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Guidance for Acequia Annual Meetings during Covid

Many acequias are holding their annual meetings this Fall and have time-sensitive issues – including elections – that need to be addressed.  NMAA is providing some basic guidance to acequias for how to address the need for annual meetings and also protect your members from spread of COVID-19 by following the requirements of the public health orders issued by the Department of Health (DOH).

The most important requirement that affects acequia meetings is that any gatherings over five people are prohibited. The DOH public health order, which was updated November 5, 2020, prohibits “mass gatherings” which are defined as any public or private gathering that brings together more than five individuals indoors or outdoors. There are some limited exceptions and “mass gathering” does not include individuals who are public officials or public employees in the course and scope of their employment, and it does not include the presence of more than five people who reside together. In summary, the prohibition on mass gatherings includes acequia membership meetings. 

The Attorney General has provided a guidance letter for public bodies, such as acequias, during the COVID-19 State of Public Health Emergency recommending that public entities “follow the guidance of the Department of Health and other health officials to ensure the health and safety of both members of the entity and the public.” They also recommend the following:

  • Public bodies should not proceed with an in-person meeting at this time given that the current Public Health Order limits mass gatherings to 5 people even in an outdoor space.  
  • The best and most efficient way to comply with the Open Meetings Act and the current public health orders would be to postpone or cancel a public meeting
  • A virtual public meeting may be held if a public body has to address an issue that is “time-sensitive.”  Virtual meetings may be held through telephone conference, videoconference, live streaming, or similar technologies provided that the public is provided instructions on how to access the meeting. 

NMAA is available to assist acequias during this public health emergency. Some examples of services we can offer related to conducting acequia meetings include: 

  • Assistance drafting a meeting notice to include all the information necessary to ensure compliance with the public health order and the Open Meetings Act;  
  • An NMAA staff member can attend and help with the virtual or telephone meeting to ensure the meeting runs smoothly and is in compliance with the Open Meetings Act; and 
  • We can offer the use of our Zoom video conference platform or telephone conference line. Any acequia can request use of our Zoom link or conference call number. We ask that the request be made well in advance to manage schedule conflicts.  

We also understand that this is a very difficult time and many areas of the state do not have reliable internet service or phone service.  We are available to discuss additional options for you at this time to ensure all members of the community are safe and have an option to attend the meeting.  Please contact our office to discuss your options.

Elections.  If it is an election year for your Acequia, you may decide to hold a virtual meeting under the “time-sensitivity” standard.  Voting may take place either by conference call or via an online platform such as Zoom. On the other hand, the Attorney General’s guidance allows postponement until it is safe to hold a meeting in order to ensure maximum participation. 

Proxy voting.  Proxy voting may still be utilized during virtual meetings.  In order to implement proxy voting, your Acequia will need some clear procedures for your members to follow. If proxies are utilized, we encourage the commission to carefully review the Acequia’s bylaws to familiarize themselves with the Acequia’s unique proxy requirements. 

Some examples of how to manage proxies include setting a deadline for delivering written proxies to the Commission of the acequia and/or allowing proxies to be presented at the virtual meeting. The acequia may require that proxies be mailed to the Secretary of the Commission by a deadline in advance of the meeting. The acequia can also allow proxies to be presented at the virtual meeting provided that the written proxy be delivered to the commission within five days. Your acequia can determine your own procedures as long as you communicate it clearly with your members.  Please contact our staff to discuss the specific details related to proxy voting generally, and, in particular, how to effectively use proxies at virtual meetings held during the pandemic.

Bylaws amendments.  Also, we suggest that, if your Acequia is adopting or amending its bylaws at the annual meeting, you send the bylaws to parciantes ahead of the meeting and ask them to send questions or comments prior to the meeting to facilitate discussion during the meeting. 

Please contact NMAA staff if you have any questions in making a decision about whether to postpone or proceed with your meeting. We are also available to provide guidance on conducting your meeting virtually, attending your meeting to assist in using Zoom, or providing our teleconference number or Zoom meeting link. We are also available to assist with election procedures, including the use of proxies. Contact us at 505-995-9644. We are not working in the office, but we receive our messages daily and will respond to your request as soon as possible.

