Field Study Trips and Classroom Programs

Elementary, Middle, and High School

Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation offers K-12 field study school programs in Pima County parks and preserves. Selected programs are available at your schoolyard or classroom.

The following field study trips and classroom programs are linked to Arizona Academic Standards. There is a minimum group size of 15 students for all programs with the exception of the Self-Guided Nature Study. Reservations are required for all school programs. Lesson plans and teacher resources are available.

For information or reservations please call 520-724-5375 or email Environmental Education

Our Locations

Agua Caliente Park
12325 E. Roger Road, Tucson
Located on the east side of Tucson, Agua Caliente Park features a pond and an exceptionally rich mix of plants, wildlife, and historical features. Some of the programs offered at this park can accommodate up to seventy-five students. Facilities include a classroom, shaded picnic tables, restrooms and water fountains, and paved and hard packed trails.

Brandi Fenton Memorial Park
3482 E. River Road, Tucson
This central Tucson location offers a convenient location and features a beautiful “Butterfly Garden” and is suitable for large and small school groups. Facilities include a classroom, shaded outdoor spaces, picnic tables, restrooms, water fountains, paved and hard-packed trails.

Feliz Paseos Park
1600 N. Camino de Oeste, Tucson
Located in the saguaro studded foothills of the Tucson Mountains. Facilities include shade ramadas with seating benches, paved and hard packed trails, restrooms, and water fountains.

Pima Prickly Park
3500 W. River Road, Tucson
This nine-acre desert park in northwest Tucson highlights native cactus and succulent species. Pima Prickly Park features more than a mile of handicap-accessible walking paths and two ramadas with picnic tables.

Tucson Mountain Park - Pima County Desert Discovery Center
7798 W. Gates Pass Road, Tucson
The Desert Discovery Center in Tucson Mountain Park showcases spectacular desert scenery, outstanding geologic features, and wildlife viewing. Programs at this facility can only accommodate small groups of 25 students or less. The center has rocky, narrow nature trails, a small classroom, and limited restroom facilities.

Santa Cruz River – Crossroads as Silverbell District Park
7548 N. Silverbell Road, Marana
We walk from the park to access the flowing portion of the Santa Cruz River lined with lush riparian trees. Facilities include shade ramadas, picnic tables, restrooms, and water fountains.

Sweetwater Wetlands
2511 W. Sweetwater Drive, Tucson
The constructed wetlands is a great place to see birds and other wildlife. The ponds, mature trees, walking trails, and other amenities make this a good location for large and small school groups. Facilities include shade ramadas, restrooms and water fountains. There are no picnic tables at this location.

Predators, Prey, Room to Roam

Grades: 4 – 8
Group Size: 15 – 75 students
Duration: 2.5 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park
Explore predator/prey relationships during a Naturalist-guided Nature Walk at Agua Caliente Park. Students learn how environmental factors and prey density affect predator populations during a Predator/Prey Simulation game. Through interactive activities in a Mammal Lab, become a scientist to learn how mammalian skulls, tracks, and hair samples are used to study elusive predators and prey. Discover the importance of wildlife corridors to connect conservations areas. Brainstorm possible locations for additional safe wildlife corridors.
Lesson Plan for 4-6  

Wetland Wildlife Habitat Field Study

Grades: 4 – 6 and 7 – 12
Group Size: 15 – 25 students
Duration: Pre-trip Orientation 1 class period (optional), Field Study Trip 2.5 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park
Students run a scientific study of a wetland habitat. Data collected include plant and animal diversity and abundance and abiotic factors that may affect such abundance. Data and photographic documentation are made available to classrooms for further analysis. A pre-field trip orientation by our staff at your school is highly recommended.
Lesson Plan for 4-6
Lesson Plan for 7-12

Pollinator Survey

Grades: K – 3, 4 – 6, and 7 – 12
Group Size: 15 – 75 students
Months offered: August – October and March – early May
Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours
Locations: Agua Caliente Park, Feliz Paseos Park, Tucson Mountain Park-Desert Discovery Center, Pima Prickly Park*, and Brandi Fenton Memorial 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.
* A Pollinator Survey and Propagation Project extended program may be scheduled at Pima Prickly Park.
Lesson Plan for K-3
Lesson Plan for 4-6
Lesson Plan for 7-12  

