Whiptail Trails Club Helps Students Discover Great Outdoors
Seventh grade girls in the Whiptail Trails Club at White Sands National Park.

In today’s digital age, where virtually everyone, including youngsters, possesses a smartphone and spends hours daily on screen-related activities, it becomes increasingly crucial to give young people rewarding outdoor experiences. Fortunately, the Whiptail Trails Club of the Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA), was established with precisely this objective in mind.

The Whiptail Trails Club fulfills two primary roles: delivering classroom lessons to seventh-grade students, accompanied by immersive field trips, and organizing extended week-long summer camps tailored for young girls. Through partnerships with governmental bodies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service, PLIA is dedicated to fostering a connection between youth and the natural world during this pivotal phase of their lives.

Discovering the Outdoors with Whiptail Trails Club Through School Collaboration

PLIA, in partnership with educational institutions across New Mexico, collaborates to deliver in-class sessions focusing on the wonders of nature and aligning with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) standards, tailor-made for seventh-grade students. Some of these lessons also incorporate artistic elements, transforming them into STEAM lessons. These educational modules provide students with foundational knowledge they can draw upon when embarking on subsequent field trips led by PLIA experts.

As an example, students are introduced to native plant species, their various uses by Indigenous communities, ethical considerations in plant collection, and are encouraged to express their observations through watercolor depictions of the plants they encounter in the wild. Moreover, 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 include wildlife demonstrations and hands-on experiences as they relate to Indigenous and Spanish heritage. During field trips, students often engage in outdoor scavenger hunts or craft-making activities.

The Whiptail Trails Club selects destinations close to 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 covers all expenses related to classroom sessions and field trips, including transportation costs. The program predominantly focuses on Title 1 schools with limited financial resources, where students may have limited exposure to camping and outdoor activities.

Crucially, these lessons are thoughtfully aligned with state STEM requirements, making them a captivating and educational addition to the curriculum. Beyond the classroom, this initiative empowers students to step outside, forging a meaningful connection with the natural world beyond the confines of screens, thus providing a transformative learning 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

Discover Nature with Whiptail Trails Club’s Summer Adventures

Yet another exciting element of the Whiptail Trails Club is the complimentary summer camp offered exclusively for girls who are either entering or leaving the seventh grade. That’s right, zero cost! The camp covers everything from travel and camping equipment to meals for the participants.

This week-long outdoor excursion aims to improve the girls’ self-confidence in a natural setting. Prior to the camp, girls partake in educational sessions about topics like public lands, the behavior of wildlife, and key survival techniques. Once they head out into the wilderness, they continue to build on these foundational skills through hands-on activities like navigation, preparing meals outdoors, backpacking essentials, and basic first-aid procedures. Side activities may also include exploring historical landmarks or even learning the art of dendrochronology to determine a tree’s age.

A unique experience like this has the power to fundamentally shift a young girl’s perspective, revealing a newfound love for outdoor activities and a passion for connecting with nature directly.

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

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

Supporting the Whiptail Trails Club Initiative

Funding for the Whiptail Trails Club primarily comes from the New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund, complemented by private and business contributions. Additional backing comes from personnel and interns affiliated with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Conservation Corps New Mexico.

PLIA, for its part, leans heavily on the kindness of private citizens, nonprofit organizations, and commercial enterprises to keep these programs up and running. If you’re keen on enabling students to experience the great outdoors, you can make a positive impact either through a direct financial contribution or by shopping at the PLIA online store.

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


PLIA logo

Posted by LasCruces.com

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