Austin Children in Nature Collaborative 2010 Award Winners Recognized at Event Hosted by Westcave Preserve; Inspiring Keynote by Carter Smith

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Central Texas Awards to Texas Outdoor Families, Texas River School, Austin Nature and Science Center, St. Stephen’s teacher Johnny Wilson

Austin Children in Nature Collaborative 2010 Award Winners Recognized at Event Hosted by Westcave Preserve; Inspiring Keynote by Carter Smith of Texas Parks and Wildlife

Central Texas Awards to Texas Outdoor Families, Texas River School, Austin Nature and Science Center, St. Stephen’s teacher Johnny Wilson

Austin, TX, October 6, 2010 – Last week, the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin, recognized four outstanding organizations and individuals for their efforts to get children back to nature. The third annual dinner drew record crowds, who generously recommitted their donations of time and money to ensure that Central Texas’ children have more opportunities to get out into nature, which makes our kids happier, healthier, smarter. Stand outs in this effort were the award winners, as announced by MC Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune: Texas Outdoor Families, Texas River School, Austin Nature and Science Center and St. Stephen’s teacher Johnny Wilson.

Specifics on the four 2010 award winners are as follows:

E. Lee Walker Award for Community Collaboration: Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Families Program.
Texas Outdoor Families, represented by Outdoor Education Coordinator, Chris Holmes, began two years ago when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department research revealed the primary reason families did not go camping was because parents didn’t know how to camp, or camp well and safely. The Texas Outdoor Families camping university provides everything a family needs, camping in a box if you will, and in two years more than 2,000 families have gotten out into nature, safely and happily. http://beta-http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoor-learning/texas-outdoor-family/

John Covert Watson Award for Vision: Texas River School
Since 1992, the Texas River School has been providing fun and engaging canoeing experiences on Lady Bird Lake for Austin area grade school students, most of whom have never been on the water. Joe Kendall, founder and director, who accepted the award, and his team lead day programs on Lady Bird Lake, and overnight camping experiences down the Colorado River, reaching over 5,000 elementary students, and counting! http://www.texasriverschool.org/Texas_River_School/About.html

Westcave Preserve Award for Enduring Dedication: Austin Nature and Science Center
As an appropriate and deserved way to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Kelly Snook, assistant director, Parks and Recreation Department, accepted this award on behalf of Austin’s beloved Dino Pits. But so much more is in store for the quarter of a million annual visitors to the Austin Nature and Science Center, including special exhibits and programming, hands on activities, and viewable homes for more than 90 injured or orphaned native Texas animals. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc/

John F. Ahrns Award for Environmental Education: Johnny Wilson, head teacher, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School
Easily the toughest award to bestow, as literally hundreds of worthy teachers are candidates here in the Central Texas area. But winner, Johnny Wilson, of St. Stephen’s, is a perfect representative of the very best teachers in our communities. For over 20 years, Wilson has been inspiring and involving students in the appreciation and protection of the natural world, whether radio-tagging snakes on campus or taking two dozen students out for three weeks in the summer to the West Texas Davis Mountain Preserve to work in the wild. http://www.sstx.org/

All four organizations and individuals are wonderful examples of the good that is happening in the Central Texas area, the commitment to get our children out and into nature. All are available and willing to tell their stories, talk about their missions, with press, anytime.

And their causes – the Children in Nature Collaborative cause - is absolutely critical to our next generations. As Evan Smith said at the event, “Because of the prevalence of obesity among our children, the CDC reports that theirs may be the first generation in human history that has a lesser life expectancy than their parents. Sedentary lifestyle is a key factor in this development.”

Last week’s event gave great hope with the energy and commitment behind changing the path we are on, whether the stories of and comments by the award winners, or the mission of the Children in Nature Collaborative and its board, or keynote speaker Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife who inspired – and challenged – the audience, or even Sam Fason, a 14 year old world-class birder who lives here in Austin, and held his own beautifully in a one on one interview with Evan Smith.

“The mission of the Children in Nature Collaborative, and the work the entire Central Texas community must do to help our children be in nature, extends far beyond one night,” said Max Scoular, chair of the Westcave board of directors. “But if the spirit, excitement, and tireless commitment demonstrated at our event last week - and by our recognized winners every day - is any indicator, we are on the right track here in Central Texas!”

More About the Children in Nature Collaborative:
The Austin Children in Nature Collaborative (CINC-Austin) is a private/public partnership dedicated to creating social change so that kids throughout Central Texas have easy and frequent connections to our natural world. CINC-Austin is facilitated by Westcave Preserve, and comprised of many organizations who together execute a strategic plan to inspire social change resulting in a significant increase in the amount of time children spend interacting with nature on a daily basis. Scientific research increasingly shows that kids with frequent access to the natural world are healthier, happier and smarter. CINC-Austin delivers such amazing resources as NatureRocksAustin, http://www.naturerocksaustin.org/, recently launched this past May, as a real-time interactive website and comprehensive resource for families to find local places to go and things to do to connect kids with the great outdoors. More information is available at: http://www.westcave.org/

More About Westcave Preserve:
Westcave Preserve, located 28 miles west of downtown Austin in the Texas Hill Country, hosts more than 8,000 visitors each year for guided tours of its canyon and its stunning grotto and waterfall. Westcave has a dual mission in the Central Texas Community: one as a natural preserve and environmental education program, and another as facilitator of the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin.

As modern communities, families and especially children are spending more time indoors and less time in the natural world, they often demonstrate symptoms of “Nature Deficit Disorder” – a term coined by bestselling author Richard Louv. These include increased feelings of stress, trouble paying attention and feelings of not being rooted in our world. Westcave Preserve offers an antidote for “nature deficit disorder” both on the Preserve and through the Collaborative. More on Westcave Preserve can be found at: http://www.westcave.org/

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