Middle School Classroom Programs


The Asombro Institute can bring a bit of hands-on science and the desert to your classroom. 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 (including the Next Generation Science Standards) and Common Core mathematics and English Language Art standards, where appropriate. Please call the Asombro Institute office (575-524-3334) to schedule your classroom presentations.


  • Where: In your classroom
  • Cost*: $60 for first presentation; $30 for additional, same-day presentations (additional travel charges may apply for schools outside Las Cruces, NM – $25 + 45 cents per mile)
  • Maximum Group Size: 1 class per presentation (exceptions on an individual basis)
  • Length: Approximately one hour per presentation (some lessons are multi-day)


Asombro provides programming in all four science disciplines in the NGSS curriculum: life science; physical science; earth & space science; and engineering, technology, & applications of science. Please scroll down to see our specific program offerings. A brief description of the program and applicable science standards are listed for each lesson. Click the science standard to read more on the Next Generation Science Standards website.

*The regular cost of classroom programs is $100 per lesson. However, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are able to offer a reduced price of $60 for the first lesson and $30 for each additional, same-day program.



Modeling the Chihuahuan Desert Carbon Cycle

Students participate in multiple activities to develop a model illustrating the movement of one very important type of matter, carbon, through the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. Hands-on activities with carbon dioxide sensors and data loggers emphasize respiration, photosynthesis, consumption, and decomposition in and around a simple desert food web.




MS-LS2-3 Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.


Desert Data Jam

In this three-part lesson, students are introduced to the Desert Data Jam and begin to prepare their projects. As a class, we walk through the steps needed to create all sections of the presentation board using the rubric and complete a whole class creative example project. Students then begin to prepare for the Desert Data Jam. By the end of the third lesson, students will have worked with their teams on the components of their own Desert Data Jam projects.




Science & Engineering Practices

  • Asking questions/defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations/designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • System and system models


Energy Transfers around a Kangaroo Rat in the Desert

Students trace the transfer and transformation of energy as it flows through a small section of the desert food web centered on a kangaroo rat. They learn about energy as a crosscutting concept, applying “physical science” concepts of kinetic and potential energy to “life science” concepts like photosynthesis, metabolism, thermoregulation, and movement of organisms.




MS-PS3-5 Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.


Human Impacts: Water Use

Students will explore two models of water conservation, while collecting quantitative data on water that is conserved. Students will review the causes of water shortages in New Mexico and craft an argument about water shortages. Lastly, students will work in small groups to design solutions for water conservation in home design.




MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.


Insulating You, Insulating Earth

To understand how increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase global surface temperatures, students will model the natural and enhanced greenhouse effect. Students conduct an experiment using their own body heat, thermometers, towels, and mylar blankets.




MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.


Natural Selection of Blanched Lizards at White Sands

Students are introduced to the phenomenon of camouflage in desert animals. They then move through activities highlighting major stages of evolution by natural selection in the context of blanched lizards at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. As students participate in activity stations, they learn that changes in genes lead to different proteins in organisms, that variation in traits may lead to differential survival and reproduction in a particular environment, and that over time, this leads to a change in the frequency of specific traits in a population. Students will apply what they learn about blanched lizards at White Sands to explain the process of natural selection in rock pocket mice at the Valley of Fires in Carrizozo, NM.




MS-LS3-1 Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.


MS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.


MS-LS4-6Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.



Creosote Bush Genetics: Do these genes make me look big?

Creosote bushes are one of the most common plants in North America’s Deserts. However, the shrubs are different sizes and shapes in different locations. Students will use pressed creosote bush specimens to compare shrub size in the Chihuahuan, Mojave, and Sonoran Deserts. Activities will guide students through investigations to determine if the size difference is caused by genetics, the environment or both.




MS-LS1-5 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence growth of organisms.


Click here for a standards sheet with both science and common core standards.