Celebration of Children in Nature 2011 Awards Recognize El Buen Samaritano, Dr. Kimberly Avila Edwards, Round Rock Teacher William Earley, CAST Director Art Pasley

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September 21 Event Hosted by Westcave Preserve Features Dr. Eduardo Sanchez M.D., M.P.H. of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas as Keynote Speaker; Evan Smith as Master of Ceremonies

This Wednesday, the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin will host its fourth annual Celebration awards dinner, and recognition of all those in the community focused on getting our local children out into nature. Host Westcave Preserve will highlight four 2011 award winners going above and beyond to connect kids to nature in special ways, making them happier, healthier, smarter. The September 21 event will be held at the Austin Four Seasons Hotel, and though sold out, press and bloggers are welcome to arrange attendance via the PR contact. More information is available at: http://www.westcave.org/.

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez M.D., M.P.H., Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, will keynote and Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune will serve as master of ceremonies. Dr. Sanchez will talk about the current disconnect between children and nature and the urgency in finding regular opportunities for kids to actively explore the natural world. Encouraging children and their families to make time for outdoor exploration in nature is a wonderful antidote to the sedentary lifestyle that leads to obesity and other health problems.

Recognizing 2011 Achievements:
The annual Children in Nature awards highlight several individuals or organizations doing exceptional things that support the Children in Nature Collaborative mission and vision. This year’s award winners in four categories recognizing excellence in connecting children to nature, include:

E. Lee Walker Award for Community Collaboration - El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission
The staff and volunteers of El Buen Samaritano have provided leadership to the regional Children and Nature movement from its inception – partnering with the Shield Ranch to create El Ranchito Nature Discovery Camp and Conservation Corp, an Outdoor Kids program on their campus, and supporting programs for kids and families that focus on healthier, happier and smarter kids. http://www.elbuen.org/

John Covert Watson Award for Vision - Dr. Kimberly Avila Edwards
Dr. Edwards has recognized the value in getting kids out into nature where they can have fun and adventure while moving their bodies and developing lifelong habits of healthy living in the sunshine and fresh air. She has also helped frame the “case” for getting kids outside from the pediatric practitioner’s perspective – adding relevance and urgency to this important issue.

John F. Ahrns Award for Environmental Education - William Earley
5th Grade Teacher, William Earley, has mobilized an army of parents, students and fellow teachers to transform a former dump, adjacent to the Laurel Mountain Elementary School in the Round Rock ISD, into a spectacular nature preserve. He then created curricula in multiple areas of study (natural science, math, language arts and more) so that all 5th grade students spend regular time outside in the preserve, learning first -hand about the natural world. http://209.184.141.5/laurelmountain/

Westcave Preserve Award for Enduring Dedication - Art Pasley, C.A.S.T National Program Director
For most of the children who participate in the C.A.S.T. for Kids fishing program, this is their very first time to experience the excitement of getting out onto the water, feeling the tug on the line, and catching a fish. Art Pasley began as the Southern Director of C.A.S.T and became the National Program Director in 2008. Art lives here in Texas where he oversees several “Fishing Kids” programs in Central Texas and beyond. http://www.castforkids.org/fishingkids.aspx

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.

“We are inspired, every day, by the many regional leaders who have joined this campaign to get more kids outside more often,” said Max Scoular, chair of the Westcave board of directors. “Those honored this week represent some of the most creative, inspiring and far-reaching initiatives in our community to give kids regular opportunities to get outside. And the lessons learned may well result in life-long love of the natural world."

The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin (CINCA) 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. CINCA is 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. CINCA delivers such amazing resources as NatureRocksAustin, http://www.naturerocksaustin.org/ 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 About the Children in Nature Collaborative:
The vision of the Children in Nature Collaborative is to ignite and fan the flames of the movement to reconnect kids to the wonder and joy of the natural world. Westcave Preserve has served as the facilitator for the Central Texas Children in Nature Collaborative since the spring of 2007. Examples of the group’s work include influencing the way communities are designed, how schools are landscaped, engaging pediatricians who value and encourage outdoor play, helping teachers integrate the outdoors into their curriculum, and supporting the outdoor choices families make when planning for their play time.

More About Westcave Preserve:
Westcave Preserve, located 28 miles west of downtown Austin in the Texas Hill Country, hosts more than 9,000 visitors each year for guided tours of its canyon and its stunning grotto and waterfall. 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.” More on Westcave Preserve can be found at: http://www.westcave.org/

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