"A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions." — Oliver Wendell Holmes
Iditarod winner Joe Runyan delighted a packed Community Center audience with his old-fashioned slideshow presentation on dog-mushing and racing, and a brief history of the Iditarod, in April. Raised in Idaho, and a graduate of Oregon State University with a degree in zoology, Joe moved to Alaska in 1969. During his 25 years there, he lived either on the Yukon River or on the Tanana River, commercially fishing and operating a kennel of sled dogs.
Joe began mushing in 1971 and became interested in the Iditarod while trapping on the Yukon and listening to the news of the ’73 Race on a portable radio. He won the Yukon Quest in 1985 and then the Iditarod in 1989, becoming the first musher to have won both the long-distance races. Joe and his family moved to their farm on the Gila River in 1998.
Joe's old-fashioned slideshow packed Gila's Community Center
We will resume our Sunday Series programs again this fall. Watch for the history of ranching in the Gila Valley, travelogues, and more!
In March, in the new children's room, attendees were thoroughly entertained and informed by Fred Fox and Patty Reed, who live surrounded by the Gila National Forest in their adobe home outside of Silver City. Fred and Patty have observed and recorded their neighbors, the Merriam’s Turkey, over the past thirty years. Enthralled early on by this turkey’s behaviors, the couple also researched the history, evolution, and biology of these turkeys, which they shared along with their observances and experiences living among them.
WILD TURKEY TALK
Last year's STEAM Camp for ages 5 to 11
"The Food Web" explained and much more!
STEAM Camp's “Food Web” curriculum had young participants prowling the library’s garden, immersed in books among the library’s stacks, and sequestering on the deck or a tree stump to record their artistic and scientific inspirations.
The 2022 paid STEAM Teen Team supported director “Miss Madge,” biologist Katie Skaggs (pictured above), and guest presenters with setup and implementation, and with their guidance and assistance to the many 5- to 11-year-old participants throughout the eight weeks.
Multiple sessions on plant and animal interdependence, photosynthesis, and other complex relationships in the web of life were happily devoured by Katie's young audience. Revealing such fascinating life structures as the stomata and chloroplasts of leaves through super magnification, Katie and Miss Madge also engaged the children in various experiments with different types of germination, dissection of pinto beans to determine if monocot or dicot, and creating drawings and crayon rubbings of leaves having either parallel or branching veins.
Herpetologist Melissa Amarello from Advocates for Snake Preservation (ASP) explained to the teen team leaders and younger children the importance of snakes in the food web, and shared her love of these mysterious creatures with them.
Children’s author Pamela Harrington read to and then guided participants in writing and illustrating their own tales in journals provided by the library. Having wandered the library gardens, the young authors were inspired to fill their journals with stories and pictures of giant insects, lizards hiding under rocks, and even a fairy or two tucked among the flowers.
Camp traditions of building with Lego blocks and playing favorite games were also enjoyed throughout the weeks, with a party on the final day.
Science Technology Engineering Art Math
STEAM CAMP 2021
STEAM Camp 2021’s ten engaging sessions for participants aged 5 through 11 offered kaleidoscope making, wooden articulated-snake painting, Lego™ building, and rock decorating. This year’s hired interns, all 12 years old, were Clover Williams, Emmye Allsup, and Jasper Allsup, responsible for assisting attendees with their projects and checking books out to them, aiding in setup and implementation of projects, and cleanup at each session’s end. Special-guest Thursdays included herpetologist Melissa Amarello and her three snake friends demonstrating snake physiology and lifestyle; biologist and educator Katie Skaggs guiding attendees in the use of microscopes to examine tiny things like hair follicles, bird feathers, insect wings, snake skin; and retired Cliff School teacher Corinne Smith exploring entomology–who doesn’t love bugs!–and inspiring insect modeling in clay.
Fall and winter 2020–2021, guided by local author Sharman Apt Russell, young readers explored stellar science fiction and fantasy titles provided by the library's beloved director Miss Madge.
Participants met via Zoom for their book club discussions, and were invited to submit related essays to Russell for professional feedback.
Fran Wilde's beautiful Riverland launched this program in November, followed by award-winners The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
Sponsored by the Gila Valley Library, Explora! educator Kevin Dilley presented "Physics in Motion" to the Silver City Guadalupe Montessori primary grades through Zoom on October 22, 2020. For this virtual presentation, kits were sent beforehand to the students, providing all the supplies needed for the hands-on physics lessons. On November 5, Montessori seventh- and eighth-graders participated in "Build and Bridge," also presented by Dilley, learning to test materials for strength and stability for design and construction of towers, bridges, and other structures. On November 18, Cliff School's seventh- and eighth-graders were guided by Dilley through these same lessons in architecture principles. A sample kit for "Build and Bridge" is shown on Library Director Madge Slavec's kitchen table.
