Outdoor Education


Protecting Open Space isn’t all that we do. Using habitat, discovery, and career paths, we are here to connect youth and families to the natural world.  

It’s increasingly clear that kids and adults alike spend significantly more time inside than outside. The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours in front of a screen.*  This growing problem has become so widespread that it is now known as Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s time to get outside!

Enjoy the Healing Power of Nature!

Research demonstrates that spending time outside is greatly beneficial to our physical and mental health and creativity. Spending time outdoors is important, no matter how tempting it might be to stay inside.  A great way to encourage youth to spend more time outside is by taking advantage of Habitat, Discovery, and Career Paths.


A habitat is a natural area that provides a living organism with everything it needs to survive including food, water, shelter, and protection. Outdoor habitats are also important for humans to live a full and healthy life. Moving around provides physical health benefits like improved muscular-skeletal strength, immunity benefits, eye health, and enhanced quality of sleep. Flagstaff Open Space protects over 3,000 acres of natural landscape where you can enjoy the outdoors and enjoy nature’s benefits.

Find Your Habitat and Visit Regularly. You might be surprised how close you live to spectacular “neighborwoods” experiences. McMillan Mesa’s urban location and proximity to schools make it a great fit for a family or school visit. Sunnyside, Grandview, Shadow Mountain, Hospital Hill, and Switzer Ridge neighborhoods are right on its doorstep. Coconino High School, Killip Elementary, Mt. Elden Middle School, Puente de Hozo, The Peak School, BASIS Flagstaff Charter School, Montessori and Pine Forest Charter Schools are all within walking distance. Visit your publicly owned open space.

Tom Elsass_Pumphouse Wash (1)-PEOPLEWINNER


Taking opportunities to discover your surroundings is important. Being outside provides new and exciting stimulation. It activates the senses - sight, smell, hearing, and touch, increasing the richness of human experiences while developing a sense of joy and stewardship that can last a lifetime.

1. Discover Wonders on a Tour. Flagstaff Open Space partners with Willow Bend to conduct community tours. These free tours are a great way to learn about Flagstaff's Open Space properties and their archaeology, geology, wildlife, plants and birds, and about how these resources are protected. Look for upcoming events on our Facebook or Instagram page.   

2. Discover Your Surroundings on an Exploration. Flagstaff is an amazing place to go exploring. There is no television show that can be watched, podcast that can be listened to, or picture that can be viewed, that can equal a personal experience. Alistair Humphreys devised the concept of micro-adventures – anyone can be an explorer close to home! Learn more here. There’s no lack of space to explore!

3. Discover Hidden Mysteries, Apply for a Research Permit. Use the City's  Open Space properties as an outdoor classroom for students! Pick a natural topic of your next science project--nature provides us with everything we need, including the solution to your next assignment. Apply for an educational research permit for free. Get outside and get smart! 


Spending time outdoors increases mental acuity and health, and reduces stress while increasing memory and attention spans. It provides opportunities to think creatively, building confidence and self-esteem. Nature can inspire youth’s awareness of science and can be a launching point for pursuit in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and environmental stewardship.

1. Be Involved Path Programs. In 2016, the City established an on-going partnership with Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, a local non-profit organization, to provide all third graders with an in-class program and field trip to Picture Canyon. Every year the program introduces hundreds of students to ecology, archaeology, and the wonders of the natural world.

2. Take Your Class on the Path Outside. Being outside can stimulate young minds and offer opportunities for understanding! With two simple tips you can make sure a class outing is a successful learning opportunity:

  • Be purposeful by making sure your activity supports what you are teaching inside and will expand discussions or projects. Before you and your students venture out, make sure it’s clear what you’ll be doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll do it.
  • Like you would for any trip, make sure students are aware of the ground rules. You might see more energy from your kids when you are out in the fresh air. That’s a good thing – use it! But keep it safe.

3. Learn About Arranged Career Path Field Trips. Flagstaff Open Space partners with schools to provide opportunities for students to explore career options in a wide variety of STEAM fields. Programs provide students hands-on experiences and a field trip to Open Space, on topics including hydrology, geology, forestry, meteorology, archaeology, and land management. Students greatly benefit from a realistic look at STEAM careers in northern Arizona and are encouraged to consider careers related to land conservation and related concentrations. Contact robert.wallace@flagstaffaz.gov to partner with us!


Need some ideas for discovering a new place? Check out:

Also, we've found and developed free lessons for families and teachers to use with kids grades K-12 to inspire a love of nature, and stewardship of our natural world.




We protect and preserve Flagstaff’s natural, cultural, and scenic resources to enhance recreational and educational opportunities for residents and visitors. Let us work together to instill a sense of stewardship and love of the natural world that maintains the mountain character and lifestyle of our community.