Programs & Services

Sandia Mountain Nature Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary

April 18th, 2017

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2017 (Albuquerque, NM) -- Following a half-century of teaching the amazing world of natural history to New Mexico students, the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center (SMNHC) celebrates its 50th anniversary on Thursday, April 27. The public is invited to the celebration to see students doing hands-on science such as tree identification bug catching and close habitat observation. A exhibit highlights the Natural History Center’s five decades, and includes an show of student artwork from APS Studets.“

“We approach the 50th anniversary with a true sense of pride in the Center’s long record of service educating hundreds of thousands of New Mexico students about our amazing natural world, and their role in conservation,” said Paul Mauermann, SMNHC director. “Each year about 15 thousand fifth graders from around the state learn about the beauty and interconnectedness of nature.”                                    

The environmental education center, located just outside of Albuquerque in Cedar Crest, was founded in 1967 when the Albuquerque Public School Board (APS) purchased 128 acres of land adjacent ot the Cibola National Forest in 1967. The Center’s mission is ‘to work within New Mexico communities to develop an ecologically literate citizenry.”

APS used the land as an outdoor education center until 1991 when budget issues threatened to end the program. In 1993, APS joined forces with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS). Since then the two organizations have worked collaboratively with New Mexico teachers in educating more than half a million New Mexico school students about our state’s rich ecology and beautiful landscape.

Students experience hands-on lessons on animal investigations, conservation, local environmental awareness and ecology. The concepts they teach are tested on state-wide assessments, and kids get to spend the day outside learning about the uniqueness of New Mexico.

The focus of this unique partnership is the Ecology Field Program, a 4.5-hour, standards-based field experience where students, mostly 5th graders, are taught about ecosystems. The program consists of a brief introduction to ecosystems in one of SMNHC’s five outdoor classrooms, a 2.5-hour hike where the interconnectedness of the ecosystem is highlighted through inquiry-based science activities, a picnic lunch, and finally, another hands-on learning activity to wrap up the day.

In field outreach is also part of SMNHC’s mission. From Roswell to Raton, Center staff takes students to a wild area near their school and introduces them to the local ecosystem. To accomplish this, Center staff must drive thousands of miles across New Mexico’s vast landscape, and be knowledgeable about all the flora and fauna in the Land of Enchantment.

An army of volunteers who range in age from young students to retired professionals are at the heart and soul of the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center, providing thousands of hours of help annually. They contribute all kinds of ways, from helping teach to clearing trails and even preparing specimens.

As part of SMNHC’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the center thanks the following for the support they have offered over the decades, including:  Staff and volunteers of the SMNHC, DCA Cabinet Secretary Veronica Gonzales, APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, the NM State Legislature, the APS Board of Education the NMMNHS Board, teachers statewide, and its partners, the U.S. Forest Service, and NM Environmental Department’s State Park division. The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center is located at 50 Columbine Land, Cedar Crest, New Mexico 87008, (505) 281-5259.

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2014 STEM Project at Sandia Mountain Nature Center

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