Thursday, Jul 11, 2013
This year marked the fifth consecutive year of Junior Ranger day camps held at the Montezuma Well Unit of Montezuma Castle NM. Almost half of the campers in attendance during the three weeks of camps were returning Junior Rangers who loved camp so much they just had to come back. A good number of their younger siblings came for the first time this year too.
Three camps were featured this year – one specifically for returning Junior Rangers, one for ages 8-11 and one for ages 12-15. Park guide Deb Sims (in a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher position) led the camps through experiential activities to learn about the Sinagua culture. Special emphasis was placed on how the Sinagua culture interacted with their environment.
Some of the campers’ favorite activities included building a pueblo-style wall with experiential archeology, tracking (where campers learned about native wildlife), and mashing prickly pear tunas (cactus fruits) to learn about different food sources.
Special this year, was a partnership with Kayo Parsons-Korn, the president of the Friends of the Well, to teach the returning campers about real clay pottery. They were able to form pinch or coil pots on the first day, burnish and polish on the second day, decorate their pots with local mustard-plant paint on the third and take home fired pots after swearing-in.
The Montezuma Well Unit protects Sinagua dwellings and a limestone sinkhole which fills with 1.5 million gallons of water each day. The Sinagua capitalized on the outflow from this water source by digging canals and redirecting the water to crop fields. Historically the site was privately owned by ranchers supplying the local fort with hay and meat. Campers learned this history of land use and continue to enjoy Montezuma Well by bringing their friends and family to see and walk the site.
The camp met Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign with hikes to Beaver Creek in addition to many of the Call to Action items. History Lesson, Action #3, was met with talks from special guests including Hopi Elder Jerry Honawa. Action #7, Next Generation Stewards, was met with discussions about the five, endemic species which live only in Montezuma Well and nowhere else on earth, as well as invasive turtle demonstration (and hike in the creek) by a USGS partner, Charles Drost. Action #17, Live and Learn, is being met as the TRT will write lesson plans so that rangers can lead curriculum-based field trips during the school year, a service which Montezuma Castle NM does not currently offer.