About Nature Niños New Mexico

Since 1914, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation has followed the mission of our founder, conservationist Aldo Leopold, to protect our waters and wildlife, ensure access to public lands, and provide opportunities to pursue the outdoor traditions that make New Mexico unique. We strongly believe that the future of our public lands, our wildlife, and our democracy lies in the hands of our future generations.

Nature Niños is the youth initiative of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Established in 2019, Nature Niños is engaging New Mexicans of all ages in outdoor learning and adventure - adding to the century of work already done by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

As the Federation's youth initiative, Nature Niños is an entry point. We provide safe, inclusive, and welcoming spaces to invite youth and families to make their own connections and memories with nature. Our goal is to introduce and encourage all New Mexicans, of all ages, to explore and enjoy our lands and waters safely and freely. We spend time introducing youth to their eco-identity through the visual arts, music, theater, spoken word and other mediums while encouraging their creativity and personal expression. We expand access to the outdoors, share all it has to offer, and build skills to grow the next generation of conservationists, land stewards, and recreationalists.


The Nature Niños Approach

WE WORK to connect youth and families, across generations, to learning with nature and experiencing outdoor opportunities. 

WE PROVIDE pay-as-you-can sliding scale opportunities, making free and low cost options accessible to reduce barriers of participation in outdoor recreation. 

WE PARTNER with schools, teachers, and organizations across New Mexico to expand the horizons of outdoor education and uplift our collective work. 


What We Do

Programming

Nature Niños' trusted, professional team offers many free and low-cost opportunities for kids and families including summer camp, day programs, family hikes, and events throughout the year. Together, across generations, we learn to fish, hike, shoot a bow, harvest and eat wild foods, track wild game, nature journal, and so much more. We spend time introducing youth to their eco-identity through the visual arts, music, theater, spoken word and other mediums while encouraging their creativity and personal expression. Whether you're an experienced explorer or new to the outdoors, there is a place that's just right for your family and we're here to help you find it.


School Partnerships

Nature Niños works with New Mexico schools to offer nature field trips to students K-12. These hands-on experiences are expert-guided and age-appropriate. We cover academic standards while also creating a memorable adventure, developing social-emotional skills, and connecting students to themselves, each other, and the natural world. Outdoor education has so many benefits that we'd love to bring to your school!


Teacher Workshops and Professional Development

In response to research, outdoor learning has become a priority for schools, districts, and public education departments across America. In 2021, New Mexico passed legislation in support of outdoor classrooms and professional development. The Nature Niños team has been preparing for this exciting new horizon. As New Mexico's lead for Project Wild, we pair decades of experience in outdoor education focused on public lands with partnerships across the country. We offer workshops, a toolkit, and professional development opportunities for teachers who are interested in developing research-backed skills in a peer-driven community of outdoor educators.


Youth Program Development & Consultation

Although we're headquartered in central New Mexico, our mission is statewide - the New Mexico Wildlife Federation has worked for over a century to protect New Mexico's wildlife, habitat, and public lands for all. We partner with communities and organizations across the state to advance their community-driven visions and plans for youth and family programs that connect the next generation to the outdoors and everything it has to offer.

Visit our Programming page to see all the amazing opportunities that Nature Niños is offering our New Mexico youth, from PreK to High School.


Sarah Candelaria

New Mexico Wildlife Federation

Youth Program Director


Meet the Nature Niños Staff

Nature Niños is a team of New Mexico Wildlife Federation staff dedicated to encouraging nature experiences and broadening our youth's knowledge in environmental conservation and preservation. 


Sarah Candelaria

Youth Program Director

sarah@nmwildlife.org 

Sarah Candelaria is an outdoor enthusiast who most enjoys fishing, camping, hiking & hunting. Currently, Sarah is the Youth Program Director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation's "Nature Niños" program. Before coming to NMWF, Sarah spent a decade bridging the gap of international acceptance as the director of a regional branch of a nonprofit program focused on J1 and F1 VISA high school exchange students.

With a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, Sarah was a NM PreK Consultant, an early childhood center director, and a public-school teacher. She also had the opportunity to work with EENM in their first fellowship class in 2020.

Sarah's extensive experience in management, program development, communication, and community engagement paired with her meaningful and concrete experiences in the world of education led to her development of the "Nature Niños" program in 2019 to focus on providing outdoor outreach programs that connect underserved youth and their families to the natural world through experiential educational opportunities.


Laura Lewis

Program Manager

laura@nmwildlife.org 

As the Nature Niños Program Manager, Laura focuses on the organizational infrastructure and programmatic realization. Laura is also the NM State Coordinator for Project WILD. After graduating from the University of New Mexico with a BA in Foreign Languages, Laura served with Americorps with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in Taos, NM in 2018 and Foodcorps in ABQ in 2020. These experiences led her toward Nature Niños where her love of the outdoors and dedication for sharing opportunities for personal natural connections combined. She is fascinated with all things related to food, likes to hike and practice photography. 


