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Free School Programs from Pima County
Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation 
Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation’s K-12 field study trips and classroom programs are linked to Arizona Academic Standards.
Visit our website for lesson plans and teacher resources.
Reservations are required for all school programs.
Interested in scheduling a Field Study program for your class? Complete our School Program Request form with the name of the program(s), preferred location, and a list of dates that would work for you. Include the grade level(s) and number of students, along with the teachers' names and contact information, school name, address, and phone number.
Click to complete our School Program Request Form
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Ecosystem Discovery
Grades: K – 8, Curriculum varies by grade
Group Size: up to 75 students
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park, Historic Canoa Ranch, Tucson Mountain Park – Desert Discovery Center, and Pima Prickly Park

Explore the diversity of life in our desert ecosystem through guided, hands-on exploration. Students use binoculars and hand lenses to make observations then work as a class to understand the interrelationships between plants, animals, and the environment. Students reflect on their observations of ecosystem connections through a “sitting-in-nature” journaling activity.
Nature Journaling
Grades: 3-12, Curriculum varies by grade
Group Size: up to 30 students
Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours (depending on the age of group)
Locations: Any appropriate Pima County Park, Schoolyard

Good science depends upon keen observations. Nature journaling provides opportunities for authentic, inquiry-driven learning that incorporates multiple disciplines using verbal, nonverbal, analytic, logical, spatial, and synthetic skills. Using nature as a source of inspiration, participants will hone their powers of observation and reflection, then record their observations and thoughts in words, pictures, and numbers.
Aquatic Ecosystems
Grades: K – 12, Curriculum varies by grade
Group Size: up to 30 students
Months Offered: October – November, and March – May
Duration: 2.5 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park and Historic Canoa Ranch

The ponds at Agua Caliente Park and Historic Canoa Ranch are teeming with life. Use nets, skimmers, and buckets to collect water samples then watch the water come to life under viewers. Students sketch aquatic invertebrates to refine their observations and recording skills. Data collected is used to update species checklists and establish a phenology database.

Bat Research Simulation

Grades: K – 3, 4 – 6, and 7 – 12, Curriculum varies by grade

Group Size: up to 60 students

Duration: 2 hours

Locations: Agua Caliente Park, Brandi Fenton Memorial Park

Students learn about the fascinating lives of bats while they practice scientific field-research methods during this outdoor bat-netting simulation. Students collect model bats, take measurements, identify species, and record data, which are compared to actual bat data from research in Southern Arizona.

Pollinator Survey

Grades: K – 3, 4 – 6, and 7 – 12, Curriculum varies by grade

Group Size: up to 60 students

Months offered: August – October and March – early May

Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours

Locations: Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, Agua Caliente Park, Feliz Paseos Park, and Pima Prickly Park

Learn about plants, pollinators, and pollination. Students use digital cameras to record pollinator populations. The class collects barrel cactus data and counts the seeds within a ripe fruit. This seed count, used as an indicator of pollinator population health, is submitted to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for use by scientists to help identify and understand local pollinator hotspots. Data collected are compiled with existing data sets and made available to the class for further analysis in the classroom. Photographs taken are made available for classroom exploration and identification.

Life on the Ranch

Grades: K – 3 and 4 – 6, Curriculum varies by grade

Group Size: up to 60 students

Months Offered: February and March

Duration: 2-2.5 hours

Location: Historic Canoa Ranch

Discover the rich and varied history of the Santa Cruz River Valley – from early hunter-gatherer cultures to Hohokam farming communities, from Spanish and Mexican settlers to a modern ranch run by the Manning family from 1912 until the mid-1950s. Through hands-on activities, students learn why people have settled here throughout time, what their lives may have been like, and how people utilized the available natural resources in creative ways to sustain their way of life.


Serving Learning programs include a focused lesson coupled with in-the-field

service experience. Limited number of programs available each year.

Invasive Species in the Sonoran Desert: Students learn the elements of healthy and resilient ecosystems, discuss stresses that can affect ecosystem balance, and discover the threats invasive species pose to the Sonoran Desert.

