Interpretive education programs help visitors gain a better understanding of the extraordinary diversity of Arizona. Arizona State Parks assists educators by providing settings; programs and curriculums to help meet Arizona State Standards, while helping students make an academic connection to their environment and the world around them. Special programming includes curricula, teacher guides, and related resources for educators. School programs are available by reservations only. For more information contact the individual park or call the Education Outreach Coordinator at (602) 542-7119.
You may also be interested in the downloadable activities in our Junior Ranger Program.
Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve and environmental education center. The park, which operates both as a nature reserve and an environmental center, offers beautiful scenery. Trails throughout the park wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the rich banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock. The park offers a variety of special programs for school groups and private groups. Park facilities include a visitors center, classroom, theater, gift shop, picnic tables, 10 developed trails, restrooms, and group area with Ramada and facilities.
Connection Program: For Grades K through 12
The Connection Program is Red Rock State Park’s Environmental Education school program. Program activities are based on such resources as Project WILD, Aquatic WILD, Project Learning Tree, Arizona WET, GEMS and many others. The Connection Program has been developed for students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade in order to provide field activities in a natural environment, as well as a resource for educators in supplementing their classroom curriculum. A leader’s guide has been prepared to assist educators in planning an educational visit to the park. To receive the guide and for additional program information, please contact the park.
A 4,000 acre wildlife refuge in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains. The purpose of Oracle State Park is to protect the designated wildlife refuge and act as an environmental learning center. Educational trail programs emphasize participatory outdoor learning experiences for all ages. Students learn about habitat and interrelationships between plants, animals and people. Guided walks, workshops, presentations and special events are planned throughout the year to expand awareness and deepen appreciation of natural and cultural resources. An important focus of educational programming at the park is to understand people as part of nature and to clarify options for environmentally appropriate lifestyles.
The Oracle Adventure: For Grades 3 through 6
The Oracle Adventure offers an environmental awareness program specifically designed for sensory learning. This participatory and interactive field trip focuses on developing an awareness of nature through the senses. Appreciation of the natural world and our relationship to it is emphasized during a series of hands-on activities along a trail in the 4,000-acre park. Park rangers will guide the students during the 90-minute program, as they explore the oak-grassland and learn to use all of their senses in this exploration.
The Oracle Odyssey: For Grades 4 through 6
The Odyssey sparks curiosity, challenges students to think about the environment in new ways, and encourages students to consider simple positive actions that contribute to a healthy environment. The Oracle Odyssey focuses on habitat and interrelationships and includes the study of humans as an integral part of the natural community. The 2.5 hour program of hands-on activities brings ecological concepts learned in the classroom to real world context.
Kartchner Caverns is a stunning limestone cave in Southeastern Arizona and boasts many world-class features that have been protected since the cave was discovered in 1974. The cavern has been surveyed at 2.4 miles long. Kartchner is a wet, “live” cave. Water percolates from the surface and calcite features continue to grow in the darkness. The park offers two cave tours where you'll see dynamic structures such as stalactites dripping down like icicles and giant stalagmites reaching up from the ground, sometimes meeting to form a massive column. The caverns are host to a wide variety of unique minerals and formations. See School & Group info about the cave.
Natural History Curriculum: For Grades K through 6
The goal of this curriculum guide is to assist you in conveying the unique story of Kartchner Caverns to your students. Through the lessons to be learned in these activities, the students will develop an appreciation of the geological and biological forces that created such a magnificent cave. We hope, also, to promote an understanding of the interrelationship between humans and Kartchner Caverns. We encourage the students to think about the choices that were available in the development of the cave and the consequences of each. Finally, and most importantly, we hope that through the use of these activities the learners will gain a sense of ownership and stewardship toward this non-renewable natural resource. Each activity includes the approximate age for which it was designed, a listing of the lesson's objectives, reproducible pages, materials' list, glossary of terms, cross-referencing, and other useful information that will assist teachers in dynamically presenting the curriculum. The curriculum meets state standards for science education.
You may download a complimentary copy of the Kartchner Caverns State Park curriculum for your school or organization. For CD-ROMs, please contact the Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park
Download Kartchner Caverns State Park Curriculum ( 6.5 MB PDF)
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and many faces of Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. Featured are plants from the world's deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, sheer mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panoramic vistas, many natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, specialty gardens and more. In 2004 our guided tours were redesigned to meet a range of Arizona statewide academic standards.
Plants 101: For Grades Kindergarten through 2
Plants 101 is an 1½ hour tour that offers a sensory learning experience encouraging students to explore the world around them, and in particular the world of plants. Students will learn how plants and animals, plants and people and plants and non-living things all work together to sustain life.
