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Green Space Alliance South Texas

On January 13th Carra Garza from Green Spaces Alliance South Texas sat down with to talk about their program and how they are engaging youth in the San Antonio area.

Introduce yourselves and tell us about what you do:

My name is Carra Garza. I am the Picture Your World Program Manager with Green Spaces Alliance South Texas. I have been running this program since 2013. I was introduced to it as an artist, I had been invited to be a photographer educator for kids in the program. I became the program manager when my predecessor retired.

What does your organization do?

We are trying to make San Antonio greener. Green Spaces Alliance South Texas is an Urban Land Trust founded in 1998 to serve the City of San Antonio and Baxer County. We conserve available urban natural land and working farms and ranches. We have two public programs that connect people to land and nature.

How does Green Spaces Alliance South Texas work in the nature space in San Antonio

In addition to our conservation easements we own two properties, one is Bulverde Oaks Nature Preserve in North East San Antonio. We have made efforts to provide a nature sanctuary amid city development. The Preserve now has two miles of trails, two acres of restored prairie, and various facility enhancements. We are open to the public on the first Saturday of every month.

With the advent of COVID restrictions this last year I have been relying more and more on that Preserve space for our programming, in the past we did more all through the community.

We also have a program called Urban Land and Water which includes a community gardens network to build social cohesion and link land. And, I run the Picture Your World program. It is for youth ages 8 to 18 and we provide outdoor nature photography workshops, our vision for the program is to encourage youth to the natural world through the camera lens. We have three goals: 1) get kids out and into the natural world around them in San Antonio, 2) teach photography skills, and 3) teach environmental stewardship.

We also have three initiatives to reach the public: 1) workshops, 2) we work with Elementary Title I schools in San Antonio, some coming twice per year, and 3) host a city wide nature photography exhibition.

Tell us more about the photo project along the River.

The installation at the Frost Bank tower aligns with our Spring photo exhibition. Last spring we had to pivot every thing online, so we weren't able to acknowledge the students who participated. At that point the Tobin Center for Performing Arts came to us and said they would display the photographs on their large outdoors digital screen. That display caught the attention of the Centro San Antonio and were were invited to be be part of Art San Antonio. At that point CPS Energy sponsored 25 photos to be enlarged to 5.5'x10.5' to be installed on the windows of the new Frost Bank Tower along the San Pedro Extension of the San Antonio River. The photos are of insects, flowers, birds etc. The installation will serve to create impact and extend nature moments to us all.

What is the goal of this project?

The goal of the Centro project is to showcase the cultural aspects of the City, so it was an honor to be included and for the students to be recognized. The pandemic has created an opportunity for all of us to think about how we need nature. The fact that all of the photos were done by youth shares how much kids need nature and gives youth a place at the table going forward.

How did you get involved in the Texas Children in Nature Network?

I believe Green Spaces Alliance has been involved since the beginning in 2010, before I came to the organization. However, as the Picture Your World program grew my involvement in the San Antonio regional collaborative became more necessary. The Texas Children in Nature Network was super helpful with resources and language and support as I have been learning in this field. All the collaborative efforts have been great.

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

It is a very special experience to watch young people lose themselves in the natural world and to see them open a new world of creative opportunities. As an artist I get that, most kids don't come into nature with an agenda - just coming to have fun and that's as it should be. For me trying to understand that though photography is a practice - it can be cross generational and is something that people can do the rest of their lives. Photography is an easy way to spend more time in nature.

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

Nature Deficit Disorder is a huge challenge and one no one organization can do it on their own so being able to share resources and best practices makes us all more successful. This is not something we can do by ourselves, we need each other.

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

I think the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our education system and delivery of learning. I would liked to see more teachers and more parents participating. Giving more direct service to understand communities. We need to really think of our work as advocacy and sharing the message about how important our work is.

Thank you Carra for your time today.

To learn more about Green Spaces Alliance South Texas check out the following link: