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  • Writer's pictureHeather Tanguay

Sunday 7/28 -Dinosaurs, Blue Swallows and Windmills - Tucumcari, NM

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Yesterday, I stayed at the BIue Swallow Motor Inn in Tucumcari, New Mexico, which retains mid-twentieth century charm while also providing 21st century fiber-optic internet and I spent the evening looking at a small portion of the work you have posted. So much to see! My ghosting, due to insufficient internet access in the wide spaces of the American Southwest, is not tenable for you, my classmates, who need to finish your work and move on to the next, nor for Meredith who needs to post grades. 

Image from the Texas Stateman. It is not the actual barn I pulled up to but very similar.

Yesterday morning I made a wrong turn and went 20 miles round trip down a dead end road here in very rural New Mexico.  With all my car's warning lights of eminent shutdown flashing, I had to pull  into the driveway of the only structure I had seen for some ten miles that was not a fallen-down ruin.  It turned out to be a barn of a cattle ranch, with the funky, can-do wiring typical of livestock workspaces that have been in use for most of the past century. The people treated me very kindly, helped me sort through the electrical delivery needs of my car, and  invited me to join them as they did their usual Sunday routine.

And what serendipity! The husband and wife, in their practical jeans and cotton shirts, turned out to be movers-and-shakers of local higher education, supporting and working as members of Mesalands Community College. The school houses the National American Wind Turbine research center (certainly a prime example of 21th century education), supports extensive paleontology studies of the abundant dinosaur age fossils found in this area, has an iron casting development program working with cutting edge metal casting technology, and an extensive rodeo training program. I found it crazy that such a strong and innovative program is happening in this literally dust blown, falling down, boarded up, drug and poverty ravaged community. 

Example of the bronze casting of dinosaur bones taught at Mesalands Community Collete

We visited the local Dinosaur Museum . It was excellent, combining serious mineral and paleontology information with hands-on, interactive kids-work. We looked at the QR codes they are putting on all the displays so families can design their own experience walking through the exhibits.  (I suggested they have QR app access information situated throughout the galleries and not just at the front desk because people now access information in non-traditional patterns.) We talked about Temple Grandin's work with creating humane slaughtering techniques. (If you are vegetarian/ vegan, this last will be an oxymoron.  But, most people eat meat and we must do all we can to keep the animals' last moments in life as calm and pain-free as possible; Grandin, from her perspective as an autistic savant, has been uniquely capable of this work.)  We discussed the distance learning they provide to local high schools and the fact that students from a wide area around the college can dual enroll during high school, earn college credit and begin the state's 4 year colleges at Juniors.  

Mesalands student technician on top of wind turbine

We talked at length about the community's need for more skilled hands-on workers, especially electricians and construction workers to assemble the wind farms and solar arrays, etc. that could remake this area as the energy source for other parts of the US, just as oil reserves made it the energy source 100 years ago. Their goal is to reverse the relentless jobs exodus caused by the superhighways effect of shunting travelers away from the small town stores and into corporate convenience franchises, away from the small town centers and the sense of hope and opportunity that is so vital for children to feel engaged in their education. 

I continue to think about EDU 583; fostering robust 21st century learning is the lens through which I daily assess my experiences on this trip.

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