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PLIA Awarded for Outstanding Public Engagement!

PLIA awarded for outstanding public engagement

The Public Lands Alliance (PLA) is a group that connects the nonprofit partners of America's public lands. Each year, their Partnership Awards program recognizes groups that provide exemplary products, services, and programs that engage and educate visitors to public lands.

On April 27th, the Public Lands Alliance announced the 2023 Partnership Award winners, and winning the category for Outstanding Public Engagement was PLIA's very own Caver Quest Academy! This program was carried out in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project and provided an educational experience that reached students at home through a video game, in the classroom through lessons, and on a field trip to New Mexico's Fort Stanton Cave.

A group of students enter the Fort Stanton Cave on their spelunking trip.

Students learned all about the formation and unique characteristics of the cave in-class and at home, taking in information on safe spelunking, geology, natural history, and wildlife that call caves home. On the field trip, students put these lessons to practice on an expedition into the Fort Stanton Cave—usually closed to the public. You can read all about the details of the program here. On one field trip, our Outreach Coordinator Camisha Cordova noted how much everyone seemed to get out of the experience, saying: 

It was such a wonderful trip to Fort Stanton Cave with these amazing middle schoolers. The wonderment on their faces as they entered the cave, the empathy and compassion they shared with each other on their adventure, and the exclamation that it was just like being in the Caver Quest video game... A memorable time was had by all, and I am sure this experience will stick with them for a lifetime. 
Roberta and Townsend accept the award online.

Program Manager Roberta and mascot Townsend accept the award.

The award was accepted by our Program Manager Roberta Archuleta, who was key to the success of this program by coordinating an extensive assortment of partners, schools, and agencies that made this experience possible. The program mascot Townsend the Bat—who was featured in the Caver Quest game extensively—brought a bit of levity to her heartfelt thanks.

After receiving the award, Roberta provided a statement reflecting on the experience and the recognition from the Public Lands Alliance:

It feels great for our organization to be recognized for this incredible honor. Working on this project was a unique opportunity for us to engage middle schoolers on their own level and what better way to do that than with a video game! Our team worked very hard to put together a program that was fun and engaging and had educational value. We hope that through the Caver Quest Academy Program students enjoy a lasting and memorable experience that will generate interest in the science and technology fields.

The Public Lands Interpretive Association plans to continue this program into the 2023 school year and will introduce many more students to the fascinating natural history of New Mexico first-hand.  

View the award and acceptance speech below!



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