WAIC tour provides hands-on learning for Wyoming teachers
Riverton – The Wyoming Ag in the Classroom (WAIC) 2010 Natural Resource Discovery Rendezvous was June 21 through the 23 in Riverton. Part of the three-day long event was an all-day tour at the Jordan Ranch north of town.
Teachers from across the state gathered at the ranch for a hands-on education about ranching in the Bighorn Basin. Topics included grazing, weed and grass identification, water quality and testing, wildlife and animal welfare.
At the first tour stop Gene Jordan and son Tyler Jordan explained their grazing program and management practices they use both on private land and a grazing association Gene Jordan has managed since the 1980s. Participants dodged cactus to watch the men perform a plant density test, asking questions and visiting about the varieties of grass on the place, if there were snakes and how the grazing association lease worked.
“This year’s group is smaller but in some ways that’s a good thing,” commented WAIC education director Brooke Gerke. “The teachers are able to ask more questions and this group has been great about asking and getting involved during the sessions.”
“We sent our kids to Shoshoni, and you would be surprised what some of the teachers would promote. We just want to give teachers a firsthand experience of what it’s really like out here and what we go through. We have the opportunity to show them what we do, why we enjoy it and what we value,” says Gene Jordan of why he was more than happy to host this year’s WAIC tour.
At the second stop Lower Wind River Conservation District Coordinator Cathy Meyer explained water to participants while everyone stood on the banks of Muddy Creek.
“Waters are classified in four classes in Wyoming: class one, two, three and four. Class one waters are the most pristine. Then, within each of the four classes there are designated uses. Those can include recreation, agriculture, scenic, industrial or fish and wildlife use.
“Muddy Creek is classified as a Class Two and is listed as a recreational and fishery water. It’s also one of three waters in our district that is listed as impaired. The U.S. Geological Survey took a one-time test in 2002 and found E. coli and that led to the creek being listed as impaired,” said Meyer.
She went on to explain the testing and methods she uses to sample the creek today in an effort to determine if the creek is actually impaired and if so how much of the it is a concern.
“Today when we test for E. coli we have to take at least five samples, taken within 24 hours of each and within 30 days. Then we calculate a geometric mean because bacteria grow in a logarithmic fashion. That process is necessary to get a representative sample of a body of water,” said Meyer.
Following her explanation Meyer showed participants how she collects samples. Teachers were given the opportunity to sample the water and use Meyer’s equipment to look for bugs along the shoreline. Gerke provided teachers with student activities on Wyoming drainage basins and watersheds.
“I’m from Virginia originally and have only been in Wyoming four years, so all of this stuff is new to me and it’s exciting to learn. Through increasing my understanding I’m improving my ability to teach students,” said Upton fourth grade teacher Mindy Blanac. “I will use a lot of this stuff in my classroom. As a fourth grade teacher I teach Wyoming history, so the more exposure I get the better. Actually meeting the people who work the land and work with water has been very beneficial.”
Gerke provided teachers with a variety of resources, contacts, student projects and other relevant information they will be able take back to their classrooms.
“Brooke does a phenomenal job of rounding up people that are appropriate for what we’re learning and then teaching. She’s a great resources for teachers in this state,” added Blanac.
Following a morning spent identifying grasses, learning about grazing practices and water management, participants gathered at the ranch headquarters for a home cooked lunch. Three generations of the Jordan family and some of their neighbors were on hand to cook, visit and help the guests in any way possible.
“I would certainly recommend this to other teachers. It’s been a great opportunity and I’ve enjoyed everything, “ said Blanac.
“We can let Jim Magagna fight the battles in the legislature, but we can get down to the ground floor and help our young people in the state of Wyoming have a more realistic idea of what it’s really like in agriculture. We think that’s part of the battle we can contribute to in a positive way. We’re just trying to help educate the students. In this instance it’s educating the teachers first then the students in hopes they will gain a greater understanding of agriculture,” said Gene Jordan.