Gina LaMotte sat down with Sarah to find out more about EcoRise, their research and what it has to tell us about Children in Nature.

Gina, introduce yourself and tell us what you do:

My name is Gina LaMotte and I am the Founder President and Chief Innovation Officer of EcoRise. My position is a lot of community partnerships and raise our impact in environmental education to the next level, experiment with ideas and a bit of fundraising. We have a project called GenThrive, where we are working to create a vision of what is possible. I also do a lot of visioning and strategy.

What does your organization do?

EcoRise is a non-profit that works and partners with K-12schools with a vision to work with youth to create a sustainable future for all. We offer curriculum support, grants, networks and introduce young people to conservation and sustainability challenges.

Our flagship program is called Sustainable Intelligence - it is a kindergarten to 12th grade program that promotes environmental literacy across seven themes and students are actively tackling sustainability challenges during the school day. It encourages both place-based and project based learning within the formal classroom. We also have a green building program for high school students, bringing conservation and technology into classrooms and offering the LEAD Green certificate to those students. We offer paid internships in the summer to students within design firms, and this is all done with an equity lens. We just launched a mayor's climate youth council in San Antonio, in this program our students are working directly with the mayor's office to develop ways to implement the City's sustainability plan.

What is the GenThrive project?

GenThrive is a collaborative initiative with the intent of understanding the state of K-12 environmental education in the United States. We are mapping programs along side schools and indicators for equity, climate risk and environmental pollutants. We are asking the question of how do we scale resources to reach all schools and students, especially those who are most vulnerable to climate change. The program started in Texas two years ago and right now we are reaching about twelve other states and adding lenses to look at the intersection of environmental education and health and wellness. We are currently collecting data from partners and will start to analyze field trends soon and look at how we can improve our work.

How did you get involved in Texas Children in Nature?

Texas Children in Nature has always had a strong reputation as a convener and leader in the field. It is focused on outdoor education off campuses and is now a growing movement of how to serve the needs on campuses.

What makes you passionate about helping children and families spend time in nature?

I was really fortunate to grow up as a nature kid - my whole childhood I was in the woods, something that we know lays the blueprint for your nervous system for your ethics and your appreciation of nature as you become an adult. It became part of my spiritual nourishment, a place for restoration, especially these days as it becomes more and more fast paced. The outdoors can be a coping mechanism for life - it lays the bedrock of a reverence for the natural world and making smart and ethical decisions as a leader.

How has Texas Children in Nature helped you and your organization?

Most recently TCiN helped with rounds of outreach for our GenThrive - tapping into networks bringing up the level of input. This was good for a look at systemic activities. TCiN has a positive reputation in the community - it brings people to the table and it has helped to have the name behind what we are doing, it creates buy in for our partners.

Where would you like to see Texas Children in Nature in five years?

There is so much potential for growth for services to K-12 schools. Teachers and administrators are seeing the power of outdoor learning. We still have a lot to develop, particularly research and best practices, there is also an opportunity for a lot of the networks to understand who in the network, a great chance to do some capacity building.

Thank you Gina for your time today.

To learn more about EcoRise and GenThrive check out the following links: