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Programs for the Community




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 cornucopia of children's titles donated by Harper Collins for the giveaway on the last day, thanks to local literati Peter and Sandra Riva.


Library patron Sandra Riva shared childhood tales and read to STEAM kids on the last day of Camp.


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



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.



The annual Clay Festival featured Clay Play events at the public libraries in Silver City, Bayard, and Gila. This year’s Clay Play was inspired by the book The Moon Was at a Fiesta, by Matthew Gollub, which was given to each child participant.

The Gila Valley Library’s Clay Play was held at the Community Center July 24th, with 16 children in attendance, ages 4 to 11.  

Artist Kathryn Allen provided instruction for students on the attributes of clay and molding clay into masks. Kathryn Allen took the children’s creations (shown in photo), fired them in a kiln, and returned them to the director of the library. They were given back to the children for painting.

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!

Learning to make pigment with Archaeology Southwest.

Hands-on biology with Explora Science Center.

The 2016 teen STEAM Team gets paid!

GVL Board Chair teaches STEAM kids magnetism.

Young engineers building with tiny LEGOs.

Transformative power of STEAM Camp at GVL.

Children’s Theater

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

"A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions." — Oliver Wendell Holmes