🏖 2020 Summer Explorations: "Science and Art in a Bag” 🏖
During this challenging summer requiring social distancing in coping with the pandemic, the library employed three enthusiastic young interns to help Miss Madge create art and science experiments for kindergartners through sixth graders – with prizes and surprises! – offered weekly on the Gila Valley Library Summer Exploration YouTube channel. Children and family members were provided times to safely pick up their exploration bags containing the project materials and to privately browse the children’s section of the library and check out books for summer reading.
New Library Card Holders
Library Director Madge Slavec issued more than fifty new library cards in March, to Cliff School students, who were also treated to storytelling and readings by local author Pamela Harrington, in the new children's room at the library.
GVL Hosts Explora! in Grant County Schools
On February 18th and 19th at Cliff School, and the 20th at Silver City's Montessori, students investigated reflection and symmetry, comparing convex and concave images, to design and construct their own kaleidoscopes under the guidance of Explora!'s Matthew Armendariz and Britton Goodwin.
Folks at Explora! know that when communities work together, children do better academically, behaviorally, and socially, which is why the library's director brings their expertise in STEM education here year after year.
Early Residents of the Cliff-Gila Valley
In December, the library hosted hands-on workshops led by Dr. Allen Denoyer of Archaeology Southwest for Cliff Schools' fourth through sixth graders at the site of this puebloan adobe model constructed along highway 180 over several summers by Dr. Denoyer and his apprentices.
Tracking Mammals Along Duck Creek
Naturalist, citizen scientist, and award-winning author Sharman Apt Russell provided classroom instruction and field guidance along Duck Creek to Cliff School’s fourth- and sixth-grade students, using photos, field guides, measurement and identification tools, including molds of different mammals’ tracks and related games, supplied by Library Director Madge Slavec.
Lady Long Rider Returns to Cliff-Gila Valley
Mid October, Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende, author of Alone Across America on Horseback, invited Cliff School students to saddle up for a long ride with her as she described "crisscrossing the United States, Canada, and Southern France." Library Director Madge Slavec, who hosted the author’s visit, wrote that “the usually noisy gym was very quiet the day Bernice Ende captured us with stories of her experiences on the trail, riding horseback with her dog ‘of unknown origins’ leading the way.” Ende teaches courage, gratitude, and maintaining curiosity.
"I long to rapture among the sounds of rustling evergreens,
dancing creeks and birds abound. . . .
I long to lose my self under silent moon, eternal stars, worlds not yet found."
From Lady Long Rider, Alone Across America on Horseback, a signed copy of which can be found in the library. You can follow Bernice's travels through her blog.
STEAM Camp 2019 for the community’s five- to eleven-year-old residents and visitors ranged from a visit and talk by local herpetologist Melissa Amarello of ASP (Advocates for Snake Preservation) to guidance in clay bowl and mask construction by Cliff Schools art teacher Riley Olsen, following her reading of a 1942 Caldecott Honor book about life in the Tesuque Pueblo, In My Mother’s House, by Ann Nolan Clark.
Kate Kendig also read preceding her popular origami lessons, including books like Way Out West Lives a Coyote Named Frank, by Jillian Lund, which inspired not only Kate’s competent coyote-folding lesson but a chorus of yips and yodels from her talented audience.
Prairie Yarbrough’s nature program resulted in the beautiful rock snake, painted by camp participants, that now resides near the entrance to the Community Center. And new GVL board member Dr. Lesley Hauser generated smiles with her talk on teeth!
Another true treat was the live music performed by resident musicians Carrie Haverly, Orien Macdonald, and Mike Sliwa. In addition to some classic rock covers, the band, who named themselves The Introverts, played two of Carrie’s original pieces geared to the camp’s programs, “The Snake Song” and “The Bee Dance.” Carrie was also a regular throughout the camp’s activities at the Community Center, helping with readings and other invaluable support.
"Volunteers make STEAM camp blossom with love and creativity."
– Madge Slavec
Of course the paid STEAM Teen Team, Jasmine Williams and Atsah Yarbrough (pictured here with GVL Director Madge Slavec), dazzled all with their science projects and games, such as polymer production ("slime") experiments and a soaped water-balloon toss.
The final day’s book giveaway, made possible by Peter and Sandy Riva and Joanne Collins, provided a cornucopia of books for STEAM participants to take home. They also helped serve up a finale feast of turkey and cheese rolls, popcorn, chips, fruit bars, cookies, and ice cream, which ended that last day on a very sweet note.
