Monica Arguello, a Los Lunas fifth-grade teacher, has been selected by Commissioner of Public Lands Ray Powell as this year’s winner of the New Mexico State Land Office 2002 Rosner Environmental Education Award.
“We are pleased to honor Monica Arguello and Wild Friends this year,” said Commissioner Powell. “Their outstanding efforts will enable our children to better understand and appreciate the natural world.”
The State Land Office created the John and Hy Rosner Environmental Education Award in 1997 to recognize outstanding work by New Mexico educators who participate in the State Land Office Outdoors Classroom Program or provide other programs that emphasize caring and respect for the natural world. The Rosners were Albuquerque residents who were champions of environmental education.
Arguello, a teacher at Daniel Fernandez Intermediate School, was selected because of her dedication to the school’s science camp, held at the Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. The camp has been held for three years and provides a forum for students to learn about New Mexico’s natural environment from individuals, agencies and nonprofit organizations.
The camp has grown to about 200 fifth-grade participants and provides students with hands-on activities dealing with nature, life sciences, biology, archaeology and other science curriculum.
“The science camp at Ghost Ranch lets students experience nature and connect the concepts from their textbooks to what is real,” Arguello said.
Jim Snell, principal of DFI, says Arguello has done an outstanding job of organizing the camp activities and guest speakers. “Monica is always willing to lend a hand and provide support for her fellow teachers.”
On Tuesday night, Assistant Commissioner Dave Simon presented Arguello with the special environmental education award before the Los Lunas School Board.
“It’s important to recognize this community’s contributions and commitment to educating kids,” Simon said. “That’s why we’re taking time to recognize the dedication of Monica Arguello.”
School Board Member Nancy Seemann made a special point of thanking Arguello for her service to the district. “It’s nice when we get to recognize the excellent work of an employee, but it’s even nicer when someone outside of the district takes notice,” Seemann said.
“Every year, you take your students on these educational trips, you bring back invaluable experience. I’m glad the public is taking notice. I really appreciate the job you’re doing.”
Along with Arguello, Wild Friends, an 11-year-old program of the Center for Wildlife Law, was named as co-recipient of the environmental education award.
Wild Friends is run by the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Public Law, was also selected for its exceptional efforts to involve young people in conservation policy. Wild Friends is a network of students, teachers, and mentors who explore and seek common-ground solutions to wildlife issues.
A unique blend of civics education and environmental science, the Wild Friends program brings hundreds of children to the New Mexico State Legislature each year, where they learn about the political process and how to be advocates for wildlife bills and memorials.
At the 2002 legislative session, Wild Friends students from around the state wrote and lobbied for House Joint Memorial 13, supporting the work of the New Mexico black-tailed prairie dog working group.
Wild Friends also supported House Joint Memorial 1, which passed proposing that New Mexico consider designating the Sandia hairstreak as the official state butterfly.
“Wild Friends is deeply honored to receive this award, especially since John and Hy Rosner played such a key role in the creation and growth of the organization,” said Director Carolyn Byers.
“We are proud of our program and also value highly our partnership with the State Land Office.”
The State Land Office’s Outdoors Education Program makes state trust lands available for studying plants, wildlife, soils, archaeology and other subjects, providing teachers and students opportunities to learn about nature in their own communities.
Special environmental education easements on state trust land provide a rich, natural environment for learning. State Land Office personnel help prepare lesson plans and provide instruction for these special “tailgate” classrooms.
The Commissioner of Public Lands is an elected state official responsible for administering the state’s land grant trust. Thirteen million acres of land were granted to New Mexico in 1898 and 1910.
Each tract is held in trust for the public schools and universities, as well as special schools and hospitals that serve children with physical, visual and auditory disabilities.
In fiscal year 2002, the trust lands and permanent funds produced almost $334 million in income from beneficiaries.