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Fall’s Moderating Temperatures Will Bring Youth Education Programs Back Into Saguaro National Park

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Programs made possible by Friends of Saguaro National Park bring youngsters in contact with the wonders of Saguaro National Park and build tomorrow's park advocates/Friends of Saguaro

For many families, fall is back-to-school time — and with moderating temperatures in Tucson, Arizona, and an end to summer rains, students in southern Arizona can again experience the outdoor classroom that is Saguaro National Park.

With funding support from the nonprofit Friends of Saguaro National Park, the park’s youth engagement and environmental education programs are designed to actively connect young people to nature; promote hands-on experiential learning, recreation and conservation activities; and enable all children — including currently underserved youth — to achieve a greater understanding of environmental stewardship and the park’s conservation mission.

In the last academic year, financial support from Friends of Saguaro allowed the national park to extend its multifaceted environmental education programs to more than 15,000 youth throughout the community. Taking advantage of the park’s proximity to the urban area, these environmental education programs focused on the incredible biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert/Sky Island eco-region, and helped expand student awareness of how their own individual actions can lead to a more sustainable society, and how they can achieve a greater level of conservation engagement with the park.

National parks are scientific cauldrons, rich with wonders that captivate and can mold tomorrow's scientists/Friends of Saguaro

New in 2016 and 2017, Friends of Saguaro has partnered with the Women in Science & Engineering Program at the University of Arizona and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to develop the Bio/Diversity Project, in which 16 university students work with 10 teachers in five local schools to teach more than 500 K-12 students about environmental science. One of the goals of the program — funded by a two-year grant from the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice — is to cultivate an interest in science in underrepresented student populations, as female Latino/a and Native American populations are significantly underrepresented among those receiving university degrees and entering the workforce in environmental science and related fields.

By combining this Bio/Diversity Project with the Friends of Saguaro Next Generation Ranger Corps, this program is leveraging the power of university-community partnerships in order to increase participant knowledge of the importance of biodiversity, foster a sense of environmental responsibility to create ecosystems that enable a diverse range of living things to live and thrive, and strengthen opportunities for environmental science-related educational and work opportunities for youth from populations currently underrepresented in environmental science fields and careers.

Traveler footnote: If you agree that these are vital programs for both youth and national parks, please contribute to Friends of Saguaro National Park.

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