The Natural History of the Pajarito Plateau

The unusual geological formation of the Pajarito Plateau played a large part in the founding, structure and isolation of the Los Alamos. Even without the secret laboratory, locating a town on separated mesa tops creates unusual traveling and housing situations.
A picture of the solidified lava flows with Los Alamos and the original volcano site (Valles Caldera) is located below.
image Suggested Activities
Visit the Los Alamos Historical Museum and view and read the displays. Use the museum brochure to direct the students’ attention toward the area of the original volcanic eruptions.
Project the information from the Los Alamos Historical Society webpage on the geology of the Pajarito Plateau and read and discuss as a class. (Or direct students to the webpage during computer lab time.)

Have the students read the page from the Los Alamos website and locate the Valle Grande, the Los Alamos townsite, the airport and Main Hill road. Locate the area of your school.

Download Google Earth and look at the satellite pictures of Los Alamos and the surrounding area to initiate similar discussions.) Have students research the geology of the surrounding area:

Potential research sites:
Start with

Take a field trip with:

Local Geology Society contact:

Excellent site from the Pajarito Enviornmental Education Center:

Create a classroom or individual “New Mexico Rocks and Minerals” collection. To represent the geology of Los Alamos, students should collect obsidian, volcanic tuff, basalt, fossils and rhyolite.

Bring in local geologists and their collections.

Draw the Valles Caldera exploding. Show the lava forming the mesa tops.

Work in groups to create a brochure describing the surrounding geology for tourists coming to Los Alamos.

Create a relief map in clay of the geology of Los Alamos.

Create a working model of a volcano.

Describe the origin of volcanic glass. Collect samples. Explain why it became a good source to create early American tools, arrowheads, etc. FIELD TRIP: Use the local geology club to access expertise on the rocks and minerals of the surrounding areas.

As the wife of a university department head and dean, Sylvia proved herself to be a consummate ambassador and hostess, charming to all of her guests. That role often brought her into contact with foreign students and their wives, and she went out of her way to make them feel comfortable and welcome. This later led to a stint wherein she taught English as a Second Language. Her pupils became her friends, and they learned much more than English with Sylvia. She even taught some how to drive and navigate traffic in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Sylvia remained active on campus throughout Fred’s university career and worked to knit relationships between the faculty and community. She started the Faculty Wives' Club at the University of California-Irvine.
Sylvia enjoyed traveling and would ensure that she and Fred were able to see the sights whenever he attended international physics conferences. At times, she would purposely get lost in foreign cities just for the sake of having an adventure and to learn something new.
Sylvia and Fred Reines were a team and few who knew them doubt that Sylvia was a driving force behind Fred’s success. From honing his people skills to buying him physics textbooks, Sylvia was the string to Fred’s kite.
Sylvia and Fred Reines are survived by their two children, Robert and Lisa, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Adapted from A Glimpse of Sylvia Reines by Lisa Cowden, 2007, and conversations with the family.

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