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Ecology Field Program

The Ecology Field Program is our flagship program. It is a science-focused outdoor experience for 5th graders in the Albuquerque area to learn in the Sandia Mountains for a day.

Students doing Tree Key activity

Program Description

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.

Program Components

Vince teaching ecosystem introduction to students at outdoor classroom.The program typically lasts 4-4.5 hours and consists of:

  • 1/2-hour Ecosystem Introduction/Review
  • 1.5-2 mile Hike with Lessons & Activities On-Trail
  • 1/2 hour Lunch Break
  • Time permitting, an additional activity or museum visit after lunch

Program Content

Students doing an outdoor activity investigating things they find in the Sandia Mountain ecosystem during their Ecology Field Program.

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.

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.

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 grade.

Becoming Citizens of Our Land: A Photo Essay: The Ecology Field Program in pictures.

Ecology TopicsClass hiking down a trail seen from above, led by Vince.

The program encompasses a wide range of topics, potentially including and not limited to: 

Habitats, tree and plant identification, consumer evidence (skulls/tracks/scat, etc.), 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.

Program Registration

All Albuquerque Public Schools 5th grade classes are automatically scheduled by our staff each school year. The program is free of charge for APS schools, including transportation. Schools not part of APS also receive the program for free, but will have to cover their own transportation costs to our site unless we have grant funding available to cover your transportation.

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

To inquire about your program (within APS), or to request a program for 5th graders at your school (outside APS) and see about possible availability of bus funding, contact Maggie Price at  or by calling (505) 281-5259 x0.

Quotes about the EFP

Student Quotes

“I really learned a lot about the mountains and different trees.”

“Thank you for teaching us about nature in the Sandia Mountains...Now I can go camping and tell my dad how trees decompose. Thanks again for a wonderful time.”

I hope I can go on a hike to the mountains again.  At the end, I was tired, but learned a lot.

“’I learned so much things from you like all of the trees, moss, cactus, plants, the different kinds of stuff that bears eat, and what they do.”

“Another thing I like about the field trip was seeing real stuff from animals and stuff surrounding the environment.I liked how I learned more stuff to get me more smarter.”

Teacher Quotes

"This program creates a bridge between concepts presented in the classroom science curriculum and the real world experience of an ecosystem, and how important the balance of living things is to that system."

"It gets many students who have never had the opportunity a chance to learn about nature. They are able to see, hear and touch things as they learn about them first hand.  Excellent field trip."

"Students had a chance to make connections to the real world and act as scientists in observing nature."

"My students realized that there is so much more to their surroundings than they thought before. They saw the value in preserving and protecting our environment for our future and the future of the living and non-living elements of our ecosystems."

"They learned determination, cooperation, teamwork, and the understanding that nature settings are the best classrooms."

"They took away the beauty of nature, the balance of an ecosystem, and a newfound appreciation of our Sandia Mountains."

"I heard students commenting that this was the best field trip they have ever been on!"

Program Standards

Standards alignment for activities and discussions often covered during the Ecology Field Program.

Click the links to view and download accessible PDF files.

Next Generation Science Standards