Olivia Martinez

Charter Partnership & NASP Coordinator

schoolpartners@nmwildlife.org 

Liv is Kickapoo, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Spanish and Portuguese. She is a Native American Community Academy (NACA) alumni who graduated in 2019. During high school, Liv was a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps member, providing services and training for New Mexico public lands. She was also able to participate in a U.S. Forest Service Internship where she developed and taught life science curriculum for elementary school students. After high school she studied at Fort Lewis college until 2021. She also worked as a Pre-K teacher at East Gate Kids Learning Center, working with young children ages 3-5 years old. Liv has been working with Nature Niños for a year now, leading various forms of outdoor exploration for ages 4 to 17. She loves teaching, archery and nature!


Amy Mathis

Community Class Coordinator

classes@nmwildlife.org 


Amy graduated from Kutztown University with a BFA in Music and Theater and she also holds a BS in Geology from New Mexico Tech. Amy has been a lifetime outdoor enthusiast with a focus on camping, backpacking, and hiking. She has been a dedicated instructor for local Cub Scout and Boy Scout organizations on Maui and currently here in Albuquerque where she teaches Basic Scouting Skills, assists in leading High Adventure outings, and is a Merit Badge Councilor. Her other interests include birding, plant identification, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, and gardening. Amy's interest level is vast and she enjoys learning new skills, new knowledge in nature, and enjoys learning from today's youth. Our youth are our future and she is very proud to be a part of molding and making a future generation of nature-connected people.


Chris Lucero

ABQ Lead Educator

Chris is an Albuquerque local with decades of experience spent exploring the vast variety of terrain in the southwest. His passion for the great outdoors cultivated as a child while living in the East Mountains and it was near impossible to get him indoors. Even now you'll find him in his free time traveling with his family in search of a new nature experience and adventure. In addition to his love of sharing a wealth of information accumulated over a lifetime, Chris's interests include: foraging, snowboarding, gardening, hiking, reading, and bushcraft. Teaching his children and others about conservation and how to cultivate skills in the outdoors is a life goal that he is happy to achieve while working with Nature Niños. 


Amanda Darby 

ABQ Lead Educator

Amanda A. Darby was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and joined the Nature Niños team in 2023. Childhood years were spent adventuring all over the southwest with her family of artists and educators, soaking in everything our natural landscape has to offer. With a professional background in real estate and insurance, she has always found a way to stay rooted in nature. After a move to Long Beach, California in 2013, Amanda discovered therapeutic horsemanship and began volunteering with the amazing animals, families and riders living with a variety of emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges. This was the catalyst to start her own family and with them, she returned to her home state in 2021. Through the growing eyes of her son, Amanda's view of how to maximize positive impact has deepened and found traction in the outdoors. It is a life's passion for her to do the right things, at the right time, for the right people- this includes Mother Earth and our future leaders. Nature Niños is a perfect platform for sharing her knowledge, heart, and natural connection with our youth!


Adam C. Okoye

ABQ Assistant Educator

Adam was born in Ankara, Turkey and spent his formative years living there and in multiple U.S. states. He has traveled to multiple countries and continents, learning much about various cultures and natural life. His education varied from private, public, international, parochial, as well as home schooling. After moving back to Albuquerque, he completed his high school education at Sandia H.S. and obtained an AA degree from Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM. His love of nature, prehistoric life and wildlife influenced his choice of college. While at Mesalands he was able to take paleontology and natural science courses as well as participate on dinosaur digs and volunteer at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and Natural Science Laboratory. Adam has volunteered at the Albuquerque Biopark, Botanical Gardens, and Aquarium, and has also volunteered and received training from the Valle De Oro Wildlife Refuge. He is an Eagle Scout, and his interests include the outdoors, nature, conservation, paleontology and Anime. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and educating youth about nature and the preservation of endangered species. 



Chan Dreyer

ABQ Assistant Educator

Chan is one of the assistants at Nature Ninos. They're super artistic, enjoys crocheting, likes to paint, make jewelry, and hopes to become a tattoo artist one day. They also enjoy spending time outdoors by skating, hiking, taking their siblings out to a park, or just to go out to take pictures. Chan grew up in a large family with 6 siblings, mom, and aunt in a small farm town in Illinois, then all moved to Albuquerque in 2018. They have several pets like rats, rabbits, a guinea pig, a poodle, snakes, bearded dragon, fish, and a turtle. Chan enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and loves telling facts about bugs and animals in hopes that others will learn to be interested in the animals or creatures that are outdoors. 


Laura Flores

Communications Coordinator

natureninos@nmwildlife.org 

Laura Flores has been an educator for over 12 years and is now joining the Nature Niño's team as the Communication Coordinator. She has always had a strong connection with the outdoors stemming from camping and gardening with her parents and sisters at a young age. She loves that she is able to take what she has learned and share these traditions with her own family. Laura's desire to share safe, fun, and accessible opportunities is deeply rooted in her community. In her free time, she continues to volunteer for Latino Outdoors and Mana de Albuquerque. By providing outdoor connections to the youth of New Mexico she feels she is creating a love for her state, deeper awareness for local and global conservation, and joyful experiences which will continue for generations.