Dazzled by the Northern Lights, a beautiful talk by an Alaskan resident visiting the Gila
Guest speaker Neal Brown, hosted by the Gila Valley Library, explained to his enthusiastic Sunday afternoon audience at the Gila Community Center what the magical moving curtain of the aurora borealis – or Northern Lights – is and why it occurs, as well as why it is even sometimes seen at southern latitudes. Brown has studied this fascinating phenomenon for close to 50 years in various capacities at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks (UAF) and for nearly 20 years as director of the Poker Flat Research Rocket Range outside of Fairbanks, where he launched research vessels into the earth’s upper atmosphere, largely for NASA.
Sex Matters: the Life Strategies of Male and Female Mountain Lions, a presentation by Dr. David Mattson
Much to the chagrin of his South Dakotan sheep-ranching mother, David Mattson grew up to focus his studies and career on large carnivores, including grizzly bears in Yellowstone and mountain lions in the Southwest. Co-sponsored by the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance and the Gila Valley Library, Dr. Mattson's February 3rd talk, jam-packed with fascinating information about mountain lions, was developed from data collected during 1999 through 2012 from six different study areas in northern Arizona, southern Utah, and southeastern Nevada. One conclusion from these studies: females play it safe and slow, while males prefer the fast lane!
Mattson's fieldwork in Yellowstone spanned 1979 to 1993, including a stint overseeing field investigations for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.
During recent decades, his interest in policy has taken him to positions with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently lives south of Livingston, Montana.
Politics, Protests, and Religion in Myanmar and Yemen During Times of Change: an expat's perspective
Gila Valley resident Kate Dixon described life in Myanmar (previously Burma) and Yemen during a period of dramatic change, when she lived there, teaching elementary school children and serving as librarian for a private international school, respectively. Vivid portraits through both stills and videos – from massive demonstrations to monastic rituals – were enlivened by her personal narrative and informal Q&A throughout her January 26th presentation.
Political demonstrations and religious rituals are often family affairs in Myanmar's and Yemen's streets during ongoing upheaval and change in this part of the world.
Long Rider Bernice Ende, shares stories from the trail of life
As a fearless young girl on her parents' Minnesota dairy farm, Bernice Ende loved to gallop bareback through pastures and cornfields. Today, at a slightly more sedate pace, she has become Lady Long Rider, with more than 29,000 miles in the saddle, criss-crossing the United States, Canada, and in 2018, southern France.
Ende brought her audience along on the trail, with her slideshow presentation and talk, and discussed her book Lady Long Rider, published this summer by Farcountry Press. Between her long rides, Bernice makes Trego, Wyoming, her home.
You can follow Bernice's travels through her blog.
STEAM CAMP 2018
Made for a HOT summer!
Fun discoveries in
Science Technology Engineering
Art and Math
for kids in
Kindergarten through Fifth Grade
With Teen STEAM Guides
Library Director Madge Slavec
"Miss Madge" and STEAM Camp participants gratefully chose books from the many children's titles donated by Harper Collins for the giveaway on the last day, thanks to local literati Peter and Sandra Riva.
For information about the summer snack program "A Book and A Bag" that followed each STEAM Camp 2018 session, you may contact Sandra Riva at 575 654-4800 or Sandra@dovemeadow.com
CLAY PLAY 2018
The library sponsored two lively Clay Play sessions at the community center in Gila this year, conducted by Cliff School’s creative elementary teacher Riley Olsen. Following her reading of Alejandro’s Gift, by Richard E. Albert, about a man’s sharing his well water with the animals of his desert environs, Olsen guided the younger children in forming and stamping clay tiles and the older children in constructing bowls to hold the clay figures they made of desert creatures. A blue glass bead placed in the bowl before firing melted into the clay, symbolizing a precious watering hole, like Alejandro’s gift. Each child received a copy of the book at the conclusion of the workshop, and their clay creation after its firing, to paint. Clay Play is a popular event offered in conjunction with STEAM Camp and as a complement to the annual Clay Festival in Silver City. This summer a total of 28 children attended these two art workshops in Gila.
The Beauty of Moths, an evening with moth enthusiast Ron Parry
Lepidoptera is an order of insects that includes both butterflies and moths. It isn't surprising that compared to butterflies, moths are less appreciated, since they are largely nocturnal. Though different from that of butterflies, their beauty and biology are equally interesting.
Most of the larger moths found within the Gila region fall into one of eight moth families. Ron's July talk, cosponsored by the Upper Gila Watershed and the library, summarized the characteristics of these moth families and provided examples of local moths from each group. Then, a sheet and a black light were used to attract and observe moths with Ron's enthusiastic audience. It was a beautiful evening!