NMAA is Hiring

NMAA is seeking qualified applicants for the following two positions. Both are full-time and will work primarily from home in order to be COVID-safe. 
 
Acequia Policy Coordinator
The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) is seeking a Policy Coordinator to assist with advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal level. The NMAA is a statewide, membership-based association of acequias and community ditches in New Mexico. The Policy Coordinator helps develop and implement NMAA’s policy advocacy strategies. This position reports directly to the Executive Director (ED) and supports a broad range of activities including analysis, development of policy recommendations, and policy advocacy. The ideal candidate will have excellent communication skills, a minimum of two years professional experience in public policy/advocacy fields, willingness to take on complex tasks, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse group of stakeholders. Policy Coordinator Job Description
Acequia Outreach Coordinator
The New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) is seeking an Acequia Outreach Coordinator to conduct education and outreach to acequia parciantes, acequia elected officials, farmers, and ranchers and provide support on issues relating to water rights, agricultural improvements, infrastructure, and acequia governance. This position reports to the Program Director and works with the NMAA team to plan and coordinate outreach strategies and to implement specific tasks including one-on-one meetings, trainings and workshops, and development of educational materials. This position will work on acequia governance, water management, infrastructure, and participation in USDA programs. The ideal candidate will have strong communication skills, experience working one-on-one with constituents, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse group of stakeholders. Acequia Outreach Coordinator Job Description
 
Persons interested in applying should submit a letter of interest, three references, and a resume to Paula Garcia, Executive Director, at paula@lasacequias.org. 

2020 Acequia Art & Photo Contest

2020 ACEQUIA ART AND PHOTO CONTEST – SUBMISSIONS DUE NOVEMBER 30th!

Submit your photos and art to the 2020 NMAA Acequia Art & Photo Contest and show us what acequia culture means to YOU! Prizes for ADULTS (19 years and up) and YOUTH (18 years and under)!

** ART CONTEST DETAILS **

  • Submit poems, videos, paintings, sketches, mixed media, models, and MORE! – showing us “What does acequia culture mean to you?” or “Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”
  • Art participants are limited to one entry.

** PHOTO CONTEST DETAILS **

  • Send photos in any of these categories – Acequieros Working the Land; Digitally Altered Imagery; Regando; Food and Seed Traditions
  • Photo participants are limited to one entry per category!

** HOW TO APPLY! **

  • Art and photos must be submitted by November 30, 2020
  • Submissions must be sent in HIGH RESOLUTION/high quality format
  • Please email to emily@lasacequias.org OR mail to 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • Include: (1) Name of Artist (2) Town (3) Acequia Name (4) County (5) Art/photo description or title.

** MORE INFO **

  • You could win the following PRIZES: 1st Place: $60.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 2nd Place: $40.00 & NMAA T-Shirt – 3rd Place: $20.00 & NMAA T-shirt (separate prizes for adult and youth submissions!)
  • Terms and conditions: Upon photo submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.

Flyer images – 2019 winners Eluid Martinez (art, adult) and Miguel Santistevan (photo, adult)

September 3 – Vamos a Guardar la Cosecha: Food Preservation with the Acequia Harvest

You are invited to join us for ‘Vamos a Guardar la Cosecha: Food Preservation with the Acequia Harvest‘ – the fifth gathering in our series of seasonal garden pláticas!

** Thursday September 3rd from 6:00-7:30 pm **

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO RECEIVE CALL IN DETAILS

Online using Zoom or your phone

Our featured maestras – Margaret Garcia (Taos Real Food, Sol Feliz Farm) and Juliet Garcia (Chicoyole Farms, NMAA Director of Operations) – will share their stories, experiences, and tips on how they preserve and save the harvest from their farms and gardens, including canning, drying, and fermenting. David Garcia will also join us to share canciones and reflections on the historic and cultural importance of preserving our own food.

We know many community members also have important ideas to share – so please also join us to share your own expertise and techniques!

