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Kids Education Programs

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. Our Education Director coordinates the program, inviting 4th grade teachers to schedule walks in the spring and fall. Volunteer docents, well-versed in Madera Canyon/Sky Island natural history — ecology, zoology, botany, geology, and archeology — lead students on the Proctor Accessible Nature Loop Trail in small groups. Many students have limited or no opportunity to spend time 'in the woods.' This program provides an important opportunity for children to actually experience nature first-hand. 

Field Naturalists in Training

Nature walks help students 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 canyon history.
  • At the Matate Station, students learn about 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.
  • Participating teachers receive the award-winning teaching manual, Madera Canyon: Web of Life, with chapters on canyon natural history and student activities.
  • Pre-walk activities prepare students for their nature walk, with trained docents to encourage and facilitate field exploration.
  • Post-walk activities reinforce information and concepts learned on the nature walk.

Six area elementary schools annually participate in the spring and fall: Continental School, Great Expectations Academy, Sopori School, San Cayetano Elementary, Peña Blanca Elementary and Mountain View Elementary. The Education Director arranges special nature walks for individual classes, groups, and organizations.

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

Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program

The Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program is an interactive nature activity for children visiting the canyon. Junior Ranger pamphlets are available upon request from canyon U. S. Forest Service (USFS) Rangers and at the Visitor Information Station in the Proctor Parking Area.

Developed as a self-guided program supervised by a parent, potential Junior Rangers explore the nature of Madera Canyon through age-appropriate exercises in the Junior Ranger pamphlet. By completing the exercises, participants earn a Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Certificate and Badge. Hints and help for completing the exercises are available in the accompanying Madera Canyon Plants and Animals children’s brochure and the Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail exhibits in the canyon recreation areas.

Spending time in nature can improve children’s health, stimulate creativity, sharpen skills, and help them care about the environment. With exercises designed to engage a variety of senses and skills, the Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program can help parents turn simple recreation into a valuable outdoor learning experience for their kids. Children benefit from the opportunity to learn about the canyon by direct observation and connect with nature. The Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program is another important way the Friends Education Program promotes “conservation through education.” The interactive exercises in the Junior Ranger pamphlet include:

  • Madera Canyon Plants & Animals checklist
  • Animal Tracks Matching
  • Making a Nature Sound Map
  • English/Spanish Nature Vocabulary
  • Drawing your favorite thing in Madera Canyon
  • Writing a poem about Madera Canyon or how you feel when you are in the canyon
  • Madera Canyon History Quiz

Madera Canyon Plants & Animals Children’s Brochure

The Madera Canyon Plants & Animals checklist is a colorful two-page publication highlighting mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, wildflowers and trees that live in the canyon and children might see during a visit. The brochure is distributed with the Madera Canyon Junior Ranger pamphlet by canyon USFS Rangers or from the Visitor Information Station at Proctor Parking Area.

RaeAnn Jarvis - The First Friends' Scholar

Scholarship Program

A scholarship program for graduating seniors in the high schools of the Santa Cruz River Valley was first offered in spring 2007 to attract young people into careers related to ecology and natural history of Madera Canyon and Southeastern Arizona.

At the end of the senior year of high school, a $1,000 prize is offered to a qualified student who elects to pursue further study in a subject(s) of natural science as broadly defined by a relationship to nature as it is exemplified in Madera Canyon. A choice of career in any closely related discipline will qualify the student, e.g. Archeology, Anthropology, Geology, Ornithology, Botany, Ecology, etc. History, Art and Journalism will be considered if it is related to the canyon or mission of the Friends. Allowing this diverse selection is meant to attract the best students with a sincere desire to continue a career in natural ecology of the Southwest basin and range country and its "sky islands."

When the prize is awarded, the student automatically is qualified to renew the $1,000 stipend each year for up to four years of higher education. Renewal is dependent upon performance, sincerity of career goals, and continuation in a relevant field of study. The Friend’s Scholarship Committee reviews applications and interviews qualified students whose applications are submitted by March 1 each year. 

During their scholarship years, students will be invited to participate in the meetings of the Friends and their activities in the Canyon. This could range from summer internships to committee memberships.

We encourage contributions to the Scholarship Endowment Fund. Please make your check to: Friends of Madera Canyon and write "Scholarship Fund" on the memo line. Send your check to: Friends of Madera Canyon, P.O. Box 1203, Green Valley, AZ 85622-1203 . Thank you!