Archive for the 'Children in Nature' Category

Equitable Access to Nature for Everyone

Monday, May 28th, 2018
AmeriCorps VISTA, Carli Herz

AmeriCorps VISTA, Carli Herz

This is Passport to Texas

Carli Herz received her Masters’ degree from the School for International Training based in Brattleboro Vermont while working as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Americorps VISTA Volunteer.

I’m in the second year of my program, and I was looking for a hands on practical experience to fulfill the field work portion of my grad program. I was focusing on sustainable development and training. When I was looking for jobs, the Texas Children in Nature position came up, and it fit really well with my long-term career goals and then my short-term goal of finishing grad school. And it [dovetailed] with my personal and philosophical goals of connecting kids to nature; so I ended up down here in Texas.

She’s working with the Texas Children in Nature program to create equitable access to nature for everyone—no matter their socioeconomic status or where they live.

Because we’re finding families that are in the urban core don’t have [easy] access to green spaces like some people might who live in the country, or Hill Country. And it’s not just the access to nature, either. It’s access to the knowledge of nature; being comfortable and confident in going out into nature. So, it’s creating that access not only to being able to get out to these green spaces, but it’s also getting equitable access to the knowledge and the resources so parents and teachers also feel comfortable leading their kinds in these nature experiences.

Find information about the Texas Children in Nature program on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show…. brought to you in part by Ram trucks: built to serve.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

This Volunteer Helps Nature Rock Texas

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Walter Stankiewicz and the kiddos. Image: Texas Children in Nature

This is Passport to Texas

After graduating from college and working in government, Walter Stankiewicz wanted a change.

I have a degree in international business, with lots of experience regarding government and outdoor work. So, I figured: what can I do to combine those elements.

This Pennsylvania native landed in Austin, where he serves as an Americorps Vista Volunteer for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He works with the Texas Children in Nature Program, and Nature Rocks Texas.

Nature rocks Texas is a program that’s is a way to target, communicate with and engage our audiences. Mostly children, and the children’s parent, of course. The goal of Nature Rocks Texas is to highlight green space and nature and activities at nature themed places, and nature themed events.

These programs remove barriers to equitable access to nature for children and families. Access to the outdoors, says Walter, benefits everyone, especially children.

Because it makes children happier, healthier and smarter. Of course, there’s more meat to it than that. A book came out about 15 years ago called Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve. He identified and defined this term: nature deficit disorder, meaning especially children who are not engaged in nature are losing a vital element of both formal and informal education, and also they’re losing a part of growing up that renders a very healthy, optimistic and happier mindset for the rest of your life. That’s the essence of why we’re doing this.

That’s our show…. brought to you in part by Ram trucks: built to serve.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017
Enjoying a nature scavenger hunt.

Enjoying a nature scavenger hunt.

This is Passport to Texas

Most of us will overindulge during the long Thanksgiving weekend. Instead of letting the family collectively slip into a food-induced coma, get outside for some fresh air.

And maybe even have some fun in terms of a challenge or game or scavenger hunt.

Richard Heilbrun is a wildlife biologist with the wildlife diversity program. Personally, I’m intrigued by the sound of the scavenger hunt.

One of my favorite things to do with young kids is to give them a set of objectives: I want you to find a bug. For older kids: I want you to find a butterfly; I want you to find a moth; I want you to find this kind of caterpillar; I want you to observe ten different types of songbirds and tell me what they eat by what kind of bill they have.

Be sure to have a few field guides for reference, as well as binoculars, a digital camera and even a sketch book.

When you give them a challenge, it becomes a game. And they get into it and they get excited. Then, before you know it, they’ve spent their whole day interacting with nature, searching, discovering, and developing a sense of wonder with wildlife. And it’s that sense of discovery that endears them to nature and wildlife and conservation as adults.

And it works up an appetite, too.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Trash to Treasure

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
It's Your World -- let's make it beautiful.

It’s Your World — let’s make it beautiful.

This is Passport to Texas

A project in El Paso, has HS students and the local art community turning roadside trash to treasure.

It’s called It’s Your World, and it’s a really, really cool project.

Nicole Roque, an AmeriCorps volunteer with Texas Parks and Wildlife, based in El Paso, heard about El Dorado HS art teacher, Candace Printz who, with her students, created the project to improve their community.

She started It’s Your World, and what they do is they go into the community and they do cleanups. They adopted a portion of highway and they went out a few months and cleaned it completely. And they kept statistic on what they found, and then they took all this trash back to their school, they cleaned it up, they separated it, and then used it as art supplies.

It’s Your World compliments AmeriCorps’ mission of improving the human condition. Nicole partnered with the project to develop art workshops.

And they’ve created some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. They recently had an art exhibition; I went to go see it, and it floors you to look at some of these really amazing things [made from trash]. And one of my favorite things that Candace told me is they opened their portable where they had all the supplies, and local artists were coming in to collect supplies for their art, and people were fighting over the trash.

One man’s trash…. Learn more about It’s Your World…we have a link to their website at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


Some of the students working on art projects made from trash collected along a two-mile stretch of road in El Paso.

It's Your World workshop.

It’s Your World workshop.


A Brighter Future Starts Outdoors

Monday, September 18th, 2017
Entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park, and location of an AmeriCorps Vista program.

Entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park, and location of an AmeriCorps Vista program.

This is Passport to Texas

They say you can never go home again. Just don’t tell that to Nicole Roque. After graduating college, she moved back to El Paso; in March, she took a job as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

AmeriCorps is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty.

Headquartered at Franklin Mountains State Park, Nicole says a question she usually gets is:

How are you alleviating poverty [via] parks?

Research supports the theory that people who engage the outdoors 30 minutes to one hour a day are happier, healthier and smarter.

Kids do better in school, they have higher self-esteem. They’re just more confident in general. It’s more than just going out and hiking.

A solid education, a high level of confidence and good self-esteem are all tools that help people to move beyond barriers and to lean into success.

We’re definitely looking to help kids feel more welcome by environmental science careers and STEM careers in general – and strengthen them in that way.

Tomorrow Nicole tells us about a program where El Pasoans turn trash into art while learning about environmental stewardship.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.