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Outdoor Learning Initiative

Outdoor Learning Initiative 2024-05-24T07:12:11-06:00

The outdoors is a resource for enhancing learning, social engagement, and health and should be available to all New Mexican students across the state. Experiences in nature and access to the outdoors are associated with greater health and well being and academic success. There are many approaches to outdoor and environmental learning and education, including conservation, experimental, environmental, nature-based and place-based education.

The Outdoor Learning Initiative was initiated by the Cradle to Career New Mexico Report in 2021. The Cradle to Career New Mexico 2021 Report outlines the statewide industry education and career pathway strategy signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 2, 2019. This report summarizes the overarching goal to engage all New Mexicans as stewards of the state’s incredible natural resources. In 2022, Senator Siah Correa Hemphill sponsored Senate Bill 32 to support “Outdoor Learning Program Funding”. This bill was incorporated into House Bill 2 (HB 2) in the Senate Finance Committee and then HB 2 was approved by the Senate and concurred by the House. HB 2 was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on March 9. This bill laid the groundwork to establish the Outdoor Learning Program at the New Mexico Public Education Department that consisted of:

  • Two outdoor learning specialists, one focused on STEM integration and one focused on literacy and humanities integration
  • Up to $300,000 for local educational agencies to start-up outdoor learning programs

The majority of funding for outdoor learning were used to support the Outdoor Learning Start-Up Grants which funded ten schools and districts in 2022-2023 and now seven in 2023-2024.

2022-2023 Grantees

  • Alamogordo Public Schools
  • Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Aztec Municipal Schools
  • Las Cruces Public Schools
  • Monte del Sol Charter
  • Mountain Mahogany
  • Native American Community Academy (NACA)
  • Rio Gallinas School for Ecology and the Arts
  • Vista Grande High School

2023-2024 Grantees

  • Native American Community Academy (NACA)
  • Santa Rosa Consolidated School District
  • Alamogordo Public Schools
  • DZIŁ DITŁ’OOÍ School of Empowerment, Action, and Perseverance (DEAP)
  • Hatch Valley Schools
  • Dulce Independent Schools
  • Turquoise Trail Charter School

The Outdoor Learning Initiative is working with UNM International Mountain Medicine Center to provide Wilderness First Aid certification courses for all educators in outdoor education. This course is the most basic mountain medicine course. In a total of 8 hours online and 8 hours practical field work, the course covers the essentials of life saving techniques to help mitigate medical situations in outdoor learning settings.

The Outdoor Learning Team created a Canvas Course: Teachers New to Outdoor Learning. This self-paced course is meant to support educators who are interested in implementing an outdoor learning program, educators who are new to the practice, or educators who are looking to refine their practice. This course introduces New Mexico’s Outdoor Education Initiative to ensure that “New Mexico school children engage in environmental education from prekindergarten through graduation” (The New Mexico Environmental Literacy Plan, 2015). The course broadly defines outdoor and environmental education and outlines general expectations in an outdoor learning environment. It explores culturally sustaining pedagogy and social and emotional development in outdoor learning environments. Finally, it will give educators the tools that they will need to initiate an outdoor learning program at their school.

The Outdoor Learning Team is working with the Math and Science Advisory Council and has created an Outdoor Education Working Group which is supporting the development of an official definition for Place and Community Based Education and the Adoption of the following Action Items for Teachers and Outcomes for Students, setting the foundation for developing state academic standards in Outdoor Education for the State of New Mexico.

Meet The Team

Patricia Gharrity

Assistant Director/Outdoor Learning Initiative Program Manager of Math and Science Bureau

Vanessa Barela

Outdoor Learning Initiative – STEM

Page last updated May 24, 2024