Sixth- and eighth-grade students from Coronado Middle School visited the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus to learn about the science of water.
The students first visited the “El Agua es Vida: Acequias in New Mexico” exhibit at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology (the study of humankind). The exhibit highlighted the history of acequias (community-operated irrigation ditches). It described how people in settlements in Northern New Mexico constructed acequias so that they could grow crops and sustain livestock. Many of the students’ families have acequias on their land, and the students recognized the tools in the exhibit; said one, “my grandfather has that at his house!” The exhibit also addressed the importance of acequias to the social life and governance of New Mexican communities by focusing on the role of mayordomos (ditch bosses) and annual cleanings. Most extensively, the exhibit emphasized the science of acequias, specifically by showcasing research which found that acequias recharge aquifers (the water table held in rock layers underground) more efficiently than other forms of irrigation and that they also lose less water to evaporation.
The students then visited the UNM Department of Civil Engineering. A professor told them about various careers in engineering (the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures). UNM students then described their civil engineering projects by showing a storm water management model. The Coronado students moved parts of the model around to change the course and strength of the storm water runoff. They enjoyed conducting engineering research while playing in the water!