Questions? Contact: donne@lasacequias.org – This special community gathering is presented by the NMAA Los Sembradores Farmer Training Program, as part of our Semillas Pa La Gente project.

PRESS RELEASE: New Mexico Groups Appeal EPA’s Dirty Water Rule

FOR  IMMEDIATE  RELEASE

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Contacts

Rachel Conn, Projects Director, Amigos Bravos, 575.770.8327

Charles de Saillan, Staff Attorney, NMELC, 505.819.9058

Paula Garcia, Executive Director, New Mexico Acequia Association, 505.231.7752

Allyson Siwik, Executive Director, Gila Resources Information Project, 575.590.7619 

New Mexico Groups Appeal EPA’s Dirty Water Rule

Yesterday, three New Mexico based organizations – Amigos Bravos, the New Mexico Acequia Association, and Gila Resources Information Project – joined together to appeal the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers so called Navigable Water Protection Rule (“2020 Rule”).  The 2020 Rule, which went into effect yesterday, drastically shrinks the number of New Mexico waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. The groups filed their appeal with the US District Court for the District of New Mexico.

“The Trump administration has opened the pollution floodgates,” said Rachel Conn, Projects Director with Amigos Bravos. “This 2020 Dirty Water Rule protects the interests of polluters over the interests of the public who rely on clean water for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and cultural values.”

New Mexico is disproportionately affected by the 2020 Rule because of the large number of small streams in the state that flow only during wet times of the year. These smaller ephemeral streams have historically been protected by the Clean Water Act but under the new rule they are left unprotected.

“We are deeply concerned that many of our streams and rivers would lose protections under the 2020 rule. We rely on clean water to grow crops and raise livestock, to provide locally grown food for families, and to support agricultural livelihoods in our communities,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association.

Unlike federal rollbacks in other areas of environmental protection, New Mexico’s waters do not have state protections to fall back on. New Mexico is one of just three states that does not have delegated authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams, and lakes. There is now no entity with regulatory authority to manage existing discharges from the wastewater treatment plants, mines, federal facilities, and other polluters that currently discharge into these smaller New Mexico streams.

According to Charles de Saillan, Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “This federal rule all but nullifies the protections of the Clean Water Act over many streams and wetlands in New Mexico.  It reverses nearly fifty years of interpretation of the Clean Water Act by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the courts.  As this regulation is implemented, permits will not be necessary for discharging pollution into many rivers, lakes, and streams.  Water quality will become degraded.  Our clients will suffer because they rely on clean, unpolluted water for their businesses, irrigation of crops, watering of livestock, and recreation such as fishing, river rafting, and kayaking.”

Even some of our larger iconic rivers such as the Gila River in the south and the Rio Costilla in the north are threatened by this rule. The rule removes automatic protections for interstate waters – both  the Gila and Rio Costilla are interstate waters – and because both of these rivers run dry before meeting up with larger downstream rivers, it is uncertain if under this new rule they will remain protected.

“It is horrifying that a New Mexico river as important as the Gila is left unprotected by this rule,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of Gila Resources Information Project. “Irrigators and the growing recreation-based economy of southwestern New Mexico are dependent on clean water flowing in the Gila.”

The New Mexico Environment Department has estimated that as much as 96% of the surface waters in the state could lose protection under the new rule.

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Photo caption: Several acequias downstream from the Village of Ruidoso, including Acequia de Ambrosio Pablo Chavez, are faced with water quality issues due to effluent from the wastewater treatment plant. The regulatory permits along streams that are ephemeral or intermittent would be at risk under the 2020 EPA rule on Waters of the US which only protects “navigable waters.”

Acequias and the Public Health Order

Just as acequias were preparing in March for the annual ritual of sacando la acequia, or the acequia spring cleaning, in addition to annual membership meetings, the spread of Covid-19 caused the state to issue a public health order. The purpose of the order was to slow the spread of the potentially fatal virus by prohibiting any gatherings of five or more individuals and requiring people to maintain a “social distance” of six feet. 