Arizona: For Grades 3 through 8
Arizona is a 2 hour tour that offers a hands-on learning experience encouraging students to explore the habitats, geography, geology and people of Arizona. Students will learn about Arizona’s ecology, common plants and animals, symbols and geology that have shaped the state.
Trees: For Grades 3 through 8
Trees is a 2 hour tour that offers a hands-on learning experience encouraging students to explore trees beyond the surface. Students will learn about the processes trees use to sustain life, to identify trees common to central and southern Arizona, the interdependence between trees and people, and receive an introduction to "Treeometry."
Deserts of the World: For Grades 7 through 12
Deserts of the World is a 2 hour tour that offers a visual learning experience encouraging students to explore worldwide desert regions. Students will learn about the various deserts of the world exhibited at the Arboretum, the weather patterns and landforms that create these deserts and how plants, animals, and people have adapted to life in the desert.
Homeschool Days: For Grades Kindergarten through 12
Homeschool Days is a 2 hour tour from our tour selection provided on a designated day for homeschooled students to sign up for and participate in. Tours included are the Arizona, Trees, and Plants of the Bible Tours.
Established in 1994, the Natural Area's mission is to preserve this fragile riparian area and its surrounding environment. Encompassing a major portion of the Sonoita Creek and Coal Mine Spring watersheds, this is the State of Arizona's first significant Natural Area.
Healthy Water Education Program: For Grades 3 through 6
The Healthy Water Education Program is a field trip environmental education program designed for 3rd – 6th grades. Students test water to determine water quality which includes a pontoon boat ride on Patagonia Lake, look at aquatic insects under microscopes and learn about the importance of protecting water dependent habitats in Arizona. The program takes place at the Visitor Center which is located in Patagonia Lake State Park. Up to 60 students can be accommodated during the field trip. The field trip takes approximately three to four hours to complete depending on group size. In-classroom pre-lessons are provided to teachers to prepare students for the field trip. Post-lessons for the classroom are also provided to help tie all components of the program together. Field trips usually take place in September, October, April and May to take advantage of the best weather. Call the Natural Area's Visitor Center at (520) 287-2791 for more information and to register. Registration must take place at least six weeks prior to your visit.
Download Healthy Water Education Program Curriculum ( 1.6 MB PDF)
Download Healthy Water Journal ( 460 KB PDF) Please print out a journal for each student. Can be printed 2-sided.
Teachers can bring a class of students to experience:
A Day in the 1885 Schoolhouse Program: For Grades 3 through 5
An opportunity for children to experience what a day of school would have been like over 100 years ago. The program immerses kids in the experience from the clothes they wear, the chalkboards they use, the homemade lunchpails, to the rules on the chalkboard they must follow. The authentic desks, complete with inkwells and the woodburning stove for heat make this an experience the children and teachers won't soon forget! The schoolhouse can accommodate 25 children at a time. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the park at (520) 398-2252.
Download A Day in the 1885 Schoolhouse Program ( 3.5 MB PDF)
Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, 40 miles east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. Contact (602) 364-0632 to schedule.
Desert Detectives: For Grades 4 through 6
Desert Detectives is an imaginative program which has been designed to help your students meet the goals of Arizona Academic Standards for science in the 4th through 6th grade. It is an opportunity for students to interactively experience science concepts in Lost Dutchman State Park. Interpretative guides lead students on a mystery trail with clues to help them discover interrelationships between matter and energy. The plants and animals, which inhabit this environment, provide concrete examples of these connections. There is a fee of $1 per student.
Built in 1904 for two Riordan families, Riordan Mansion is an impressive reminder of gracious living in a small, territorial logging town. The historic building is an Arizona treasure — a remarkable example of Arts and Crafts style architecture featuring a rustic exterior of log-slab siding, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles. The expansive home has forty rooms, over 13,000 square-feet of living area, and servant's quarters. The Riordan residence was designed by the creator of Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel, Charles Whittlesey.
A Family and a Forest: For Grades 3 through 6
A Family and a Forest is a curriculum for 3 – 6 grade correlated with the Arizona State Education Standards for science, social studies and mathematics. The program includes activities to use in the classroom prior to your visit along with follow-up activities. The goal of the curriculum is to present information on the logging industry in Flagstaff, Arizona and how this industry provided wealth to the community and support for the families that relied upon that industry for their livelihood. It also presents information on the concerns of land use and conservation of the natural resources that provided that livelihood. Through the Riordan family history we learn about life one hundred years ago and relate that to our lives today.
The history of the park's building provides visitors with a look into the past. The building represents a transition between Sonoran and Anglo-American architecture with its wood-shingled pitched roof surmounting traditional adobe brick walls. Like most buildings in Territorial Arizona, the original 1878 structure was constructed by hand using native materials.
