School Nature Walks
4th Grade School Nature Walks
Since 1988, the Friends of Madera Canyon has worked with local schools to bring students to Madera Canyon where they can experience, observe, and learn about the nature of the canyon. The Friends Education Director coordinates the 4th Grade Nature Walks program, contacting participating 4th grade teachers to schedule walks in the spring and fall. Friends docent volunteers, well-versed in subjects of Madera Canyon/Sky Island natural history such as ecology, zoology, botany, geology, and archeology, lead students around the Proctor Accessible Nature Loop Trail in small groups.
The main objective of the nature walks is for students to discover their own powers of observation to become “field naturalists” exploring along the trail through the four plant communities that flank intermittently-flowing Madera Creek. Additionally, there are two presentation stations on the trail. At White House Station, students learn about the historic White House ruin and relevant canyon history. At the Matate Station, students learn about the Native American presence in Madera Canyon, grind mesquite beans in a real bedrock mortar with a stone mano, and taste mesquite flour cookies. Every student receives a compass to take home and receives instruction on how to use it.
Many of the students participating in the 4th Grade Nature Walk Program have limited or no opportunity to spend time “in the woods.” This program provides an important opportunity for these children to actually experience nature first-hand. All participating teachers are provided with the award-winning teaching manual, Madera Canyon: Web of Life, which contains chapters on canyon natural history with student activities. Pre-walk activities help prepare students for their nature walk; post–walk activities reinforce information and concepts learned on the nature walk. Classroom preparation beforehand, using trained docents to encourage and facilitate field exploration and post-walk reinforcement make the nature walks a valuable learning experience for these children.
Six area elementary schools annually participate in the program: Continental School, Great Expectations Academy, Sopori School, San Cayetano Elementary, Peña Blanca Elementary and Mountain View Elementary. Though the spring and fall school schedule is currently full, the Education Director can arrange special nature walks for individual classes, groups, and organizations. In 2008 additional nature walks were held for a local Montessori school, two home-school collectives, and a Cub Scout troop. In just over 20 years, the 4th Grade Nature Walk Program has introduced more than 6,000 local students to the nature of Madera Canyon.
Comments about the 4th Grade Nature Walks program:
“My class and I had a most enjoyable visit with all of you in the canyon. The students talked a lot about the things they did and what they were told. They especially shared what they learned about the plants, animals and surroundings within the canyon, I believe they learned a lot and will remember their experiences. We very much appreciate your enthusiasm and helpfulness with our students. Many of our children may not have the opportunity to visit the canyon until they are much older. In the classroom, we stressed their part in the canyon and how to care for it. It is important that they share this with their family members so that the canyon will remain healthy for many years to come.”
Mrs. Bracamonte, San Cayetano School
Delicious mesquite cookies
North of Mountain View
Mrs. Titcomb & Mountain View 4th Grade
“Thank you so much for taking us on the nature hike. I really enjoyed seeing all the plants, what they did, and what the animals ate, where they lived and all the stuff they did. The thing I found most interesting was the White House ruins. The Morales family was so interesting. Another thing I liked was the cottontail rabbit and the rhyolite rock. It was so nice of you to give us those compasses. It was definitely one of the best field trips I have been on in a long time.”
Sofia, Continental 4th Grade
“Thank you for letting my class go to Madera Canyon. My favorite part was when you were saying the names of trees and flowers. My favorite tree was the Sycamore. I learned that the Alligator Juniper has its bark like an Alligator’s body. I hope my family and I can go sometime. I had a lot of fun. Thank you for the compass. I liked it.”
Aliah, Mountain View 4th Grade