McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Expands Expedition Days Online to Include Fourth Grade Curriculum

APS Foundation grant to help fund online STEM program expected to reach more than 5,000 students

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (February 28, 2022) – When schools went online in 2020, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy followed suit, creating an online, multimedia version of its in-person Expedition Days Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), an interactive program aimed at inspiring elementary school students to become advocates for the Sonoran Desert. 

The Online version of Expedition Days meets Arizona state curriculum standards for third-grade students and increased the program’s reach from 150 students in 2015 to now more than 2,300. Support from the Arizona Public Service (APS) Foundation will expand the program to include fourth-grade students boosting overall participation to an estimated 5,000 in 2022.

“APS has been an enthusiastic partner of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy since the Preserve was first established back in the ‘90s,” said APS Foundation Executive Director Tina Marie Tentori. “The Conservancy members are true experts in bringing STEM subjects to life for elementary school students – both in-person and now online. It’s exciting to see how the Conservancy team has transformed the Sonoran Desert into an engaging online curriculum that is now reaching thousands of Arizona students.”

In its seventh year, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Expedition Days take third-and fourth-grade students on a journey of discovery as they explore their role in conserving the Sonoran Desert. The online program features a multimedia curriculum including slides, video and audio, which bring the sights and sounds of nature into the classroom and serve as a springboard for in-class activities. Topics include “The Urban Desert,” “Trash Through Time,” “Water in the Desert,” and “Documenting Wildlife.”

“While this program was born out of the pandemic, we found that by providing an online version, we could reach significantly more students,” said Justin Owen, CEO of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. “The online presence of Expedition Days enables us to engage students, often from Title 1 schools, in immersive experiences that highlight the importance of protecting the environment.”

Expedition Days Online programming will be released in March 2022. The Conservancy has also packaged its learning stations so they can travel to schools starting in late spring. Teachers interested in Expedition Days programs, which support the Arizona state curriculum teaching standards, should visit and fill out a brief form.


About the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that preserves and advances natural open space through science, education and stewardship. Through a unique partnership with The City of Scottsdale, and the dedication of more than 650 volunteer stewards, the Conservancy protects more than 30,500 acres in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which is enjoyed by over 1.2 million visitors annually. To learn more about its mission and achievements visit