The Life and Career of Ernest W. McFarland: For Grades 4 through 12
Ernest W. McFarland, “Father of the GI Bill,” was the only American ever to have held the highest office in all three branches of the government. He was the majority leader of the United States Senate under Harry Truman, the governor of Arizona, and finally the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Generally, all of the McFarland lessons can be adapted to use with 4th, 8th or high school students. Each teacher can best match lesson skill level with student abilities.
Scheduling: To schedule a program, please call Interpretive Park Ranger Tammy Snook at (928) 317-0332. All programs cost $1/student and $2/adult.
History of the Army’s Yuma Depot (Grades K and up): The Yuma Quartermaster Depot served as an army supply depot between 1865 and 1883. Touring five original buildings of the depot, students learn the purpose of the site and its role in storing supplies for all the forts in Arizona Territory during the Indian Wars. Depot buildings on the tour include the old Storehouse, the Quartermaster’s Office, the Water Reservoir, the Quartermaster’s House, and the Corral House.
Skull Detectives (Grades K-8): Many different species of animals populate the desert around Yuma and live along the banks of the Colorado River. The skull bones of these mammals tell us a lot about the animals themselves—including what type of food they eat, how big of an animal they are, their sense of smell, and whether or not they have good eyesight. Using the skulls of native animals of this area, students will become skull detectives and learn how to “read” information from the skulls.
Emigrants of the Gold Rush (Grades 2-5): After gold was discovered in California in 1848, thousands of emigrants followed the Southern Trail to Yuma on their way to the goldfields. During this program, students will trace the route of the emigrants across the United States, discover the supplies brought for the long and arduous journey, and even pan for gold as the emigrants did!
An Army Soldier’s Life (Grades 4-5): The heydey of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot was during the Indian Wars period of the 1870s. When not on campaign, Army soldiers led a largely monotonous existence at their posts. By looking at the strict, daily routine of western soldiers in the 1870s, students will learn how the average army soldier spent much of their time during the Indian Wars period. Students will have the opportunity to explore the soldiers’ diet, drill in formation, learn bugle calls, and conduct fatigue duties.
Interpretive Education Programs for the Yuma East Wetlands (YEW). Scheduling: To schedule a program, please call Interpretive Park Ranger Tammy Snook at (928) 317-0332. All programs cost $1/student and $2/adult.
Eco-explorations (Grades K-2): The YEW is home to a diverse array of native plants and animals. Hiking through the YEW, students will become eco-explorers, using their various senses to examine the plants and animals of the YEW. Students will be encouraged to explore the natural world by listening for bird calls, searching for animal prints in the mud, smelling a pungent marsh fleabane plant, and touching fluffy cottonwood and willow seeds.
K: Science S1C1PO1-2; S1C4PO1; S4C3PO1
1st: Science S1C1PO1-2; S4C3PO1
2nd: Science S1C1PO1; S1C2PO2-4
Wetlands Adaptations (Grades 3-4): Wetlands are defined as an area that contains water-soaked soil, water tolerant plants, and water at or near the ground’s surface. All that water can create challenging environmental conditions, including periodic flooding, saline soils and water, and a high degree of species competition. Wetland plants and animals must be able to survive in these tough conditions. On a guided hike through the YEW, students will explore plant and animal adaptations that allow species to thrive in these conditions.
3rd: Science S4C3PO3,5; S4C4PO1
4th: Science S4C1PO1; S4C3PO1; S4C4PO2
Water Quality Investigations (Grades 5-6): The health of a body of water can be assessed through water quality testing. During this program, students will investigate a number of water quality parameters, including temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen levels of Colorado River water. The testing results will then be analyzed to determine factors that may be influencing these results, and the overall significance of the results.
5th: Science S1C1PO1-2; S1C2PO1-5; S1C3PO1-3; S1C4PO1
6th: Science S1C1PO2; S1C2PO1-5; S1C3PO1-2; S1C4PO5; S4C3PO2; S6C1PO5
Wetlands Restoration (Grades 7-8): Over time, the natural wetlands that historically bordered the Colorado River have disappeared. Removal of the native cottonwood and willow forests, the construction of dams, and the introduction of invasive species all contributed to the disappearance of the wetlands. Through the YEW restoration project, however, the historic wetlands environment has been recreated. During this program, students will learn the story of the Colorado’s historic wetlands and the restoration of the YEW. They will then analyze the benefits of the restoration project through investigations of native plant and/or bird diversity in the YEW.
7th: Science S1C2PO5; S1C3PO1-2,4-5; S1C4PO3,5; S3C1PO1-2
8th: Science S1C2PO5; S1C3PO1-2,5-6; S1C4PO1,5