CEDAR CREST, N.M. (KRQE) - Friday it was the same old playground, but on Thursday it was the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and a field trip Eubank Elementary School fifth graders won't soon forget.
Field trips are designed to get kids out of the classroom so they can explore something new.
So when the group of fifth graders from Albuquerque took a trip to the Sandia Mountains, they knew they'd be in for some surprises. They didn't know one of those surprises would be a bear and her cub.
Many of the kids had never been to the mountains, so when the bears came around, it was nerve-wracking. But as these kids say, it was also “awesome.”
“We heard a bear, and then after that it was a little bear like yelling,” Ahliza Ramirez said.
“I heard a bear,” Andrew Otero said.
“It was small; it looked like a baby bear,” Javin Hefley explained. “We thought we heard it calling to its mom.”
These youngsters were at the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center in Cedar Crest enjoying a hike when they spotted the mama bear and her cub.
“It was kind of shocking because I've never seen a bear in life right in front of me,” Hefley said.
“Staying quiet was a little scary, like I could talk and the bear could walk over and join our conversation,” Aidan Parra said.
Thankfully, the bear didn't join their conversation. But the up-close encounter sure had the kids talking.
“It was pretty scary, but overall, it was pretty cool,” Parra said.
“After it all happened and we were on the bus coming back over here, they were all like ‘That was so fun! Oh my God! I saw a bear!” Ramirez exclaimed.
Paul Mauerman, the center director, said even with the Sandias in Albuquerque's backyard, not too many kids get a chance to explore them
“Only about 25 percent of those kids have ever actually been in to the mountains in a meaningful way,” Mauerman said. “That's something they'll remember for life, and hopefully later on in life they'll become stewards and take care of the land and environment."
As a safety measure, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will come out to the History Center. They'll take a look around and double-check the area making sure there isn't anything attracting any bears.
Meanwhile this close encounter has forced the center to cancel upcoming field trips to make sure the kids aren't in danger before they're invited back.
This is a field trip that all Albuquerque Public Schools fifth graders go on. Mauerman said in his 13 years at the center, he's only seen bears tag along four times.
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