The Texas Botanical Gardens & Native American Interpretive Center project was represented by Tommy & Wynona Head, Patty Bays, and Jan Fischer as they joined education, environmental and natural resource leaders at the Natural Resource/Environmental Literacy Summit in San Antonio on Jan. 25. The purpose of the Summit was to present the new Texas Natural Resource/Environmental Literacy Plan to professionals from formal and informal education, natural resources, government, non-profit, and industry interested in natural resource/environmental education and outreach. The plan provides a framework for natural resource teaching through education, recreation and life-long learning. The participants of the summit became familiar with the plan and identified next steps for implementation. (For more information about the Plan, go to the Texas Association for Environmental Education website).
According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, environmental literacy connects with a companion issue: the problem of increasingly urban families and children growing up disconnected from nature and the outdoors. The literacy plan is backed by the more than 60 organizations that launched the Texas Partnership for Children and Nature in late 2010. It also arises in part from the federal No Child Left Inside Act (HR 2054).
Former First Lady Laura Bush delivered the summit keynote address on Friday. Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director, introduced Mrs. Bush. “As the trend away from outdoor experiences, upbringing, and learning deepens, we face sobering consequences for our health and well-being, ” said Carter Smith, “But we can reverse this trend. We can restore our children’s well-being and their relationship with Texas’s rich natural and cultural heritage. ” Mrs. Bush discussed her experiences growing up in Midland and the time she spent outdoors. She quoted the following sobering statistics:
- Children ages 8-to-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day, over 50 hours per week, connected to a television, computer, video games and other electronic media.
- A child is six times more likely to play a video game than ride a bike.
- According to the Texas Education Agency’s Fitnessgram©, less a third of Texas youth are physically fit, and fitness levels decline in the upper grades. There is a strong correlation between a student’s fitness and scholastic success.
Mrs. Bush went on to discuss that “if we do not instill a love of the natural world and its care in our children, who will care for Texas in the years to come? ” This is one of the reasons she helped start Taking Care of Texas, a 2-year old nonprofit focused on can-do conservation and collaborative conservation efforts. The Texas Botanical Gardens & Native American Interpretive Center is one of the organizations that Taking Care of Texas has chosen as a partner. In her keynote address and later on that evening, Mrs. Bush mentioned the Texas Botanical Gardens project several times. The educational goals of the project are closely aligned with the goals of Taking Care of Texas.