National parks preserve our most treasured natural places and provide us with some of the most amazing outdoor classrooms in the world. The environmental education program at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has been educating and inspiring students for years.
The 2022 Education Season
Great Sand Dunes offers free distance learning and on-site curriculum-based programming. Distance learning opportunities are offered March through July when staffing levels allow. Ranger-led on-site curriculum based programming will be offered from Monday, April 11, 2022 to Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Important Information to know before requesting a virtual or on-site education program for the 2022 season:
- COVID Policy: The NPS has updated its masking guidance based on the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels tool, which helps communities decide what prevention steps to take. Masking requirements will vary by park based on local conditions, however masks are still required on all forms of enclosed public transportation. In areas CDC identifies as high COVID-19 community level, masks are required for everyone in all NPS buildings, regardless of vaccination status. In most low and medium COVID-19 community level areas, masks are optional, and you are welcome to wear a mask if it makes you more comfortable. Additional details are available at NPS Public Health Update (U.S. National Park Service).
Great Sand Dunes is located in Saguache and Alamosa counties and the park is required to monitor transmission rates in both counties. At least one week in advance of a school program, the park will notify the educator of the park's COVID mask policies and other COVID related policies to keep teachers, students, and staff safe when performing the program. Though most programs are conducted outdoors, the ranger will continue to follow COVID guidance for interacting with groups outdoors. Updates will be posted on this website to help you plan your visit.
- All programs are free of charge.
- Education programs will be approved based on number of students, available teachers/chaperones to assist, and available park staff to safely execute the program.
- Education programs are offered Tuesday through Friday, starting at 9am, and last program of the day starting at 3pm. Programs will not be offered on Mondays.
- Virtual programs may be available on a case by case basis, Tuesday through Friday, 9am - 3pm.
- All programs must be requested 4 weeks in advance, no exceptions. This allows the park to better schedule and prepare for the program.
- When scheduling your virtual or on-site programs, please contact Kathy Faz by email. To schedule a program, the educator must provide the grade level, number of students, name of school, main point of contact, proposed day and time for program, and the program or program topics to cover. For on-site programs, please see list of education programs below.
- If the park cannot accommodate the educator's request, the park will offer alternatives to fulfill the educator's goals for their virtual or on-site program.
- The park reserves the right to cancel programs up to 15 minutes before the program.
- School groups, and educational organizations whose primary purpose for visiting is education, may qualify for an educational entrance fee waiver. Please click on the link below to obtain the waiver request form. This waiver is for park entrance fees. Educational Entrance Fee Waiver Request Form
Education Programs: K-8th Grades
Set against the steep Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and covering 30 square miles, are the tallest sand dunes in North America. Located in the preserve is some of the most pristine wilderness and alpine lakes. Students can experience varied ecosystems, artifacts, some of the oldest cultural history ever recorded, and extreme geologic history in this outdoor classroom.
The educational programs at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve provide hands-on field experiences that can support and enhance your learning objectives. The rangers are dedicated to wanting students to learn and utilize the resources throughout the park to conduct standards-based education programs. Our lessons and activities encourage students to engage, explore, and experience new opportunities. Come discover the learning opportunities and potential lessons that exist in this unique outdoor classroom.
On-Site Field Trip Programs
Depending on staffing levels, the park may not be able to accommodate large groups of students in one program. It is best for educators to e-mail park staff to discuss group size, group needs, and other logistics to ensure program needs are addressed.
Sand Matters - Students go on a rock hunt to discover why the colors of the stones are the same colors in the sand. One sand color in particular has a unique quality about it that will fascinate everyone!
Amazing Mammals - Students go on a hike near the dunes and observe which things blend in to the environment, and which odd items that do not belong. Learn about animal adaptations in this fun and engaging program.
Sandy Bugs Everywhere - Great Sand Dunes National Park hosts species of insects found nowhere else on Earth! These strange creatures are uniquely adapted for surviving the extreme environment of the dunes. Students will learn about these endemic species and act out their funny adaptations on the sand!
Jumpin’ Ungulates- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is home to several species of ungulates that have inherited unique traits for surviving in the various habitats around the Dunes. Students will learn how objective observations differ from identifications, opinions, and conclusions. Students will also make predictions about how variables in the environment affect traits that ungulates develop.
Walking Back in Time - Humans have inhabited Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve for at least 9,000 years. Survival for American Indians and early settlers was a tough struggle in an extreme environment. Students learn about world and local history along this forested trail. 1 mile hike.
A Taste of Time - Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains diverse plants and trees of cultural importance to people here for thousands of years. Students will taste or smell some edible plants along this trail. 1 mile hike.
Extreme Mysteries - Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve features the tallest dunes in North America, formed from four dramatic Earth processes. Students will form their own hypothesis of how the dunes were formed, build the San Luis Valley using sand and water, and study the sizes of sand grains using sifters.
6th - 8th Grade
Flowing Waters - (weather permitting) Water is crucial to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Students will learn the complex importance of water within this environment, measure stream flow in CFS for park data using two forms of measurement, and complete a stream flow worksheet.
Paleo Life -Humans have inhabited Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve for at least 9,000 years. Archeologists' discovery of an ancient atlatl (spear throwing lever) with an attached weight is a mystery to be solved. With safe, hands-on throwing of atlatl darts, students will determine if adding a weight to the lever would have improved velocity and distance of the dart to reach large animals needed for food.
Many teachers choose to bring their students to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to enhance their classroom lessons with field experience. Classes are encouraged to stop in the Visitor Center to view the park film, utilize interactive exhibits, and complete Junior Ranger booklets if time allows. Teachers can also select from our Curriculum Materials lead their own programs.
Last updated: April 20, 2022