Black Mountain students buy four acres of desert habitat for
Land Trust

April 7, 2010

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black mountain elementary students donating to deset foothills land trustIt started as a class project with a three month timeframe and became, as Desert Foothills Land Trust executive director Sonia Perillo said as she accepted a donation from Heidi Befort’s 4th/5th Multiage Class at Black Mountain Elementary School, “a legacy that will last their lifetime.”

The 27 students, ages nine to eleven set a goal, to “save as many acres of land as possible around the Spur Cross Conservation area through the Open Space initiative,” as their project portfolio states. The class’ secondary goal was to engage the school community, and the community at large, in their goal and in doing so, increase public awareness of the plight of diminishing local desert habitat.

The students raised funds to purchase land through catchy campaigns, “Buck for a Bobcat” and “Serve to Preserve,” which had classmates doing chores at home and around the school campus, at the same time that they launched a public awareness campaign and encouraged others to participate.

“The best thing about this is that the kids did it all themselves,” commented Heidi Befort after Monday’s presentation to the Land Trust. After extensive research, writing, thinking and discussion, presentations by community leaders like Mayor Francia and organizations such as the Land Trust, Parks & Recreation, Wild at Heart and Phoenix Herpetological Society, the students created a detailed portfolio which was submitted to Disney Planet Challenge’s annual competition. The winner will be announced sometime in April.

“This project got them going up to Spur Cross with their families. It makes us all winners around here!” exclaimed teacher Heidi Befort. “Let me tell you, that place was drop-dead gorgeous (if you are wondering, I didn’t die, but it was drop dead gorgeous)!” wrote Regan Anderson of her first visit to Spur Cross.

Sonia Perillo noted, “The students will be proud that they’ve left something tangible behind for their community. The $1,098.47 raised by “Buck for a Bobcat” plus the $455 raised by Jody Chase, Physical Education Teacher at BMES, will allow the Land Trust and the Town of Cave Creek to acquire four acres of environmentally sensitive desert habitat next to the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.”

“The students have created a link between the school, Desert Foothills Land Trust and Parks and Recreation. The experience has opened the door to additional opportunities for students to learn about land preservation,” said Principal Elie Gaines, providing an overview to the project.

“This is the start to a potential partnership to educate our students and our community. The immediate benefit to Black Mountain Elementary School is that it also ties directly into teaching the State academic standards in the sciences and social studies.”

“As for the bigger picture,” added Befort, “this type of project teaches lifelong skills, researching, preparation of a project involving other students and community organizations, fundraising and public awareness, that can be added to their personal and professional skills.”

Befort agreed, “The experience encourages critical thinking skills based on real life issues in our community. Hopefully, it has opened their eyes to environmental issues in our community and in global society. The students have become passionate about their desert habitat. I think they’ll be looking for more issues to get involved with.”