Archive for the 'State Parks' Category

Using Nature to Nurture Young Minds

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Learning is even more meaningful when it happens at a state park.

This is Passport to Texas

Nature and nurture join forces when home-schooled children use state parks as their classrooms.

I started doing home schooling because I like to keep my job challenging.

Amy Kocurek is an Interpretative ranger for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Children aren’t the only ones who enjoy class.

After doing the second home school class, I just started noticing how rewarding it was. I felt just so incredibly, I guess, thankful that I was doing these classes. And, I felt like I was making a really positive impact on these children. Who knows if they would have learned the importance of conservation and preservation in addition to all of these other topics that I’m teaching them.

And, it reminds me that’s the point of being an interpretative park ranger is that your making these impacts on people every time that you talk to them. You don’t always think about and sometimes you forget about it if you’ve been doing the job for a long time. Then you have these moments and you see the light kind of ignite.

When students use the parks and the ranger’s expertise in learning, bonds develop between staff and students.

For me, for the home-schooled class, I can see this light in their eyes and I just know I’m making them think about things that maybe they would never have thought about before, I know that I’m making a difference, an impact. And, it’s just incredibly rewarding.

Life…and learning…is better outside.

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

The Outdoor Classroom

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

A homeschool student enjoying his outdoor classroom.

This is Passport to Texas

Imagine a classroom without walls; one that, instead, is in the middle of nature. You don’t have to imagine. State parks welcome a growing number of home-schooled children annually.

I try to do at least one or two home school programs a month

Amy Kocurek is an Interpretative ranger at Martin Dies Jr. State Park. She says students who come to her park do more than sit, listen and memorize.

[We are] a little more hand on. That’s how I think students really learn. When they do something themselves or they experience it in nature. That’s what I try to facilitate – having that one on one experience.

Rangers like Kocurek create learning opportunities where students work on their own and with classmates to explore and understand the complexities of the natural world.

A lot of programs I do for them are programs that I do on the weekend. But, with the home schoolers, you can add a little bit more of an educational sort of classroom component and you can take a lot longer with them.

Classes range from one to three hours and, when possible, make use of the park’s unique features. Topics are wide-ranging and may include reptile studies, Monarch butterflies and fall leaf chemistry.

It’s a little different from regular park visitation or field trips. The home schoolers keep coming back. You build bonds with these kids.

Life… and learning… is better outside. We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve.

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

TPW TV–Sign of the Times

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
Willie Steinhauser

Willie Steinhauser showing off one of his signs.

This is Passport to Texas

Ask Willie Steinhauser, “what’s your sign?” and he’ll say: all of them. That’s because he makes the iconic wooden signs with yellow lettering you see at Texas state parks.

They go throughout the entire state park system, small or large, and I make them all.

From his workshop at Bastrop SP, Willie explains that the old-school method of hand carving signs has given way to new technology.

I just type in what that sign’s supposed to say; [I] save it on a drive [and] the machine actually comes across and carves out the pattern. It’s a printer if you want to use that comparison, but it has got a router bit. The machine basically just does all the work.

Occasionally, Willie receives unusual sign requests.

I had an order for a sign, it was two signs, actually, for Big Bend Ranch State Park. One side said simply, Nowhere. And the other sign that went with it said The Other Side of Nowhere. I assume these signs go out somewhere in the desert and they’re mounted on the same post opposite each other. So that’s probably the most unusual sign I’ve made.

Watch Willie in his workshop the week of July 28 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

It’s not a bad gig to have. I enjoy doing what I do, I like doing it.

We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve.

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

Mountain Biking in Texas State Parks

Thursday, July 18th, 2019
A barrel cactus looks on as a mountain biker passes by.

A barrel cactus looks on as a mountain biker passes by.

This is Passport to Texas

With busy schedules and our increasing dependence on technology, we can become disconnected from the natural world. One way to reconnect… is on a mountain bike.

Doing a little wheel true here. Somewhat of a science, somewhat of a art.

Shane McAnally of Canyon Cycles has raced mountain bikes competitively. His love for riding started early.

As a kid in Austin you know having a mountain bike was awesome because I would spend all day down on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It was the best thing ever. People that are into mountain biking, if there’s a place to create trails, the community will rally, and they’ll get trails built and volunteer all the efforts and it’s really cool to see that kind of thing.

That’s exactly what happened at Pedernales Falls State Park.

The sport of mountain biking has grown exponentially in the last few years.

Park Superintendent John Alvis.

Probably about 5 years ago we partnered with Austin Ridge Riders mountain biking group and they helped up build approximately 14 miles of new mountain biking trails. Mountain bikers are a really great use group. The trail that they created follows contour lines in the park, minimizes erosion. So they do as a whole, have a real keen interest in maintaining the resource here at the park.

Life’s better outside, especially on a mountain bike. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Franklin Mountains SP New Visitor Center

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
Franklin Mountains State park

Franklin Mountains State park

This is Passport to Texas

Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest metropolitan park in the United States. Its majestic peaks overlook the cities of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez. For years the park’s headquarters has been located off site, but that’s all changing with a brand-new visitor center.

What we were trying are trying to achieve with Franklin Mountains visitor center is a place to experience this wonderful geologic feature.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Ben Obregon is the Design Manager on the project. His team ensured the new center would highlight the natural beauty of the park.

You walk in. You’re facing the registration desk and to your right are full height picture windows that frame the biggest peaks in the mountains. So, the views of the mountains from the location are just beautiful.

The new facility features a learning center and a very special interpretive exhibit. According to State Park Exhibit Planner Eric Ray, it’s a first for Texas state parks.

One of the things that we’re doing that we haven’t done before is build this very large terrain model, giving visitors a way to explore the entire mountain range. They can walk around a 3D map of the mountains. See different features of them and either decide what they’re going to do with their day or weekend or decide what they might want to do in the future.

The new visitor center at Franklin Mountains State Park is expected to open this fall.

Our series receives support in part by RAM Trucks: built to serve.

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