Traveling Nature Education Program
The Traveling Nature Education Project (TNEP) is an alternative program for local elementary school students that 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 today’s 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. The TNEP format would lend itself well to this type of approach.
The TNEP Presentation
- Education Director or FoMC docent brings audio-visual and natural history artifacts in a “traveling trunk.”
- Following an introduction students watch A Canyon Among Friends, a short FoMC Video (DVD) about Madera Canyon.
- Sky Island biology is introduced with display graphics, photography and natural history material (preserved insects, bird nests, antlers, pine cones, owl pellets, mano stones and more).
- Presenter leads exploration of the materials and answer questions, ending with an invitation for the kids to come up to Madera Canyon with their family and friends.
- An enrichment activity includes a creative art project or writing exercise for students. Presenter also leaves several follow-up handout exercises from the Madera Canyon Web of Life Teacher’s Manual.
Additional Benefits of TNEP in the Classroom
- Encourages students to visit and learn more about the canyon first hand with family and friends.
- Documented evidence shows that spending time in nature can improve children's health, stimulate their creativity, sharpen their thinking skills, and help them care about the environment.
- Encourage children to form a personal connection with Madera Canyon and its wild flora and fauna. Personal connections promote caring so that students want to help protect and conserve the canyon and, by extension, other wild places and their inhabitants.
Continuing and Advancing TNEP in the Region
Initiated to re-involve the Sahuarita, AZ elementary schools in the Friends of Madera Canyon Education Program, and to involve as many of the local elementary schools as possible. An original participant in the 4th grade nature walks, the Sahuarita Intermediate School student population has grown too large for the program.
Then Anza Trail Elementary School also opened in Sahuarita. Both schools have been participating in the TNEP program for several years as a successful alternative to canyon visits. With this initial success, there is potential to expand to other Sahuarita schools, Copper View and Wrightson Ridge.
Additional schools and local children’s organizations could be introduced to TNEP, along with program adaptation for other grade levels such as K-5. As the program advances, engaging nature video content can be produced to facilitate virtual leaning opportunities.