Johnnie Smith, Conservation Education Manager at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, joins us on the blog to let you know about three great programs that help students, educators, and families learn about nature firsthand.
Texas Children in Nature
Texas Children in Nature is a network of more than 300 partners from around the state who are dedicated to connecting all Texas children and their families with nature to be healthier, happier, and smarter. TCiN reaches the many diverse Texas communities through regional collaboratives that bring together nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, and individuals to focus on the issues and solutions that are relevant to them.
Through our unified messaging, our partners help raise awareness about why kids need nature and how everyone benefits when children and families spend more time outside. No one agency or organization can get every single child outside—but together we can! In 2013 we conducted a survey of our partners; the 28 percent who responded reported serving almost 4 million youth with their outdoor programs and events.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children and teens today spend between 7 and 11 waking hours per day indoors, isolated, and with media. You can help stem the tide of nature deficit disorder and create real solutions to get kids plugged into nature. Find your regional leaders at TCiN!
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sponsors a suite of Project WILD programs, each offering a special iteration of this outstanding, hands-on approach to learning. Project WILD is a kindergarten through 12th grade environmental and conservation education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation, and understanding of wildlife and natural resources. It is interdisciplinary and supplementary and can be used to teach basic skills in science, social studies, language arts, math, art, music, and physical education.
TPWD offers Project WILD through hands-on workshops for educators. With an unbiased approach to basic wildlife management practices, Project WILD
- teaches young people how to think about wildlife, not what to think;
- provides a set of fun, hands-on, easy-to-use educational activities;
- trains teachers and youth group leaders in an outstanding six-hour, hands-on workshop;
- includes helpful, scientific background information with all activities;
- incorporates powerful techniques and methods for teaching problem-solving and decision-making skills; and
- is kid-tested and teacher-approved!
Saving Water for Wildlife
Texans know about drought. What they may not know is that, due to global weather patterns, the chances are high for another 10 to 15 years of persistent dry weather. Our water habits must change.
Wildlife needs clean, fresh water in the habitat, in seasonally appropriate amounts. Whether that habitat be upland, forest, riparian, subterranean, wetland, or estuarine, wildlife will not survive without it. While terrestrial species require water for sustenance and for the vegetation that supports the food web, aquatic species rely on water not only for these needs but for completion of their life cycle as well.
Everything we do on public and private lands affects our natural environment, directly or indirectly. Unlike plants and animals, however, we can choose a role that determines our impact. Texas Parks and Wildlife has put together a special website with resources to help prepare both children and adults for informed, effective action in saving water for wildlife. Every positive step you take helps us all.
Johnnie E. Smith