Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (LCNCA) and the historic Empire Ranch Headquarters are ideal venues for youth education programs. The Empire Ranch Foundation, in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and other partners such as the Cienega Watershed Partnership offer a variety of youth educational experiences. For more information about youth education programs contact the ERF Administrator.
The Foundation’s youth education program was established in 2004 by Dr. Richard Schorr. Forty five students and four teachers from a Tucson middle school traveled to the ranch for an intensive day of learning. Since that time the annual education day, called Legacy Day at the Empire Ranch, has hosted hundreds of middle school students from the Elgin and Patagonia middle schools who have learned about ranching heritage through demonstrations from local ranchers and cowboys and BLM staff.
From the moment the students arrive at the Empire Ranch they are kept busy learning about ranch tools, horses and wagons, adobe brick making, roping, rawhide (reata) braiding, and dutch oven cooking. The traditional ranch barbeque lunch prepared by ERF volunteers is a special treat for instructors and students alike.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Pascua Yaqui community began a Youth in Wilderness (YIW) partnership in 2004 in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area to provide opportunities for Pascua Yaqui youth to be outdoors and learn about their cultural heritage and its close ties with nature. Initially, a popular three day YIW campout was held at LCNCA. In 2013 YIW was transformed into a “Hands on the Land” outdoor classroom experience.
The Cienega Watershed Partnership sponsors Youth Engaged Stewardship (YES!), a project that contributes to Youth Outdoor Pathways – a network of organizations concerned with the meaningful engagement of youth in the outdoors including the Cienega Watershed. Formed in 2011, CWP and many educational, environmental, governmental, and youth organizations are mapping out what pathways lead to significant involvement, advocacy, skills enhancement, and leaders among youth in the outdoors.
Wild about the Grasslands (WATG), the Foundation’s highly acclaimed ecology and Western heritage youth education and outreach program, was offered from 2007-2014 under the direction of Dr. Gail Corkill. WATG was a member site of Hands on the Land – a national network of field classrooms connecting students, teachers, and parents to their public lands and waterways. The Empire Ranch Foundation, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management – Tucson Field Office, provided hands-on, minds-on outdoor classroom experiences for schools and youth organizations, teen engaged service learning projects, and Let’s Move Outdoors Family Fun educational events at Empire Ranch Headquarters near Sonoita, Arizona.