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Volume 30, No. 3

Grand Canyon's Education Branch: Engaging Students through Curiosity

Sparking opportunities for youth to explore, learn, and serve on public lands. 

North Rim Ranger Talk

"I wanted to reach out and let you know about my experience as an educator at the Grand Canyon for a field trip with one of your rangers," began a letter from a sixth-grade teacher. "I was blown away by the ranger's ability to engage our sixth graders, integrate science and art, and allow for fun and exploration. She kept a consistent pace and was able to gauge students' interest to know when to move forward. During the tour, she was knowledgeable and patient with students' curiosities. I have been on many field trips over my teaching career, and this will stand out as one of the best."

Grand Canyon's Education Branch creates, implements, and supports inclusive and meaningful opportunities for students and youth to learn, explore, and serve on their public lands. Each spring, Education Rangers deliver field trip programs to second through eighth graders. During the spring 2023 season, the staff served more than 1,300 students from throughout Arizona and Nevada.

Students learned about geology, ecology, and natural and cultural resources by exploring and discussing the rocks, trees, and plants they observed in programs that support Arizona and national academic standards. During the season, 35 percent of students came from the Phoenix area, 28 percent from Flagstaff, 20 percent from rural Arizona, 7 percent from Grand Canyon School, 6 percent from Las Vegas, and 4 percent from tribal schools.

The Education Program is uniquely poised to recruit and serve youth who would otherwise not be able to visit Grand Canyon National Park. During one field trip, for example, more than half the students from Williams Elementary School—an hour's drive from the South Rim—shared that it was their first time visiting Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon Conservancy makes these experiences possible by funding bus transportation for students who attend tribal and Title 1 schools—those eligible for federal funds to educate disadvantaged or underserved children.

Grand Canyon Education Rangers act as guides on the side to create space for students to explore and leave with a sense of curiosity and connection that inspires engagement with the world. We also hope students will want to protect this place, all public lands, and the planet.

The strategic goals of the Education Program for the next year include:

  • Creating culturally relevant programming,
  • Integrating education programming into a continuum of learning centered on climate change on the Colorado River and the Colorado Plateau, and
  • Engaging in strategic outreach to build relationships with teachers at rural schools on the Colorado Plateau and schools of the 11 associated tribes.

Through these goals, we connect with and serve our gateway communities through education centered on the stories that the Colorado River and Colorado Plateau are teaching us about climate change and aridification, the importance of the Colorado River as a vital waterway to 40 million people, and as the sacred landscape and lifeway of those who have inhabited these lands since time immemorial. These are stories we need to be telling our young generations. The place—the canyon and the river—are the teachers.

By Monique Navarro, M.Ed., Resource Education Branch Lead, Grand Canyon National Park

Originally Published: 12-19-2023 Last Updated: 05-01-2024