Raised in Southern California, Ron credits the beauty and biodiversity of this landscape to his becoming a naturalist at a young age. Receiving a chemistry set one Christmas morning proved to be a turning point in his life, leading eventually to a professorship of chemistry at Rice University. His research, until retirement in 2012, focused on the the complex toxins, antibiotics, and defense compounds produced by plants, microorganisms, and fungi. After retirement, he returned to his interests in natural history and began to study moths.
The Social Lives of Rattlesnakes, a presentation by Melissa Amarello
Local snake advocate Melissa Amarello's June presentation, sponsored by the library and the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, covered rattlesnake courtship, combat, and hanging out with friends. These are just a few of the snake behaviors Melissa captured by remote time-lapse cameras, shared during her talk. Although generally thought to be solitary, cold-blooded killers, rattlesnakes exhibit a variety of behaviors that we typically associate with other animals, such as birds and primates.
Melissa began blogging in 2010 to foster appreciation for snakes by sharing stories and videos of their behavior in the field. In 2014 she cofounded Advocates for Snake Preservation (ASP) with Jeff Smith, to change how people view and treat snakes; they received the Jarchow Conservation Award in 2017.
We who attended won't look at snakes the same way again, having had this rare opportunity to learn about rattlesnakes, and to even get up-close and personal with the couple of beautiful live snakes in attendance!
Melissa Amarello received her Bachelor of Science in wildlife, watershed, and rangeland resources at the University of Arizona and her Master of Science in biology at Arizona State University, where she studied rattlesnake social behavior. She has worked on a variety of projects on natural history and conservation of reptiles in Arizona, California, and Mexico.
Trekking through Western Bhutan with April Crosby
This tiny nation’s stunning Himalayan border with Tibet and its government’s measuring success in terms of happiness, rather than by gross national product or GNP, beckoned to world traveler and local resident April Crosby. Sharing breathtaking tales from her thirteen-day trek through mountainous western Bhutan with a small group of women, April not only awed her audience at the Gila Community Center this spring with the rugged trail’s beauty and challenges, but also illuminated for them the extraordinary values of this country’s people. Recognizing that human happiness requires healthy communities and a healthy natural environment, as well as economic well being, the Kingdom of Bhutan works to balance these often-competing values, maintaining the country’s Buddhist culture while recognizing advantages of developments in the modern world.
Personal lessons gained, from the physical challenge of a 16,000-foot pass on day eight and trying to get to sleep in the nomads’ yak pastures, to the rewards of seeing the world through very different eyes were also shared. And it is these personal lessons, such as gaining insight to the Bhutanese concept of collective well-being in contrast to our own culture’s emphasis on the individual’s pursuit of happiness, that inspire April’s travels, of which there will certainly be more to be shared.
The Beautiful Buzz in Grant County, a talk by local beekeeper Susan Clair
Co-hosted by the Gila Valley Library and the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, Susan Clair held her audience in awe with her March talk on honey bees and their importance to us, sharing fascinating facts such as a third of our food is owing to honey bee pollination, and worker bees, all of whom are female, do not have ears but can provide their coworkers with precise directions to a pollen- or nectar-rich field by dancing. Susan covered:
- how honeybee colonies differ from other bees' colonies
- roles of the queen bee, her female workers, and her drones
- various strains of honeybees and other pollinators
- how bees and other pollinators help maintain our food supply
- problems for pollinators worldwide
- differences between Langstroth hives and top-bar hives
- things non-beekeepers can do to support honeybee health
- solutions for honeybee swarms and infestations
A beekeeper since 2009, Susan Clair coordinated the first statewide Beekeeper Certification Apprentice Program, in 2014 and 2015, for the New Mexico Beekeepers Association. In summer 2017, she co-founded the Grant County Beekeepers group, which meets monthly. Susan resides in Silver City.
The reason the drone pictured here has such large eyes is that his sole purpose in life is to find a virgin-queen gathering site–which can be as far as 20 miles from his hive–in order to mate.
People and Plants of the Upper Gila: The River Is Food, a talk by Dr. Richard Stephen Felger
Before addressing the Cliff-Gila community this February, Dr. Felger had said, “Let’s look at some of these food plants for a better way to live in so sweet a place,” speaking specifically about the wild foods right here in the Upper Gila Valley. His knowledge of the abundance in this region proved to be a cornucopia for those who came for the feast and went away satisfyingly informed on old ways and new ideas about sustainability in our high-desert valley.