Based on the public health order, NMAA issued a guidance letter in March with recommendations on how acequias could continue their vital work of keeping acequias flowing while also staying safe. During the months of March through May, some acequias completely cancelled their meetings and cleanings. Others modified their cleanings by working in small crews while maintaining social distancing. Some acequias held meetings by conference call via phone where there was an immediate need to hold a meeting.

On June 1st, restrictions were reduced in New Mexico for places of worship and businesses (with restrictions on occupancy of 25% or 50%, see order for details). Local restaurants or small businesses, for example, are allowed to open at 50% capacity with masks and social distancing, click here to see the latest order.

NMAA has received several questions about whether acequias can resume having in person meetings. The updated public health order continues to prohibit “mass gatherings” defined as any gathering of five or more people. However, some acequias are proposing to have meetings in person since many of their members have difficulty with online or teleconference options. 

Here are some options for acequias:

  1. Acequia commissions, which have three members, can have meetings to conduct acequia businesses. With the commissioners and mayordomo meeting in person, this keeps the total below the number five, thereby complying with the restriction of “mass gatherings.” With these small, in person meetings, the commissioners and mayordomo should wear masks and observe social distancing. 
  2. An acequia can have meetings by conference call or online conferencing using tools such as Zoom. Since few elders have the ability to use Zoom, a telephone conference may be the preferable option. To have a conference call meeting, the meeting notice must provide the conference call number. Such meetings can be either a commission meeting or a membership meeting. The Attorney General has issued guidance on having online or telephonic meetings, view it here.
  3. If an acequia decides to hold an in person meeting with more than five people, it could be at risk of violating the public health order. If an acequia decides to proceed in this manner, measures including masks, social distancing, and limits on occupancy (or meeting outside) would be advisable. Vulnerable community members, such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals, should not be put at risk.  

It is also important to note that another public health order prohibited any meetings of shareholders during the months of April, May, and June. Although acequia meetings are not shareholder meetings, the guidance may be relevant, please see guidance here.

Regardless of whether you have an in-person meeting or a teleconference, the meeting is still required to comply with the Open Meetings Act and the bylaws of the specific acequia.

NMAA staff is available to assist acequias with meeting these requirements. We will also provide use of our conference call phone number and use of our Zoom account for any acequia who makes a request. For more information, please contact Toribio Garcia at toribio@lasacequias.org or 505-995-9644.

Respeto y Repartimiento

Respeto y Repartimiento: Plática on Water Sharing Traditions

REGISTER HERE! 

Join us for an online platica about the acequia tradition of sharing water, known as repartimiento. This will be first in a series of online pláticas, or dialogues, focused on water sharing customs and practices among acequias. Our first plática on repartimiento will take place on Saturday, June 6, 2020 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm via Zoom, Facebook Live, and conference call.

For centuries in New Mexico, the customs and traditions of water sharing have been vital to the well-being of communities, providing water through the principle of equity and keeping peaceful relations with neighboring families and communities.

During the pandemic, acequias are facing a growing interest in locally grown food resulting in more demand for water by growers who need reliable water for crops and livestock. Adding to the stress on acequias is climate change that is causing more intense and longer droughts, with less snowpack, runoff, and irrigation water.

It has never been more important for the acequia community to dig deep into our cultural memory to remember the generations of teachings about the importance of sharing water and to be mindful of the scarcity of water that we rely upon for our survival.

Our gathering will feature poetry and storytelling to ground us a cultural worldview grounded in respect, caring for one’s neighbors, and working together for the common good. Our featured artist will be Levi Romero, New Mexico Poet Laureate, whose upbringing in Dixon immersed him in land-based culture that resonates in his poetry. Levi will share poetry and reflections on a recent essay entitled, “Respeto, Caridad, y Repartimiento.” Also, musician David Garcia will perform music rooted in acequia lifeways.

Gilbert Sandoval, President of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias, will share his experience in negotiating water sharing agreements with neighboring Pueblos. Gilbert’s story will highlight the knowledge and experience needed in the difficult and complicated work of creating water-sharing agreements, which can take decades to resolve but also remain a work in progress as our climate changes and as communities change over time. Other acequia elders will be invited to share their own experiences with past or current water sharing practices.