Hadrosaurs to Humans: A Geological Walk Through Time

Grades: 3 and up
Group Size: 15 – 25 students
Months Offered: November – February
Duration: 2.5 hours
Location: Tucson Mountain Park-Desert Discovery Center
Students discover evidence of landscapes past and use this evidence to reconstruct the paleo-geologic timeline of our desert home. Following an introduction to basic geological processes, students take a short hike to uncover the Sonoran Desert’s ‘buried’ past. Students look for, collect and unscramble evidence revealing what our region looked like, what plants and animals have lived here, and how landscape and lifeforms influence one another.
Lesson Plan

Living River of Words Youth Arts and Science (LROW)

Grade: K – 12
Group Size: 25 – 75 students
Months Offered: October – Mid-January
Duration: 2.5 hour field trip and 3-4 class periods
Locations: Agua Caliente Park, Santa Cruz River, Sweetwater Wetlands, and Classroom
Students explore how water moves through the landscape and the connections that plants, animals, and people have to water. After exploring these topics, students have the opportunity to share their impressions with entries of poetry and/or visual art to Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

These multi-disciplinary programs are offered to K–12 schools with an interest in participating in Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest (LROW). The LROW Arts and Science Residency include:

• mandatory pre-trip classroom presentation
• field study trip that includes: water quality, aquatic invertebrates, riparian habitats, and poetry, art, or
photography activities
• post-trip art or poetry classes

The duration and specific lesson plans for the LROW School Residency are determined at the time of scheduling and tailored to accommodate group size, grade level, and time available. For more information and scheduling contact: or 520-615-7855
For more information on Living River of Words

Ecosystem Discovery

Grades: K – 8
Group Size: 15 – 75 students
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park
Explore the diversity of life in riparian and desert ecosystems through guided, hands-on exploration. Students use binoculars and hand lenses to make observations and work as a class to understand the interrelationships between plants, animals, and the environment.
Lesson Plan

Bat Research Simulation

Grades: 1 – 8
Group Size: 15 – 60 students
Duration: 2 hours
Locations: Agua Caliente Park and 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.
Lesson Plan for 1-3
Lesson Plan for 4-8

Experiencing Nature through the Senses

Grades: K – 8
Group Size: 15 – 75 students
Duration: 2 hours
Locations: Agua Caliente Park, Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, and Classroom
With the creative use of animal pelts, skull replicas, tracks, sounds, and botanical preparations, we excite all your senses. Students practice nature journaling as a way to record observations.
Lesson Plan


Invasive Species in the Sonoran Desert

Grades: 7 – 12
Group Size: 25 – 75 students
Months Offered: November – February
Duration: One class period and 2 hours field work
Location: TBA
Through hands-on activities, students learn to identify buffelgrass and other invasive species to understand the threats they pose to the Sonoran Desert. During a service-learning field experience, students remove buffelgrass from a natural area. The location for the removal project is identified at the time of scheduling.
Lesson Plan

Aquatic Ecosystems

Grades: 4 – 6
Group Size: 15 – 25 students
Months offered: October – November, and March – May
Duration: 2.5 hours
Location: Agua Caliente Park
The natural spring and pond at Agua Caliente Park are teeming with life. Use nets, skimmers, and buckets to collect water samples and then watch the water come to life under the microscope. Students refine their observations skills and sketch aquatic invertebrates.
Lesson Plan

Self-Guided Nature Study at Agua Caliente Park

Grades: K – 5
Location: Agua Caliente Park
Group Size: 5 – 30 students
Duration: 1 – 2 hours
Students explore nature and learn about the diversity of wildlife at Agua Caliente Park through self-guided activities and tools included in individual nature packs. Binoculars are available for loan along with the Nature Study Packs. Reservations are required.

History Day

Grade: 4
Group Size: 1 – 3 classes per school
Duration: 4 hours
Event Date: February 13, 2018
Locations: Agua Caliente Park
Arizona history comes to life through interactive demonstrations and hands-on activities. Enjoy a day of activities focused on different periods of Arizona’s past. This event is geared toward 4th grade classes studying Arizona History.
Academic standards 3SS-E2-PO4, PO1
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Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation

3500 W. River Road
Tucson, AZ 85741

(520) 724-5000

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