McDowell Sonoran Conservancy launches family nature education programs

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The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy works to help facilitate and promote the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Fall is here and now Arizona families can enjoy outdoor fun and fitness by discovering nature together.

Thanks to $12,500 worth of in-kind support from Arizona Public Service for education programs and collateral materials, families can now take advantage of two free programs at Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, starting October 2016: the Family Passport and Family Sonoran Sundays.

APS has been involved with the preserve throughout its 25 years of existence, most recently donating $20,000 toward ecological initiatives and research projects, according to a press release.

“The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is an organization doing great things to provide engaging educational programs for Arizona children and families,” said Tina Marie Tentori, director of Community Affairs at APS, in a prepared statement.

“We are so fortunate to have the McDowell Sonoran Preserve that serves as an outdoor classroom of sorts, providing a one of a kind learning experience for Arizona families.”

Family Passport

The first program is a free Family Passport that will enhance visits to the Preserve. Interactive activities included in the passport will help kids and adults learn about the flora, fauna and geology of the McDowell Mountains.

Family passports encourage visitors to search for animal tracks and special rocks, find signs of a Gila woodpecker’s presence in a saguaro, and look carefully to discover a special attraction at Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. The scavenger hunt items in the passport will have hikers observing nature in ways they haven’t in the past.

Families can get passports from conservancy volunteer Pathfinders or at any of the nature guide events and start exploring. Visit the four major Preserve trailheads — Gateway, Brown’s Ranch, Lost Dog, and Toms Thumb — and get your passport stamped by a Conservancy Pathfinder. After traveling all the way around the Preserve, a completed passport with four stamps earns the passport-holder a Preserve bandana.

Family Sonoran Sundays

From October 2016 to April 2017, at 3 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month at Gateway Trailhead, 18333 N. Thompson Peak Parkway, and the third Sunday of each month at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, 30301 N. Alma School Parkway, visitors are invited to join the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Nature Guides for Family Sonoran Sundays.

Family Sonoran Sundays offer free family-friendly interactive programs that allow visitors to experience nature up close and discover the unique wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. These programs are designed for children ages 6 and up and “special guests” have included raptors, coyotes and bobcats to name a few.

Go to mcdowellsonoran.org.

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