School Programs

Ecology Field Program

The main program of the SMNHC, the Ecology Field Program (EFP), teaches every 5th grade class in Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and Rio Rancho Public Schools  (RRPS), as well as other schools in and around Albuquerque. 

Using the outdoors, this program teaches students about the inter-connectedness of the biotic and abiotic parts of an ecosystem with a hands-on scientific approach.

The program typically lasts 4-4.5 hours and consists of:
• 1/2-hour Ecosystem Introduction/Review
• 2-3 hour Hike with Lessons & Activities On-Trail 
• 1/2 hour Lunch Break
• Time permitting, an additional Hands-On Activity

Students are introduced to the local ecosystem, and the producers, consumers, and decomposers that reside here, through a day of field exploration, careful observation, and hands-on learning in the outdoors.  Students learn how real scientists study the natural world and have the chance to try out the methods and tools they use for themselves.  

A day here encompasses a wide range of topics, potentially including but certainly not limited to: habitats, tree and plant identification, consumer evidence (skulls/tracks/scat, etc.), the food web, fire ecology, water and nutrient cycling, decomposition, scientific quadrats, wildlife motion-sensor cameras, weather instrumentation, increment borers, fuel moisture sampling, insects, natural springs, bird watching, parasites,  fossil hunt, and all kinds of ecological scavenger hunts.

Our instructors draw from their own knowledge, a particular day's trail route, and, most importantly, the interests, questions, and abilities of that day's class to craft a unique and most engaging program for everyone who visits.

The program is free of charge for APS schools, including transportation.  Those schools not part of APS also receive the program for free but will have to cover their own transportation costs to our site.

This program is offered throughout the school year, with the exception of mid-December thru late February.

All lessons and activities are aligned with the New Mexico State Science Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for 5th graders. 

To schedule an ecology field program...

APS teachers contact:

Susanna Sprague Harris

Non-APS teachers contact:

Vanessa Barela

or call (505) 281-5259

Student quotes..

Traveling Ecology Field Program

For schools outside the Albuquerque area, we offer the Traveling Ecology Field Program (TEFP) statewide.  In this exciting program, the State-employed staff of the SMNHC meet your students at a natural area near your school and lead students on a program covering all the same themes as the regular Ecology Field program, but focused on their local ecosystem. 

Outdoor teaching areas require hiking trails with sufficient length and route options (the more classes at once, the more we need different areas to split them off to), restroom facilities, school bus access, and a parking area. Areas that have been used for the TEFP include State Parks, National Park Service sites, National Forest areas, BLM land, city parks and even natural areas within walking distance of the school.

Contact us to find out where we can teach near you!

To schedule a Traveling EFP:

Vanessa Barela

(505) 281-5259

Kids 'n Parks Grant

Submissions are closed for this year, but check back next year for a chance to receive transportation costs to go on a field trip to any New Mexico state park! (with or without us guiding)

Student Outreach Quotes

Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area

For schools in the Los Lunas/Belen area, we teach our Ecology Field Program at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in Belen (  It covers all the main concepts as the EFP and utilizes a number of hands-on activities designed specifically for Whitfield.  Students are led on a flat hike through the bosque ecosystem, learning about and closely observing cottonwood trees, a pond and water channel, sandhill cranes and many other bird species, native and non-native plant species, ample consumer evidence, and ecosystem restoration projects. 

The program typically lasts 3.5 hours, including a 1/2 hr. lunch.

This program runs January-February each year.

To schedule a trip to WWCA, contact them at:
(505) 864-8914

New Mexico counties served in 2015-'16 school year:

Animal Investigations Program

We bring this interactive program to your 2nd grade classroom.  Our instructors present a 1-hour lesson about local animals and their physical characteristics. Students visit 5 hands-on stations with animal "evidence" (skulls, tracks, fur/feathers) while recording their observations in a journal and investigating what animal they come from. 

Program includes scientific inquiry and close observation, working in groups, understanding and comparing animal characteristics, animal diets, and local biodiversity. 

To schedule, contact:

Fiana Shapiro

(505) 281-5259

"The students enjoyed the presentation and cannot stop talking about the animal artifacts. Your staff was wonderful and deserve a big pat on the back."

"Thank you all for coming to our school. Presentation was fantastic . This is our 2nd year, and we're equally impressed!"

"I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful presentation that my second graders really enjoyed. They were very engaged in the presentation start to finish. The presenters did an amazing job! They were organized and gave very clear instructions and information."