The plática will take place on Zoom, Facebook Live, and by conference call. Click here to sign up for the platica.

When you register, NMAA will send you the instructions to use Zoom, Facebook Live, or conference call to participate.

San Isidro Labrador – Join us for an online blessing

For centuries, people of faith have gathered on Día de San Isidro to pray for the blessing of a good growing season. San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers and labradores (workers or laborers). The story goes that he worked the land and yet always found time to pray and attend daily mass. His faith was rewarded with the help working his fields. His story reminds us that planting seeds in the Spring is an act of faith and hope and also that it is a commitment to care for the seeds and matitas (little plants) to have a cosecha (harvest) later in the season.
In New Mexico, several communities celebrate Día de San Isidro with processions to bless the fields and acequias. Celebrations include “paseando los santos” in a procession in the community, through fields, and along acequias where often rose petals are cast into the water as part of the blessing. According to tradition, his feast day on May 15th is an important day to plant traditional crops such as corn, beans, chile, and squash because it is after regular episodes of freezing temperatures.
This year, because of the pandemic, many of us will miss San Isidro gatherings where our faith is affirmed and our relationships with the community are strengthened through a shared blessing. Our blessings are a much needed time for an expression of querencia, the love and belonging to a place and a people.
The NMAA is inviting our statewide community to take a little time on Día de San Isidro to participate in an online gathering to honor San Isidro. We will have music, an informal blessing, and some platica (dialogue/conversation) where we can bear witness to each other’s work of planting seeds, tending to plants, and irrigating. Prayers are especially needed during this time when our local farmers are being called upon to provide our communities with fresh food as the corporate/industrial food system is showing its flaws. This growing season will also be particularly challenging because of ongoing drought and the need to be gracious and kind in the way we share scarce water.
Día de San Isidro
An Online Community Gathering
Friday, May 15, 2020
9:00am – 10:00am
Join via Zoom or telephone (instructions below)

Schedule:

Welcome

Alabanza de San Isidro:

A traditional spiritual ballad and homage to our patron saint

Blessing and Reflections from Traditional Farmers and Mayordomos

Participant Reflections

Closing with Music

HOW TO USE ZOOM:

Option A – Connect from your computer or smart phone internet:
  1. As the program opens, a box will pop up on your screen asking if it is okay to launch Zoom – click ‘yes’ – and then click ‘join audio conference by computer’.
  2. Once you are on the call – you can choose to turn your video on or off using buttons in the lower left side of the screen. You can also mute and unmute yourself by clicking the small microphone icon.
Option B – Call in from your phone:
  • Dial: 1-301-715-8592
  • Enter the ‘Meeting ID’: 944 6556 8558
  1. We will ask everyone to mute themselves so we can hear the speaker clearly and limit background noise. To mute yourself on a landline – press *6 – then press it again to unmute yourself.
If you have any technical problems or questions about how to use Zoom – email – emily@lasacequias.org

PRESS RELEASE: Diverse Coalition Urges New Mexico to Protect the Upper Pecos Watershed

For immediate release April 20, 2020

Contacts:

Ralph Vigil, Molino de las Isla Organics, 505-603-2879

Pancho Adelo, Upper Pecos Watershed Association, 505-470-5429

Janice Varela, San Miguel County Commissioner, 505-231-2802

Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association, 505-231-7752

Diverse Coalition Urges New Mexico to Protect the Upper Pecos Watershed
Conserving these special waters will boost outdoor recreation while protecting cultural history and clean water

Pecos, NM, 4/20/20 – The New Mexico Acequia Association, San Miguel County, the Village of Pecos, the Upper Pecos Watershed Association, and Molino de la Isla Organics LLC today are submitting a petition to the state of New Mexico to protect water quality in the Upper Pecos Watershed. The coalition of community members, local governments, farmers, and ranchers is asking the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to nominate portions of the Upper Pecos River Watershed as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs) under the Clean Water Act. This critical watershed supports agriculture and large outdoor recreational industries threatened by development and transportation, waste disposal, potential hard rock mining, and climate change. As New Mexicans’ health, jobs, and communities are impacted by COVID-19, it is important now more than ever that the state safeguards the lifeblood of our communities.

