Human Interaction With the Natural World Part 2

On February 15th, 2018 thirty-six students from Mr. Hershey’s 6th grade class at Sinagua Middle School visited the Wildcat Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant and nearby Picture Canyon. Our goal was to compare and contrast how modern and ancient humans interacted with their environments and how that relates to the adaptation of animals in the natural world.


We started our tour at the wastewater treatment facility where city water engineers demonstrated the chemistry they use to separate out solids from liquids and return cleaned, sanitized water back into the ecosystem. During the tour and demonstration the students learned about the clean water act which started departments like theirs around the country to solve the problem of raw sewage being dumped directly into American waterways. Students viewed photographs of severely damaged aquatic eco systems and rivers that were literally on fire due to the untreated effluent being released into them. Thanks to that historic legislation the water our cities return to the ecosystem is considerably safer.


After leaving the treatment plant, we began our exploration of Picture Canyon. We paused at the outdoor classroom to play “Animal Olympics”, a game in which students learn the special adaptations of Colorado Plateau animals and test their own abilities against those of the animals. Can you jump as high as a mountain lion? As far as a kangaroo rat? Can you flap your arms as fast as a hummingbird? Animals other than humans, have limited ability to adapt their environments to themselves, so over time the animals adapt to their environments.


Later we descended the trail towards the bottom of the canyon. Along the way we paused to look at the channelized river bed of the human terraformed Rio de Flag, and the newly revitalized natural route. We discussed the reasons the city engineers originally moved the channel, and why it was later put back on its earlier course. We paused at the waterfall and scanned the rocks for the first glimpse of the petroglyphs for which the canyon is named.


Observing the plants, petroglyphs, and evidence of animal life we discussed why the Sinagua people might have chosen this area to live and how they might have adapted their surroundings to themselves. How might they have handled their waste disposal? How would they have used natural materials to create some level of climate control for themselves and their families. How would they have handled periods of drought and food scarcity.


By the time they had finished the 3.5 mile hike we had made numerous connections to the wisdom of the ancients and how we can learn from and build upon those ideas for our own sustainable future. Learning, applying, sharing. This is education.