Removing Weeds, Renewing Connection

On September 26, 2018, 38 students from Flagstaff Junior Academy’s 5th grade visited Picture Canyon along the Elden Mountain passage of the Arizona Trail. Students hiked a 3.5 mile round trip removing invasive weeds and learning about the local area as we went.


A few days earlier during a classroom visit, the students had been introduced to the idea of invasive species: a plant or animals that comes from somewhere else, has a tendency to take over, and causes damage to the environment, human health, or human economic prosperity. Students learned to identify several common local invasives and then played a game to illustrate how invasive plants have a natural advantage to take over an area from native species.


When the day of our outing arrived, the class was primed and ready to give back to the community and the trail by locating and removing invasive weeds, Dalmatian Toadflax being the pest of focus.


We hiked past the marshy wetland, the birdwatching area and waterfall, pausing at intervals to take in the natural surroundings. Once at the bottom of the canyon, the group was split into 3 to rotate through weed removal, scat and track identification, and viewing of the petroglyphs. Having studied fundamental human needs at Wupatki National Monument earlier in the season, the students were primed to recall their prior knowledge and apply it to this ancient puebloan site too.


While out hunting for invasive weeds, we had to stop to investigate decomposing logs, ant hills, and what turned out to be a wasps nest of course. When nature gives you inspiration, you pause and take it in!


6 Bags of weeds, 6 crawdads, 2 racoon tracks, and hundreds of petroglyphs later, we returned to school renewed and enthused.