FRIENDS OF MADERA CANYON EDUCATION PROGRAM
By Doug Moore, Director of Education
The average person’s life is getting faster and more complicated, as most of us exist in a busy society increasingly dominated by technology. Spending so many of our waking hours in cars… with computers… watching TV… talking or texting on cell phones… locally and globally we are losing our vital connections to nature and the natural world that help keep us grounded, healthy, and whole.
Of great concern is that so many of our children and grandchildren are detrimentally growing up without any significant connection with nature - a phenomenon termed “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Humans evolved to thrive better within more natural conditions. Compelling scientific evidence proves that spending time in nature improves children's health, stimulates creativity, sharpens thinking skills, and helps them care about the environment. I have a gut feeling that contact with nature provides much the same benefits for adults too!
Since 1988, the Friends of Madera Canyon has been advocating for nature and nature education. The Education Program promotes “conservation through education” with programs for children and adults in Madera Canyon and the community. When learning about a special place like Madera Canyon, people become curious and take interest in that place. They form a personal connection with Madera Canyon and its wild flora and fauna. Personal connections promote caring, inspiring people to want to help protect and preserve the canyon they care about and, by extension, other wild places and their inhabitants.
Annual 4th Grade Nature Walks are held in spring and fall. The walks allow local students to visit the canyon and develop their own powers of observation to become “naturalists” exploring the nature of Madera Canyon. Current participants are Continental School, Great Expectations Academy, Sopori Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, and San Cayetano Elementary. Over 6,000 students have participated in the nature walks in 22 years, mentored by Friends docent volunteers.
The new Traveling Nature Education Project (TNEP) was presented to the eight 4th grade classes at Sahuarita Intermediate School last year. This interactive program of video, display graphics, photography, and natural history specimens enables students to discover and learn about Madera Canyon and Sky Islands in their own classroom! Besides teaching students about the canyon, the program encourages them to visit Madera Canyon first hand with family and friends. An original participant in the 4th grade walks, Sahuarita eventually grew too large to participate. The TNEP was primarily initiated to re-involve Sahuarita students in Friends nature education program.
Another goal of the Education Program is to expand programs and activities for members and local adults. A program/activity schedule is listed on this website and members can request e-mail “activity alerts” of upcoming events.
We’d like to know what sort of activities members and the local public are interested in. In the past, the Friends has sponsored nature/bird walks, Music in the Canyon, Bug Nights, Bat Nights, the Madera Canyon International Migratory Bird Day, nature presentations, and art activities. Let us know what you like of what we do so far and what other activities/programs you would like to see the Friends sponsor. Please provide feedback to Education Director Doug Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Friends board members. Friends members can receive activity alerts by contacting Louise Gibbeson (email@example.com) and provide their e-mail address.
So, in an activity sponsored by the Friends of Madera Canyon or on your own, by all means take some time to visit the canyon. Whether you hike one of the many trails, picnic under the shade trees, or just sit on a rock listening to the creek, it will do you good!