Newsletter July 2018

31 July 2018 Published in News

Curious Cacti - by Kayla Sullivan, Education Coordinator

Claret Cup CactusClaret Cup Cactus with red bloom.When wandering the trails of the Canyon Country Discovery Center (CCDC) one can discover several species of cactus. The cactus family, or Cactacae, is a diverse community of plants found in many ecosystems across the world. They are highly adapted to retain water, but also to survive in very sunny and hot conditions. These adaptations include fleshy stems (helps store water), spines (modified leaves that both protect and shade the plant), and large flowers to attract pollinators from afar.

Here in our very own Pinyon-Juniper woodland we have several species:prickly pearPrickly pear cactus with yellow flowers.

One of the easiest cactus to identify across western North America is the prickly pear cactus. The prickly pear is identified by its flat pads that are jointed. The spines are often close together. When the prickly pear are in bloom they can sport a variety of different colored flowers. A prickly pear cactus’ flowers may be yellow, orange, pink, or violet. This year, our CCDC prickly pear were yellow.

The claret cup cactus may only sport its bright red flowers for a very short time (especially in the heat we had this summer!), but it is always a treat to see. The red flowers attract a very specific pollinator - hummingbirds! The flowers tend to bloom early in the spring during hummingbird migrations through this part of Utah. Unlike the prickly pear, the claret cup grows tightly packed and can form a large clump of its tubular stems. We have one larger than a basketball hanging out by the trail just beyond the oak forest!

Another rock star of our cactus community is the beehive cactus. It’s another cactus that has a wide range across western North America. It can grow either in a single tubular stem or have several “branches”. It’s low growing, an adaptation to keep even more out of the sun, and when it’s in bloom, wow! These bright pink flowers always brighten up a desert landscape!

It’s possible to also spot beavertail cactus on our trails along with our other plant species. We’d love to hear from you if you’ve spotted some beautiful plant happenings on our trails! Feel free to tag us on social media to share! We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!



Wrapping up the 2017-2018 School Year - by Holly Phillips, Education Director

Ball WallThe Ball Wall focuses on engineering, allowing students to figure out the best or most creative method to get the ball to the bottom of the track.The 2017-2018 school year has come to a close and for the education team at the Canyon Country Discovery Center (CCDC) it’s time to reflect back on our outreach and field trip season. With a record breaking 3,905 students served this year, we accomplished a lot.

Conducting programs for local students in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, students were engaged in hands-on activities at the discovery center and outreach programs conducted at schools and community events. Nine hundred and fourteen students from Navajo Nation visited the CCDC or participated in outreach programs.

This year, we got two new exhibits in our Colorado Plateau Education Center (exhibit hall) that allowed students to discover the landscape of the Colorado Plateau and explore solar energy. Students explored connections between sunflowers and solar panels and were inspired by photos taken from all over San Juan County by Steve Strom. Free time in the exhibit hall is always a highlight for students at the center. AJ Crocker from Telluride Intermediate School exclaimed, “The exhibit hall was great!”

Dissolved Oxygen DemoStudents learn about the chemistry of aquatic ecology.We introduced new curriculum this year based on light and the Sun-Earth-Moon connection to help students understand the importance of STEM earth, space, and physical science topics. Students had a blast engaging with our new equipment including prisms, spectrum tubes, rainbow glasses, and a solar filter for our 8’’ Celestron telescope. Students learned about light and energy and some even got to create their own solar ovens. One of our newest additions is a commercial grade solar oven that students will be able to check out this summer. There’s nothing like learning about solar energy while enjoying a cookie baked by the Sun!

Teachers were very pleased with how their students were engaged with our new curriculum. Montezuma Creek Elementary School teacher, Linzi Freestone reported, “The field trip was engaging and interesting, right in line with our 4th grade standards.” Calbert Lameman from Monument Valley High School said, “Active instruction and activities that engaged the students were the best part of the field trip.” Of the nineteen schools that completed our evaluation, all agreed that the subject matter was relevant to classroom curriculum and 90% of the educators stated that they observed their students fully engaged with our programming.

We have many activities to look forward to for summer 2018. Sixty-five San Juan County students from Monument Valley and Monticello High School helped kick off our 2018 citizen science water monitoring season in May. We will continue to monitor once a month through October.

The summer season also brings river trips and summer camps and we are excited to shift gears. We will be out on our annual Earth, Water, Sky River Summer Camp and we are excited to welcome back the Native Indian Youth Leadership Project organization for another week of land and water based exploration.

Be sure to visit for information on summer events like star parties, solar oven demonstrations, hikes, and river trips. If you’d like to get involved in citizen science, contact us at for more information.


 What's Happening in August?

Perseid Meteor Shower Star Party - Sunday, August 12, 2018 from 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm

Cost: FREE 

Come and enjoy our dark night skies and watch the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower with our education team! Bring a chair and get ready to watch up to 80 meteors falling per hour! 

Moons Around Other Planets Star Party - August 22, 2018 from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Cost: FREE

We're checking out those summer planets and talking about their moons! Galileo was one of the first astronomers to spot moons around other planets helping him, and others, to discover that everything did not revolve around the Earth! Come check out our telescopes and go for a tour of our solar system.

History of Moon Travel Star Party - Friday, August 31, 2018 from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Cost: FREE

We're checking out the moon and learning all about what it takes to travel there! We'll be going on a tour of the night sky to learn about the objects and phenomena that had scientists wondering about for centuries before we finally took those first steps out into space!