Discover an amazing outdoor classroom at Colorado's ''beach in the mountains!"
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.
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.
Educational Entrance Fee Waiver
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; Great Sand Dunes does not charge for programs.
We recommend that you call to schedule a program at least 4 weeks in advance. Reservations are made on a first come, first serve basis. Please contact the park's Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, Monday through Friday, to request a program via email or phone at (719) 378-6341.
On-Site Field Trip Programs
Field trip programs are limited to 60 students per day. As programs vary in length, please refer to the lesson plans to construct your visit accordingly. If you do not see what you are looking for, our staff can work with you to meet your needs.
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!
Walking Back Through 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 and get the opportunity to throw an atlatl, a form of archery for thousands of years. 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 sample berries, nuts, and taste other items 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.
Nature Goes to Bat - COMING SOON! Students will determine whether or not Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is experiencing climate change, using hands on testing of the trees, soils, and plants.
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.
Currently we offer limited opportunities for off-site programs. We would like to work with you to apply a program to your needs. Please contact the park Education Coordinator via email or (719) 378-6342 for more information.