Asombro Institute for Science Education

Las Cruces, NM   |  www.asombro.org

Mission

The Asombro Institute for Science Education is dedicated to increasing natural science literacy through engaging, place-based education programs. To achieve this mission, Asombro Institute staff educators and volunteers provide hands-on, inquiry-based science education programs, primarily in southern New Mexico classrooms and schoolyards and at the organization's 935-acre Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Additional science education resources for remote learning are available on Asombro's Science at Home webpage (www.asombro.org/science).

Ruling year info

1991

Executive Director

Dr. Stephanie Bestelmeyer

Main address

PO Box 891

Las Cruces, NM 88004 USA

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Formerly known as

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park

EIN

85-0386047

NTEE code info

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Natural History, Natural Science Museums (A56)

Parks and Playgrounds (N32)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Field trips to Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park

In collaboration with the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, the Asombro Institute for Science Education provides an opportunity for students to learn about science and the desert during a day-long field trip.

Students visit 3 to 5 stations where they learn about different science topics through hands-on activities. Students are also teamed with scientist guides on a guided exploration of the desert or a desert scavenger hunt (dependent on travel time). Students come away with an appreciation for all that exists in the desert, an area many of them once considered a wasteland.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The Asombro Institute can bring a bit of hands-on science and the desert to local classrooms and schoolyards. All programs provide an opportunity for students to learn about science through hands-on activities. Each program is aligned with the New Mexico STEM Ready! science standards (Next Generation Science Standards) and Common Core mathematics and English Language Art standards, where appropriate.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Asombro offers various teacher workshops each year that cover many grade levels and topics. Each workshop focuses on teaching science that is interactive, hands-on and aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. Upcoming workshops are announced on the Asombro website (www.asombro.org).

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Desert Data Jam challenges middle school students to find interesting ways to present scientific data to non-scientist audiences. Students use ecological data collected in or near Las Cruces to create a project that presents one dataset in a non-traditional way (e.g., through songs, physical models, artwork, videos, and more). We encourage students to get creative and find inspiration in their own interests.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents

Where we work

Awards

Innovator of the Year Award (to Exec. Director Stephanie Bestelmeyer) 2011

Society for Range Management - New Mexico Section

With Our Youth Excellence Award (to volunteer Donna Yargosz) 2010

National Retired Teachers Association

Rio Grande Award for Excellence in Education 2009

Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico

Excellence in Student Achievement Award 2008

New Mexico School Board Association

Outstanding Service to Environmental Education at a Local Level 2005

North American Association of Environmental Education

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients participating in educational programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adolescents, Children, Multiracial people, People of European descent, Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Number of K-12 student contacts with classroom, schoolyard, and field trip programs. 2020 and 2021 numbers were affected by pandemic-related school closures from March 2020 - July 2021.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We envision a future where all New Mexico students are scientifically literate by the time they graduate from high school, allowing them to be scientists, nature enthusiasts, and environmentally-informed, critically thinking citizens of the future. Our mission is to work toward this goal by increasing science literacy through engaging, place-based education programs that we provide to more than 22,000 K-12 students each year in classrooms, schoolyards, and at our outdoor classroom, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.

Asombro programs cover various topics and grade levels. However, several core features define our programs and have led to enthusiastic support from school districts, administrators, teachers, and students. These features include: (1) all lessons include hands-on discovery and activities, (2) lessons are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and standards for language arts and math, (3) lessons are grounded in current New Mexico research thanks to our partnerships with scientists at several universities and agencies, and (4) all lessons are designed to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Major program types offered by Asombro include:
• Classroom lessons: one-hour lessons delivered by Asombro staff in students’ classrooms
• Field trips: day-long field trips for K-12 students to Asombro’s outdoor classroom, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
• Asombro Anywhere: Lessons and hands-on science kits produced by Asombro and delivered to teachers and students in rural and under-served areas of New Mexico
• Teacher workshops: Three-hour to multi-day workshops for teachers to learn more about a science topic and get access to free, Asombro-developed programs to use in their classrooms
• Public education programs: Family-friendly events like the “Butterfly Flutterby” hosted at Asombro’s Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park

Asombro has more than 30 years of experience as a regional leader in quality, hands-on science education. Our programs have been recognized with awards from numerous and diverse organizations, including the North American Association of Environmental Educators, the New Mexico Governor’s Office, the New Mexico School Board Association, and the Society for Range Management.

One key to our success is the expertise and dedication of our staff and volunteers. Our seven full-time employees bring more than 50 years of experience engaging students in hands-on science programming that focuses on the wonder of science and nature. More than 50 volunteers donate thousands of hours every year to assit with all aspects of the organization, including helping staff in classrooms, preparing materials for use in programs, and maintaining trails at our outdoor classroom site, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.

Asombro’s ability to bring up-to-date science discoveries to students and teachers stems from our long-term partnerships with scientists at agencies and universities throughout the southwest. Scientists provide the cutting-edge research methods and discoveries. Asombro staff members translate that information into hands-on, age-appropriate lessons that increase the broader impacts of the research.

Each year, Asombro staff members deliver science education programs for between 20,000 and 25,000 students. Teachers rate the programs very highly. On anonymous post-program evaluations last school year, teachers responded to the following prompts on a scale of 0 (very strongly disagree) to 10 (very strongly agree). The average scores for several prompts are shown below:
• My students increased their science content knowledge. Score 9.6
• My students can better use scientific practices. Score 9.5
• My students are more excited about science. Score 9.5
• Asombro educators interacted well with students. Score 9.9
• I want to participate in future Asombro programs. Score 9.9

These rave reviews from students and teachers have led to long-term relationships with schools and school districts throughout the region who know they can count on Asombro to provide quality science education for K-12 students.

Our next effort in K-12 education is supporting New Mexico’s recent focus on outdoor teaching and learning. We are developing teacher professional development programs and multidisciplinary schoolyard lessons in support of quality outdoor learning for all students.

Asombro has also made great progress in creating and improving amenities at our outdoor classroom, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park. The Nature Park serves as a bridge between current desert research conducted at nearby research centers and the human population centers of southern New Mexico.

Visitors have free access to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park during operating hours. They enjoy the site's expansive views of the Jornada Basin, Doña Ana Mountains, San Andres Mountains, and Organ Mountains while using the site's other features, including:
• Three miles of trails, including a short, ADA-accessible Desert Experience Mini-Trail for those who lack the time or physical ability to explore the longer trails
• Picnic tables and shade ramadas
• Interpretive signs that highlight research on geology, plants, animals, and human history of the region
• A 150-seat, shaded amphitheater
• Composting, ADA-accessible restrooms
• A self-guided tour and booklet for those who want to learn more about the wonders of the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the most biologically diverse deserts on the planet

Asombro uses the Nature Park for K-12 field trips, public education events, and open access to self-guided exploration and education by visitors who come to the site on their own.

Our next major effort at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park in 2022 and 2023 is the development of Gateway to the Desert. This new area will make the park even more accessible to all, allowing those who are uncomfortable exploring the desert to connect to this beautiful site. The project will include a welcome kiosk , expanded parking, a new trail connecting to the rest of the park's trail network, and interpretive signs featuring desert restoration projects.

Financials

Asombro Institute for Science Education
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Asombro Institute for Science Education

Board of directors
as of 08/19/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Eugene Gant

Mark Sechrist

Full Circle Heritage Services, Inc.

Justin Van Zee

USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range

Donna Yargosz

Retired teacher

Gene Gant

Former Commissioner - NM Public Education Commission

Gilbert Tellez

B&H Mechanical

Carrie Hernandez

Las Cruces Public Schools

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 5/4/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data