLIA shoulders all expenses related to classroom sessions and field trips, including transportation costs. The program predominantly targets Title 1 schools with limited financial resources, where students may have had limited exposure to camping and outdoor activities.
Notably, these lessons are thoughtfully aligned with state STEM requirements, making them a captivating addition to the curriculum. Beyond the classroom, this initiative provides students with the opportunity to step outside, connecting with the natural world beyond the confines of screens, a valuable educational experience indeed.
To find out about inviting the Whiptail Trails Club to your school or classroom, visit the website.
Explore the Wilderness with Whiptail Trails Club Summer Camps
Another captivating facet of the Whiptail Trails Club is its no-cost summer camp tailored for girls entering or exiting seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly — it’s entirely free! In fact, all aspects, including transportation, camping equipment, and meals, are covered for the camp participants.
This week-long camp serves as a platform to empower girls and bolster their self-assurance in the great outdoors. In the lead-up to the camp, the girls engage in lessons covering topics such as public lands, wildlife, and essential survival skills. Subsequently, they venture into the wilderness to expand their skill set, immersing themselves in activities like orienteering, outdoor culinary skills, backpacking, and first-aid techniques. They may even explore historic sites or engage in dendrochronology, the science of dating trees through tree-ring analysis.
An experience of this nature has the potential to be transformative in a young girl’s life, allowing her to unearth an undiscovered facet of herself — someone who has a deep affection for outdoor adventures and firsthand encounters with nature.
To learn more about this opportunity, visit the PLIA website.
The Whiptail Trails Club receives backing from the New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund, in addition to contributions from private individuals and corporate benefactors. Further support is derived from the dedicated efforts of BLM staff and interns, along with the invaluable collaboration of Conservation Corps New Mexico.
PLIA, in turn, depends on the generosity of individuals, organizations, and enterprises to facilitate the provision of these programs. If you have a desire to empower students in their journey to explore the outdoors, there are two ways you can contribute: by making a financial donation or by purchasing items from the PLIA online store.
Read about PLIA’s Fort Craig virtual reconstruction project here.