child on a school field trip

School Field Trips

The Highlands Center has provided quality school field trips for over 25 years.

Students, chaperones, and teachers should come prepared to be outside for the duration of the trip, regardless of weather. (Trips will be cancelled or rescheduled if weather is unsafe). Trips may include walking on uneven terrain for up to 1.5 miles. Accommodations can be made for special needs or other requests. 

If your group falls outside this definition, please contact us regarding Custom Programs.

Regardless of which topic you choose, all field trips include the following components: 

  • Formal lesson component designed by professional educators based on Arizona science standards and social/emotional and developmental milestones
  • Physical exploration and hike on our 80-acre site that encompass different plant/animal communities like woodlands, chaparral, meadows, and riparian areas
  • Facilitated reflection like journaling, crafting, or other quiet activities
  • All field trips begin at 9:30am and conclude at 12:30pm.
  • All students will need to wear a backpack containing their own food and water. Hydration bladders (e.g. Camelbaks) with a pocket are encouraged. All students will stop for lunch on the trail about halfway through.
  • The program is entirely out on forest trails for the full three hours, and all participants will be outside walking on uneven terrain during this time. Notify Jessie if any accommodations are required for your students.
    • Grades Kinder – 2nd walk on our Stretch Pebble Trail, and our Homestead Trail #305, for a total of just over a third of a mile.
    • Grades 3 – 5 walk around our perimeter trail #442, which is about 1.25 miles long and goes down to Lynx Creek. It is a trail that does involve navigating some steep inclines and uneven terrain.
    • There are two composting toilets that are available for use. 
    • Students stop for activities and lessons along the trail, and both groups get to do the same activities.

Below are the topics for K-5 field trips:

Home school field trip

Discover the Wonder

The first part of the Highlands Center mission is to ‘help children…discover the wonders of nature.’ Join us for this quintessential field trip where we engage in our favorite outdoor education activities and explorations. Cup the cool water of Lynx Creek in your hands, smell the earthy scent of meadow soil, and discover the wonder of wind through the ponderosas on a silent walk. While each field trip may look slightly different depending on the season, the facilitator, and the school needs – all trips will focus on full immersion in the Central Highlands and experiential education practices. Students will leave this experience with a deeper connection with the natural world.


The second part of the Highlands Center mission is to ‘help children…become wise caretakers of the land.’ This field trip is designed with the best practices of ‘service learning’ in mind. Students will begin by playing team-building games and establishing community within their group. Then the group might participate in a site-specific project that is fun and meaningful. Projects will vary depending on the season, but will always be safe and developmentally appropriate. Students will leave with a better understanding of conservation and leave-no-trace ethics, as well as a deeper sense of connection with each other and our natural world.

Elementary kids school field trips
Home school field trip

Patterns in Nature

“Understanding life begins with understanding patterns” – Fritjof Capra

Nature takes a theme and runs with it, resulting in patterns all around us. This field trip teaches students the skills to notice patterns, then lays the groundwork to anticipate change and interpret natural phenomena.  This field trip focuses on physical science standards for K-5 students. Specifically, we’ll explore examples in the physics of light, sounds/vibrations, temperature, magnetism, and gravity in the natural world. Students learn that patterns are not only visual, but textural and auditory too. Patterns can be seen in animal markings and plant leaves, felt on rocks, and heard in the repeated rhythm of bird calls. Students will leave with a sense that patterns are not only seen, but experienced.

‘What Goes Up, Must Come Down’:

All About Erosion

This field trip offers the unique opportunity to get a ‘rocks eye view’ on weathering. Students will visit the highest and lowest places at the Highlands Center to get a broad perspective of how wind and water work to transport materials. Students will also explore how natural seasonal changes and human dimensions of the environment affect the cycles of erosion. This field trip focuses on earth science standards for K-4 students. Specifically, we’ll explore the role of wind and water in shaping the environment, how weather and climate affect our area, and the human impact on this process. Students will leave with an understanding of how earth materials are transported and an appreciation for how these processes help to define the Central Highlands landscape.

Elementary kids school field trips
Home school field trip

‘What’s on the Menu?’:

Surviving in the Central Highlands

Who’s hungry for learning about the food of the Central Highlands? We know we are! One of the things all life has in common, from oak to worm and hummingbird to human – we all have to eat. This field trip focuses on life science standards for K-5 students. Specifically, we’ll explore specialized parts for obtaining food, food as a resource needed for survival, energy transfer within food webs, the diversity of food sources, and more. Students will leave with an appreciation for the importance of food in shaping life, as well as a deeper understanding of the role of food and the webs around that food it provides in the Central Highlands.

The Artists’ Eye:

Making a masterpiece with a naturalists touch

Since prehistoric times, Southwestern artists have often been inspired by the natural world. This field trip invites students to engage their creative side – to work with natural mediums in the scenic outdoor settings of the Highlands Center to create works of art. In doing so, students will also learn about nature through close observation and physical manipulation of local materials. Sometimes the best way to learn about nature is to stare at an insect for 5 whole minutes, or carefully trace different leaves, or feel the weight and balance of rocks by building a cairn, or use the sap of pinyon as glue. Students will leave with an appreciation for the confluence of art and nature, as well as a sense of empowerment as an artist.

Elementary kids school field trips

Pricing and Registration

ParticipantPrice per Field Trip
Student (School has > 50% students on Title One)$5.00
Student (School has <  50% students on Title One)$10.00
Adult (teachers and chaperones)Free 1 for every 10 students, $12.00 after that

Highlands Center is committed to serving all students regardless of financial status. If pricing is a barrier, please call Jessica Manley Ewald at 928-776-9550.

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