Youth Education

4th Grade School Nature Walks

The Friends of Madera Canyon helps local schools 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. Nature walks provide an opportunity for children, who may have limited or no opportunity to spend time in the woods, to experience nature first-hand.

→ Proctor Nature Loop Trail Teacher/Naturalist Interpretive Guide (PDF)

Field Naturalists in Training

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 the following 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

Traveling Nature Education Project (TNEP)

TNEP is a program for local elementary school students who are unable to visit the canyon for the 4th grade nature walks. The project’s aim is to give these students an opportunity to discover and learn about Madera Canyon and Sky Island natural history in their own classroom, encouraging “conservation through education” by bringing nature to the students.

In rapidly changing times, Distance or Virtual Learning may become a necessary avenue for the project to follow. In the future, videoed TNEP classroom presentations and other nature video content could be produced by the FoMC Education Program to provide a virtual learning resource for teachers and students to access anytime.

Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program

The Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program is an interactive nature activity for children visiting the canyon. Junior Ranger booklets are available from canyon U. S. Forest Service (USFS) Rangers, the Visitor Information Station in the Proctor Parking Area, or download one to print, here → Junior Ranger Booklet.

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 booklet. By completing the exercises, participants earn a Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Certificate. The Madera Canyon Plants & Animals brochure offers hints and help for completing the exercises – the colorful two-page publication highlights mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, wildflowers and trees that live, and might be seen, in the canyon. Bud Gode Interpretive Nature Trail exhibits located in canyon recreation areas also support the booklet exercises.

Time in nature improves children’s health, stimulates creativity, sharpens skills, and helps them care about the environment. With exercises designed to engage a variety of senses and skills, the Madera Canyon Junior Ranger Program helps parents turn simple recreation into valuable outdoor learning experience for their kids. Opportunity to learn by direct observation and connect with nature, this program supports the Friends Education Program mission “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

RaeAnn Jarvis – The First Friends’ Scholar

Scholarship Program

At the end of the senior year of high school, up to $5,000 is awarded to a qualifying senior or seniors who elect to pursue further study in a subject of natural sciences 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, Water Conservation, Fisheries and Land Preservation, etc. History, Art, Journalism, and Biological Engineering will be considered if it is related to the canyon or mission of the Friends. Allowing this diverse selection is meant to encourage high achievers with a desire to pursue a career in ecology of the Southwest basin and range country and it’s “sky islands.”

The counselor of each participating high school will have a packet of instructions and the Scholarship application. The student must complete and fulfill all requirements of the application before the deadline of March 10th of the present year. His or her application is considered by a committee and is notified of our decision, either way, as soon as possible. This award is a one-time only prize.

The selected recipient(s) will be invited to the Friends of Madera Volunteer Breakfast, usually held in late March, to be introduced to our general membership and to meet the Board of Directors. His or her parents are encouraged to attend the breakfast with the recipient. You are our guest, no speech is required.

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. Your contribution is a tax deduction under AZ 501(c)(3).

Thank you!

Richard Buelna, his mother, and the members of the FoMC Scholarship Committee

The 2024 Bud and Mary Gode Scholarship awarded to Ricardo Buelna

The Friends of Madera Canyon Scholarship Committee is comprised of David Linn and Barb Fleshman as co-chairs, assisted by committee members Patty Greimann and Doug Moore. Every year, Friends of Madera Canyon offers the Bud and Mary Gode scholarship to a graduating high school senior who attends a public high school along the I-19 corridor area, south of Tucson. Each year, we have a variety of applications which makes the selection difficult at times. This year, our choice was clear from the outset.

The Committee is very pleased to announce Ricardo Buelna, a graduating senior from Nogales High School, has been selected to receive the 2024 Bud and Mary Gode Scholarship award in the amount of $5,000.

Ricardo has demonstrated academic excellence throughout his 4-years of high school, as well as a commitment to the improvement of our environment through his employment with Enviro Manufacturing in Nogales, Arizona.

Upon graduation, Mr. Buelna has a vision of betterment of the environment through improved and sustainable construction designs and methods. He aims to achieve his goal by earning a degree in green construction at Arizona State University where he has been accepted for Fall 2024.

We offer our congratulations and best wishes to Ricardo!