Kids learn to follow animals tracks in El Jebel |

Kids learn to follow animals tracks in El Jebel

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Kara K. Pearson/Post IndependentAnnie Goth, 8, carries a hen in the farmyard at Rock Bottom Ranch near El Jebel.

EL JEBEL, Colorado” Wildlife tracks each tell a different story.

Likewise, hundreds of little boot prints, left by 12 first- through fifth-graders in the snow at Rock Bottom Ranch in El Jebel, told stories about the three-day Winter Ranchers program.

Kids built a snow village, complete with snowmen and snow women, and even a 3-foot-tall penguin on skis. That’s right, a penguin on skis

“It came out better than I thought,” said 7-year-old Ruby Marker, the artist behind the penguin.

“Yeah, you did a good job,” replied Allison Holmes, Marker’s helper and the Rock Bottom Ranch coordinator and environmental educator.

Marker and the other kids partook in the Winter Ranchers program during their winter break from school and classes. The 113-acre ranch is part of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and has been educating children in the valley about caring for the environment for years. But this is only the second year for the Winter Ranchers program.

The Winter Ranchers program allows kids to learn about life on a ranch and about the environment by enjoying the outdoors. It also educates them on other aspects of wildlife.

“There are a lot of theories that children don’t get enough time in the outdoors learning about the environment,” Holmes said. “This program gives the kids the opportunity to be outside and play and be kids, but it educates them on the environment also.”

On the first day of the program, the kids learned about farm life. They churned butter, fed and played with farm animals, including goats and chickens, and even made candles from beeswax. The second day was winter naturalist day, when the kids built a snow fort called a “quinzy,” and learned to identify wildlife tracks in the snow and to tell what happened by reading the tracks.

“All tracks are stories. We can tell what happened by the signs that we see,” Holmes said. “It’s easier in the winter, too, with the snow, because you can really see what has happened.”

Marker spoke of how she saw where an owl had dived from the sky down to the ground and captured a field mouse earlier in the day. They could tell by where the tracks of the field mouse stopped and the impressions of the owl’s wings were left in the snow.

“We saw lots of deer and elk tracks,” Marker said as she fashioned her penguin’s skis in the snow.

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