“The designation of the waters of the Pecos River as Outstanding National Resource Waters will go a long way in protecting both the quality of the water and the local traditional uses” said Pancho Adelo, President of the Upper Pecos Watershed Association and Pecos business owner. “ONRW protections will also contribute to the economic significance of recreational tourism in the area.”

The Upper Pecos Watershed is culturally significant to the people of Jemez Pueblo, as ancestral homelands. Since the mid-16th century, people in the Upper Pecos Watershed have depended on these waters for traditional land-use practices like growing crops and raising livestock. There are numerous acequias in the Upper Pecos Watershed for which clean water is vital to support local food, agriculture, and communities.

“Agua es Vida and the Upper Pecos Watershed provides water for our acequias which are the life-line for many of our cultural traditions and ecosystems” added Acequia user, farmer, and petitioner Ralph Vigil. “It is through the preservation of this precious resource that our ancestors have maintained their will to survive, and it is through ONRW protections that they will continue to sustain future generations for centuries to come. “

Pecos Canyon in the Upper Pecos Watershed is one of the state’s top outdoor tourism destinations and popular among New Mexicans for a variety of outdoor activities. These local users and visitors spend money at local outfitters, stores, restaurants, and hotels. In 2013, anglers alone spent $29 million in San Miguel County, while hunters spent more than $18 million.  Outdoor recreation is a booming business in the Land of Enchantment, confirmed by the state legislature’s creation of a new Outdoor Recreation Division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department in 2019. It is critical that New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry – and the local jobs it supports – can thrive once people emerge following the pandemic.

“San Miguel residents depend on the Pecos River and its tributaries for their livelihoods,” said San Miguel County Commissioner, District 2, Janice Varela. “From water for drinking and agriculture to outdoor recreation and tourism dollars, the Pecos is truly the lifeblood of our community.”

The clean, clear waters of the upper Pecos River and its tributaries are a refuge for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and significant investments have been made to conserve this species across the state.  The area is also home to Rocky Mountain bighorn, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, and golden eagles.

Local Angler Norm Maktima said, “As an angler, my family and the families of my coworkers depend on the Upper Pecos Watershed remaining clean and healthy. The original Pecos people and the Pecos community now, have and will always protect these lands and waters. It is time for our government to acknowledge and join our efforts.”

The petitioners are calling on the WQCC to designate 14.1 miles of the Pecos River, 56.2 miles of its named tributaries, 698 acres of wetlands, and 180.03 miles of ephemeral and intermittent drainages of the Pecos River Watershed as ONRWs. ONRW protections allows current activities, such as farming and ranching to continue, but requires new activities to demonstrate that they will not degrade water quality.

Upon receiving the petition, the WQCC will vote on whether to schedule a hearing on the matter later this year.

To view a copy of the nominating petition, see: https://www.ourNMwaters.org

To learn more about the WQCC, see https://www.env.nm.gov/water-quality-control-commission/wqcc-rules-and-responsibilities/

To learn more about ONRWs, see https://www.env.nm.gov/surface-water-quality/onrws/

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Acequia Education: Youth Activity Print-Outs

The New Mexico Acequia Association is excited to offer this selection of fun and educational acequia learning worksheets for children, youth and families currently spending lots of time together at home during the Covid-19.

Having our children out of school and doing distance and home learning can be challenging, but is an amazing opportunity to talk more with them about our families traditions and knowledge around the acequias, farming and gardening, and taking care of the water, seeds, animals, orchards, and land. 

Click the links below to download, view, and print PDF’s. 

If you do not have access to a printer and want to share these activities with your family and community, email us at emily@lasacequias.org or call (505) 995-9644 and we will do our best to print and send you worksheets by mail.

If you work with a school or youth program, and plan to share these activities with your students, please email us at emily@lasacequias.org so we can keep a record of where these materials are being used.