Fascinated since childhood by all forms of desert life, Richard obtained his doctorate at the University of Arizona, writing his dissertation on the flora of the islands and Gulf Coast of Sonora, Mexico. With his decades of study and work in the fields of biology, ethnobotany, and food conservation, he has authored, co-authored, and contributed to a long list of publications, both scholarly and popular, which can be found at the University of Arizona Herbarium website. Professor, curator, researcher, traveler, he has taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, was a Senior Curator for the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and founded the research department at the Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson more than three decades ago. Developing a profound interest in arid-land conservation and new-food cultivation, he continues to explore, discover, record, and share his abundant knowledge.
Dr. Felger and his wife and collaborator, Silke Schneider, live in Silver City.
STORYTELLERS Bring a Treat to Grant County’s School Children
Storytellers Liz Mangual and Bob Kanegis, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, visited classrooms at Cliff School on November 8, 2017, and Montessori School on November 9, 2017, for a segment of the Gila Valley Library’s literacy programming funded by a grant from United Way.
Liz describes herself as a “bilingual storyteller with years of experience working with children and families, from inner cities to rural villages.” Bob’s style is to get “people of all ages participating together to enjoy the wonders and benefits of storytelling.”
The talented couple came supplied with their artful tales and a bit of fairy dust, unlocking imaginations, and transporting listeners to other times and places. Children and teachers alike at Cliff elementary and Montessori primary certainly did delight in the art form Liz Mangual and Bob Kanegis shared with them.
Bob and Liz travel to different regions of the United States attending festivals and other storytelling events. They belong to Storytellers of New Mexico in Albuquerque, with a mission of “promoting, supporting, and encouraging the art, knowledge, and history of storytelling.”
CITIZEN SCIENTIST in the Classroom
Sharman Apt Russell, author of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World, presented the fundamentals necessary to become a citizen scientist to Cliff High School students on November 1st, 2017.
The Gila Valley Library, in partnership with United Way, sponsored the program for students in the classroom of Frances Miller, science teacher at Cliff High School. Each student was presented with a copy of Diary of a Citizen Scientist, which recounts Sharman’s scientific study of the Western red-bellied tiger beetle in southwestern New Mexico. The book won the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as other awards.
The author inspired students to choose their own field of study, collect data to send to a central database, and become citizen scientists themselves, adding their observations to a body of scientific inquiry. Students in Cliff, NM, can join numerous others, “watching birds, taking water samples, staring into the heart of a red spiral galaxy, marrying curiosity with collective power, waking up each morning and thinking—what am I going to study today?” Sharman says.
STEAM Camps for Children
Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math
STEAM camps at GVL are designed for children aged 5 through 11, to engage them in activities that inspire curiosity, build intellectual skills, and promote confidence in exploring the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Overseen by the library’s director – whose 40 years of teaching fuels her STEAM passion – paid teen interns develop exciting curricula that include hands-on lab experiments, physics lessons, and robotics design and construction.
GVL sponsors collaborations with Cliff School, as well as other schools and libraries in the region, to bring to the area presentations and workshops conducted by such fine organizations as Archaeology Southwest in Tucson, and the Explora Science Center in Albuquerque. From the ancient art of flint knapping and atlatl dart throwing to cutting-edge technologies like 3-D printing, STEAM Camp sessions provide unforgettable experiences that help students become, and stay, sharp!
The 2016 teen STEAM Team gets paid!
Home on the Range Children’s Theater, the very popular project of library director “Miss Madge,” premiered in 2013. Children's theater brings dramatic arts to Cliff School and the community with its original adaptations for the stage from children’s literature. Four productions to date include two from John R. Erickson’s beloved Hank the Cowdog series, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and C. S. Lewis’s book two in the classic Narnia Chronicles, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Hank the Cowdog series
STEAM Camp inspires dramatic creativity year 'round
James and the Giant Peach
Adult and Family Programs
Speaking of History and Armchair Traveling bring to the community a treasure trove of stories about and by locals. The 2017 lineup began with a talk in January by Esperanza Quintero, longtime resident of the Burros, about her five-week 540-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostella in Europe. In February, local ornithologists Carol Fugagli and Dr. Dale Zimmerman shared tales and pictures from their six-week trip to Kenya to photograph the many species of birds there. (You can listen to their interview on Earth Matters at gmcr.org/earth-matters-dale-zimmerman). In March, Shawna Arnold, valley resident and church historian for the Church of Latter-Day Saints, spoke about the amazing history of the Mormon Church in the Gila Valley region. For current programs, return to the top of this page.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostella
Ornithologist Dale Zimmerman in Kenya
Shawna Arnold, church historian for the Church of Latter-Day Saints