Through hands-on activities and outdoor learning we educate 5th graders, their teachers, and communities about the water cycle, the Ogallala Aquifer, wastewater management, and looming global challenges focusing on our region’s unique playa basins. The realities of High Plains water aren’t always easy to see, so our Playa Festival makes it come alive for students with demonstrations and field trips that show playa basins, flora and fauna, local watershed carved by draws and creeks, and the Ogallala Aquifer in real-life situations, not just in books. The ecological keystones of our region’s water cycle are an estimated 30,000 playa basins. We may not have rivers, but the Southern High Plains has more playas than anywhere in the world! Playas are often dry, which is normal and natural, but when filled with water after heavy rains, playas become supercharged oases of life! Though ignored and neglected, playas are among the most important and most endangered wetlands in North America. Playas also provide the main recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer, and are vital to local ecosystems and economies. Our Festivals are interdisciplinary three-day programs designed to fit the school day. Students learn about playa ecology and the water cycle through science, history, biology, art and creative writing.
We have gathered some fun lesson plans, activities, website links and more to help you educate your students about playas, water conservation, wetlands and natural resources. Also, we have a playa festival blog (www.playafestival.blogspot.com) to keep you updated on playa festival events and contributions from teachers who have participated in our program – feel free to have a look and leave a comment!
1. Contact Ogallala Commons Education Coordinator, Julie Hodges Send an E-mail
2. Review “So You Are Having A Playa Festival” guidebook and obtain administration approval.
3. All teachers from host school must attend a training workshop. These workshops are called “Conservation Education Days” and attendees receive 6 hours of GT Continuing Education Credit.
In June of 2010, Ogallala Commons completed construction of the Playa Classroom. It is a educational facility on a 20 acre playa wetland dedicated to educating the public about playas, giving visitors a unique opportunity to touch, see and experience a prairie wetland. The project was sponsored by USFW Partners for Wildlife, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, The Dixon Water Foundation, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Guided tours and class field trips are available. For more information contact Darryl Birkenfeld, Ph.D., at (806) 945-2255.