The BEACON Beavers, a new club organized by the BEACON Afterschool Program, will give students a chance to learn about local ecology, conservation efforts and work skills. The program works with a variety of partners — including the Utah Division of Natural Resources, the Bureau of Land Management and Moab City Parks and Recreation — to provide conservation service opportunities for local youth.
“BEACON Beavers is one way we get to help students excel in the future careers of this region,” said Helen M. Knight Elementary Site Coordinator John Aldridge. “In order to succeed in resource-related jobs, they will need to understand, appreciate, and to be of service to the land at an early age. I want to help students develop a relationship with nature and skills that translate to careers down the road … Wherever their paths may lead, I hope this club nurtures their sense of belonging and sense of purpose in our community. My hope is to hear students say, ‘Hey, I made a difference. I solved a problem as a part of a team and I helped make Moab more beautiful for the world to enjoy.’”
The Beavers will start their first project on Friday, April 6 at the Goose Island Campground, where they will apply an abrasive tree paint to protect cottonwood trees from real beavers that line the river. Other projects include planting trees for Arbor Day, a conservation work skills/trail work project with the city, and vegetation surveys at Lions Park.
“The Beavers seem to be more empowered to say ‘I want to be an arborist’ or ‘I am a park ranger’ ... and this speaks volumes in terms of the way they self-identify with their environment,” Aldridge said. “The history of land management and policy in the western U.S. has been dominated largely by white males, so to see youth of marginalized social groups get excited about picking up a shovel and planting a tree gives me great hope for the future.”
The program evolved out of conservation projects that students participated in last year. This year, the Beavers represent a formalization of that program and is part of efforts to establish a strong outdoor education/nature-based curriculum, Aldridge said.
Aldridge extended his thanks to the community partners who have made the program a reality, especially Tony Mancuso at the DNR’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Tif Miller with the Moab Parks and Recreation and Todd Murdock at the BLM.
Mancuso described the program as a great way for the DNR to get involved with the community.
“It’s a good opportunity to partner with local kids who want to get outside and learn more about the environment and give them an opportunity to get their hands on some projects and show them the types of possibilities that exist in natural resource management,” Mancuso said.
BEACON hosts a number of other activities as well.
“BEACON Afterschool’s mission is to empower students to discover their innate ability to succeed through academic assistance programs and enrichment clubs,” said Aldridge. “We offer a wide variety of opportunities for students to enjoy including mountain biking, swimming, art, dance, literature, journalism, and all sorts of extracurriculars … We couldn’t do that without our talented staff and community supporters. We rely on community partners to provide many of these opportunities for youth.”
Last semester, BEACON facilitated their usual tutoring program in addition to a wide variety of clubs, field trips and family events. This semester, Aldridge said, BEACON looks forward to the return of their Girls on the Run club, the first Beaver projects and their continued work with community partners.