Students then participate, as a class, in one of the following service learning projects:

Invasive Plant Removal Field Experience: Students remove buffelgrass, fountain grass, Russian thistle, or other invasive plants from a natural area.

Grades: 7-12

Group Size: up to 30 students

Duration: 1-hour pre-field trip class PLUS 2-hour field experience

Location: Pre-field lesson in class or online via Zoom, fieldwork location TBD

Native Plant Propagation Class Project: Students prepare native plant restoration seed balls for distribution by staff in areas where invasive plants have been removed.

Grades: 3-12

Group Size: up to 30 students

Duration: Involves both field trip and class time

Location: TBD


Our group is piloting programs expressly designed to bring environmental education to your schoolyard.


Creating Urban Habitat: Students learn how the development of human communities impacts wild landscapes, through habitat loss, fragmentation by roads, and overall degradation resulting in the limitation of resources available for native wildlife. Students examine how these habitat alterations create challenges for wildlife survival and explore how the creation of habitat pockets within urban areas – like parks, balconies, backyards, and schoolyards – can offer much-needed resources for wildlife traveling between wild areas.

Students survey their schoolyard for habitat resources then design and evaluate options to create their own urban habitat pocket.

Grades: K-12, program customized

Group Size: up to 30 students; multiple groups may participate

Duration: 1.5 hours+; minimum 2 classroom/schoolyard visits

Location: School

Pollinators and Food: Students learn about plants, pollinators, and the process of pollination. They discover how vital pollinators are to healthy habitats, explore their connection to the food we eat, and discuss the threats pollinators face and what we can do to assure healthy pollinator populations into the future.

Grades: K-12, Curriculum varies by grade

Group Size: up to 30 students/program; scheduling multiple programs per visit preferred

Duration: TBD

Location: School

Living River of Words Youth Arts and Science (LROW): Residency
Grade: K – 12, Curriculum varies by grade
Group Size: 25 – 60 students
Months Offered: October – Mid-January
Duration: 2.5 to 3-hour field trip PLUS 3 to 4 virtual or outdoor class sessions (depending on art medium)
Field Locations: Santa Cruz River, Historic Canoa Ranch, Agua Caliente Park, Mission Garden

This multidisciplinary program combines nature, art, and science to help students explore how water moves through the landscape and the connections that plants, animals, and people have to water. After learning about these topics in the classroom and the field, students work with one of our teaching artists to share their impressions and create entries of poetry, visual art or photography to Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. An LROW Arts and Science Residency includes:
  • A pre-field trip classroom session with NRPR environmental educators
  • A field trip to connect with a local water body and study water quality; aquatic life; riparian ecosystems; and poetry, art, or photography
  • Two or three sessions with a teaching artist (virtually or outdoors at your school) for students to complete their contest entries.

The duration and specific lesson plans for LROW Residencies are determined at the time of scheduling and tailored to accommodate group size, grade level, field location, and time available.


The availability of the LROW residencies is limited, but we will do our best to include a variety of schools, districts, age levels, etc. To be considered for a residency, please complete our interest form to help us understand your needs.

We will consider all requests together and then work with selected teachers to schedule residencies that serve a diversity of schools and students. If you are not selected for a full residency (school and field program) this year, we will still offer resources for independently engaging your students in LROW activities and entering the poetry and art contest.

Interest Form Submission Deadline: Monday, September 1, 2023

Anticipated Selection Date: Mid-September

Submit LROW Residency Interest Form

Living River of Words Youth Arts and Science (LROW): Independent Learning

In addition to LROW residencies with schools, individuals and groups are encouraged to engage independently in this interdisciplinary program connecting youth (ages 5-19) to the wonders of water through nature, art, and science.

By using resources on our website or joining a community workshop, youth and their families are encouraged to learn about water in their community, explore and observe the natural world, and reflect on their experiences through art and poetry. Youth are then invited to share their creativity with the community by entering the annual Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. Submissions are due February 1, 2024.

If you have questions about our Field Study and Classroom Programs
or are ready to schedule, email us at:
[email protected]
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Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation