Students learn the ropes

Seventh-grade class presents irrigation projects

JUSTIN HALSEY, Justin Purkat and Tel Hamilton pose Friday with their irrigation project at the Dolores Middle School.

For seventh-graders at Dolores Middle School, getting water to our farms so our food can grow, may have been the furthest thing from their mind, but not any more.

The students, under the direction of teacher Clay Tallmadge, students designed irrigation projects and gave presentations on irrigation last week.

The students talked of the logging town that once sat at what is now the bottom of McPhee Reservoir and how at one time, the population of McPhee was 4,400 and provided 50 percent of the lumber.

Others talked of the 1,600 homes that were moved out of the Big Bend area before the reservoir was created.

"Irrigation is very important in the west," said Sam Preston.

A statement that will be even more true this year as forecasters are predicting a dismal year for irrigation supplies as the runoff is not what was hoped for.

Fourth-grade students sat and listened to the seventh-grade students give their presentations on Friday.

Justin Halsey, Justin Purkat and Tel Hamilton built a scale model of gated irrigation pipes and demonstrated the project Friday.

"It shows how water would run through the fields," Hamilton said. "We learned so much about the history of irrigation here."

Sarah Hamilton, Cameron Elder and Samantha Peterson said they built a model on flood irrigation.

They used straws to syphon the water.

"I learned all about siphons," Elder said.

Peterson said she learned a lot about them too.

"If you don't have enough water, the siphons won't work."

The students also traveled to the Watkins farm to learn about irrigation and see it in action.

Colton Coffman built a water wheel.

And John Merrick build a contraption called a Shaduf, which was used in Egypt to get water out of the river with a bucket.

"Some people call it a water crane," Merrick said.

Tallmadge said the lessons that students learned were important ones.

"Water use is important in our community and I think it's important for our students to learn about it," he said.

Rob Busby, with the NRCS, sat through the presentations and was impressed.

"You wouldn't have a community if it weren't for irrigation," he said.

CAMERON ELDER consults with Sarah Hamilton on their seventh-grade irrigation project at Dolores Middle School Friday. Enlargephoto

Shannon Livick/Star

CAMERON ELDER consults with Sarah Hamilton on their seventh-grade irrigation project at Dolores Middle School Friday.