Aztec Ruins National Monument invites everyone to participate in the annual Earth Day Celebration with presentations, demonstrations, and activities for all ages!
The National Park Service commitment to global preservation believes that community stewardship is for everyone. On its first Earth Day in 2009, Aztec Ruins National Monument demonstrated that even Park Service units designated to protect cultural resources can support the NPS goal of leading the nation in environmental stewardship. Aztec Ruins National Monument was established to preserve, protect, and interpret archeological sites, but the natural resources embodied in the monument exemplify the need for good environmental stewardship. In the spring of 2009, Aztec Ruins National Monument partnered with local land management agencies, environmental groups, and other community members on Saturday, April 25th, to celebrate Earth Day. Learning from the Past and Taking Responsibility for the Future became the theme for the event.
A day of Learning from the Past and Taking Responsibility for the Future included activities, displays, and presentations for people of all ages, focusing on issues that are particularly relevant today and incorporating cultural views and prehistoric uses of natural resources. Visitors had the opportunity to visit with local experts and to learn about current sustainable development technology, land and water conservation, alternative energy and fuels, and sustainable agriculture. Along with their educational contributions, each presenter was asked to provide an activity for the kids. Some of the activities involved learning about the original green buildings and making adobe blocks, planting heirloom varieties of Southwest crops, and shopping in the park “grocery store” to learn to be a responsible consumer.
Storytellers and dancers from affiliated tribes shared cultural perspectives on resource use, respect for the earth, and the connections between humans and the environment. Other agencies besides the National Park Service were represented, such as the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Parks, and the New Mexico State University Extension Service; they provided an ecological perspective on resource use and environmental degradation. The New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation District set up a small watershed, complete with a flowing river, to let participants experiment with different decisions regarding land use.
Volunteers put on corn grinding demonstrations and interpreted ancestral Pueblo diet and agriculture and the local growers market advocated rebuilding our local food system. The park archaeologists contributed by explaining how they learn about a culture from its “trash,” using a replica of an ancestral Pueblo midden. Participants then had the opportunity to perform an “archaeological study” in a present day trash can to instill the idea of reduce, reuse, and recycle. There were over 35 booths and activities for visitors to enjoy in addition to touring the site and museum.
This celebration was not just a first for Aztec Ruins National Monument; it was unprecedented in the community. The event renewed interest in the national monument among teachers and other community members and valuable new partnerships were developed. Overall, the staff at Aztec Ruins National Monument considered the Learning from the Past and Taking Responsibility for the Future celebration a huge success and it has continued as an annual event.
Earth Day 2011 at the monument will be held on Saturday, April 16, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The date of the event will vary yearly so check the Schedule of Events on the park website at nps.gov/azru for information regarding this and other events.