Outdoor Experiential Program

Since 2012, South Valley Preparatory School has worked in collaboration with the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation (CWG) for our students to participate in a variety of outdoor classroom expeditions. Each year, through middle school, our students’ outdoor experiential opportunities increase. Each year, these opportunities connect learning from the classroom to hands-on experiences in the wilderness.

6th grade

  • One day field trip to tent Rocks, foothills, or other local areas
  • Introduces students to CWG and the outdoors and supports the science curriculum

7th grade

  • One day trip to Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge, Carlito Springs area, or other local areas
  • One overnight trip at Cottonwood Gulch basecamp with an exploration of the Lava Tubes and Blue Water


  • Introduces students to CWG and the outdoors and supports the science curriculum
  • Starts to emerge 7th grade into the idea of wilderness and lay the foundation for SIWI program

8th grade

  • SIWI project with a total of 10 days in the wilderness
  • One day trip in Fall
  • Three-day camping trip
  • One day trip in Spring
  • Five day backpacking trip in the Spring

8th Grade Students in Wilderness Initiative (SIWI) Project

South Valley Prep’s 8th-grade students were chosen to participate in the Students in Wilderness Initiative (SIWI). SIWI is a 3-year project funded partially by a grant from the Wilderness Society, which is an effort to connect more local youth with their local lands.


  • Expose New Mexican youth to Wilderness Designated Lands, Wilderness Study Areas, Proposed Wilderness Areas and locations determined as having Wilderness Characteristics
  • Engage students in a conversation about the issues relating to Wilderness, conservation, and preservation in NM wildlands
  • Connect youth to policymakers and stakeholders addressing these issues
  • Immerse students in outdoor experiences and wild places in NM
  • Engage youth in service projects related to wilderness areas
  • Create investment and ownership of the wild places of NM by local youth
  • Facilitate outdoor experiences for a socioeconomically representative group of NM students

Three Key Components to the SIWI Program

Classroom Expeditions: 10 days in the wilderness to bring outdoor living skills and quiet time in a wild place, bring alive topics learned back at school in the outdoor classroom, understand the uniqueness of wilderness protections, use art, music, and writing to capture experiences, meet with neighbors to discuss impacts (when applicable)

Once-Monthly Facilitated Classroom Sessions: address topics including wilderness designation definitions, panel presentations and roundtable discussion with stakeholders, and skill-building sessions

Final Presentation: bring together stakeholders, policymakers, and students to a series of student presentations on experience and research on Wilderness; provide an opportunity for students to receive feedback and field questions from New Mexico stakeholders and policymakers.

Students in Wilderness Initiative Overview, Outcomes, and Curriculum