Education at the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary (RDAC) is about engaging students with science concepts in real-life settings while awakening their hearts and imagination to the beauty of the natural world. Spring is upon us, and we are excited to share this blooming season by providing hundreds of local elementary students with in in-class science lessons and exploratory field trips led by Audubon educators at RDAC. These educational experiences are made possible with funding from the City of Santa Fe Children and Youth Commission. This funding allows us to target public schools with high populations of English language learners and those benefitting from free and reduced lunch for our elementary programs.
During the school year and in our popular summer day camps, youth participating in our environmental education programs cultivate inquisitive, science-literate minds while having fun and being active. When students make their way through the Piñon-Juniper and Ponderosa forest, they make cognitive and emotional connections to foundational concepts in biology, ecology, and their own social and emotional learning. Despite New Mexico’s extensive hiking trails and natural beauty, many children remark that their visit to the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary is their first time in nature. School educators comment on how these hands-on one-of-a-kind learning experiences are special memories that carry back not only to the classroom but also to their homes.
Educators like 3rd grade teacher, Brenda Dominguez, (Mrs. Dominguez to her students) from Amy Biehl Elementary School, credit nature-based learning to increased understanding of science concepts as well as self-awareness and responsible decision making. “Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary is unique because it brings text-based concepts to life through hands-on experiences in a natural context,” said Ms. Dominguez. “As educators, we are able to build upon RDAC’s experiential education. Concepts and vocabulary are presented in engaging ways, breaking through any language barriers. When we get back to the classroom, we are able to delve deeper into our instruction in more meaningful ways, while connecting to texts across different content areas.”
You can hear the words of Albert Einstein echo daily throughout her classroom as she reminds her students, “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better."
With each passing school year, she has witnessed a decrease in students spending time outdoors because of education programs like Audubon’s, students are becoming more aware and curious about their natural world. “As they get older they begin to understand how humans impact habitats, and they become passionate about protecting animals and plants,” commented Mrs. Dominguez. “Working in nature helps my students become life-long learners.” She is grateful to witness first-hand the outcome of these nature-based learning experiences.
At Audubon, we appreciate teachers like Ms. Dominguez. By working with dedicated teachers like her, Audubon is able to reach and engage students in meaningful outdoor experiences. Their commitment to bringing environmental education into the classroom is helping to create the next generation of conservation leaders. A big bow of gratitude goes out to Brenda Dominguez and all the teachers in our state making a difference in children’s lives.