Planting the Seeds of Stewardship

A Youth Outreach, Education & Stewardship Initiative

Project Purpose

The mission of the Seeds of Stewardship program is to provide educational and meaningful outdoor experiences that empower youth to become the next generation of stewards of Arizona’s wild landscapes.

We work with youth within Arizona Trail gateway communities using a proven three-tiered approach of experience, education, and service-learning. By engaging, inspiring, and empowering students from 5th grade through high school, we help plant the seeds of stewardship for future generations.

Sky Islands HS students experiencing and enjoying a very cold, and very rainy day in the winter in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains

View Seeds of Stewardship Outings



Kinsey Elementary students hike the AZT by Marshall Lake in Flagstaff

It has been said that people only protect what they love, and they only love what they know. How will future generations care enough to save the environment that sustains us unless they get to know it intimately? The first step in any successful outdoor education program is experiential learning, which is why we will focus on getting youth from the small towns and communities located near the Arizona National Scenic Trail.

Students are led in small groups to various forests, canyons, mountains, and exciting realms of the Arizona Trail, all within close proximity to home. This supports the place-based educational model (youth are more inclined to learn about what is immediately nearby) and helps connect youth, families, and communities with the natural resources that exist “in their own backyard.”


Students from Mica Mountain HS react to a Hygroscopic Earthstar mushroom while Treven interprets, in Madera Canyon, Ce:wi Duag, AZ

After youth have experienced the Arizona National Scenic Trail through exploration and enjoyment, educational components are integrated into the outings. These are presented through a variety of on-the-trail lessons based on ecology, botany, biology, geology, and other earth sciences. Most of the educational material is presented in an experiential style, with activities, materials, and instruction provided for participants of all learning abilities.

Our professional outdoor educators work with teachers and administrators to support the present and upcoming curriculum, helping to reinforce what students are already learning – but in an exciting context.

Service Learning

After youth have successfully completed the first two components of the program, the third step gives them an opportunity to play an active role in maintaining, developing, and protecting the Arizona Trail through service projects. From basic trail maintenance and construction to the removal of invasive species, youth learn how they can leave a positive impact on their environment.

Working alongside professionals from the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Open Spaces, and the Arizona Trail Association, youth participate in a series of hands-on projects that leave them with a sense of ownership of the trail and their public lands and learning firsthand what it means to be a “steward”. Service-learning has been proven to be among the most effective ways to teach responsibility, encourage self-esteem, and create civic-minded individuals.

After a year of experience, education, and service-learning, youth feel that the Arizona National Scenic Trail is their trail.

On average, the Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewardship program engages over 2,000 youth per year. Our program is growing all the time, thanks to the commitment of visionary teachers and the generosity of our supporters.

Extracurricular Opportunities

Southern Arizona

The Seeds of Stewardship Ambassador Program
is a mentorship program for Tucson high schoolers. Through online and in-the-field sessions, Ambassadors gain the skills and knowledge necessary for taking on roles in leadership, public speaking, environmental stewardship, and conservation advocacy.
Learn more

Remote Learning – DIY Hikes & Activities

Ambassador Program – Southern Arizona

The Ambassador Program provides mentorship opportunities for young adults. This program will enhance individual’s outdoor leadership capabilities, empowering a greater number of public land stewards and environmental advocates. Ambassadors will learn from professional Outdoor Educators and Environmental Educators to develop the skills necessary to become OEs & EEs themselves. In doing this, Ambassadors will learn the basics of Sonoran Desert natural sciences and human/cultural histories. Ambassadors will work virtually and in-person distantly to develop these skills. Ambassadors will design and create a community action project which will serve to provide information and solutions toward an environmental issue. This program will serve to prepare Ambassadors to be leaders, public speakers, engaged in environmental and social issues, and educated place-based conservation advocates. 

Ambassadors will:

  • Hike and adventure through wild places close to home
  • Learn about Sonoran Desert ecology, human pre/histories, and natural history
  • Learn how to lead adventures, navigate outdoors, and deal with emergencies
  • Learn methods and techniques needed to be an outdoor educator
  • Develop public speaking skills
  • Create a community action project based on their interests
  • Learn how to build and repair trails using specialized tools and equipment
  • Build personal relationships and comfort in the outdoors

To learn more about the Seeds of Stewardship Ambassador Program in Southern Arizona, click here.

To make a donation to support this important program, use the form below or mail a check to Arizona Trail Association: 738 N 5th Avenue, Suite 201, Tucson, Arizona 85705.


Social Media

Find the Seeds of Stewardship on Instagram and Facebook!

AZ Trail Instagram AZ Trail Facebook


Seeds of Stewardship outings are made possible with support from ATA members, donors, and grants from:

Seeds of Stewardship Outings

Click on the links below to read inspiring outing reports and see photographs from our Seeds of Stewardship Program. In 2022, we made the switch to documenting our outings on Instagram. Follow along at @aztsos