The Holidays are upon us. It’s the time of year for being with family and friends, for giving back, and for remembering all that we are thankful for. In the thick of this Holiday season, a picnic in a park near you can be a fun and refreshing way to spend time together. Here are a few places you can picnic in our regions. These parks offer lots of fun recreational opportunities, too!
- Austin: Pease District Park. This park is part of the Shoal Creek Greenbelt and provides you and your family with many options for a picnic. You can also enjoy miles of trails, recreational areas, and a playground.
- Caprock: Caprock Canyon State Park. Head on over to the Park and have a picnic at Lake Theo alongside the Texas State Bison herd!
- Coastal Bend: Mustang Island State Park. Mustang Island State Park boasts five...
Fall has brought cooler temperatures and lots of color to Texas! While it is sometimes hard to spend time outdoors in nature during our hot summers, Autumn offers a great time to go explore the world around you. Fall also brings time-off at school for a few holidays, and great chances to spend time in nature. Check out our Top Ten Texas Things to Do in Fall!
1) Match Colors! – have you ever seen the paint color swatches at the hardware store? Grab a few and go for a fall walk in your local park, or even your back yard, and see what colors you can find.
2) Go for a Hiking, Cycling, or Paddling adventure! Not all who wander are lost, and you can wander along some great trails in our state.
- a. For those of you who prefer to let your feet do the walking check out some great hiking trails in our State Parks.
- b. If two wheels is more your thing there are plenty of great...
Have you ever tried to plant pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins you carved for Halloween? As a child I loved to pretend I was successfully growing my own patch of pumpkins each fall in my parents’ backyard. I would plant the pumpkin seeds I had collected around an old tree stump and wait for them to grow (they never did).
Having steady access to nature is something I took for granted as a child growing up in a rural community. Not all children have easy access to nature, and some communities are impacted more than others.
A growing body of research suggests that regularly spending time in nature can help children be happier, healthier and perform better in school. It’s no secret, however, that today’s children have become disconnected with nature. They...more
It’s fall in Texas and the cooler weather has finally arrived. Folks are trading out their warm-weather wear for sweaters, hoodies, scarves and jackets; getting ready for fun fall festivities; and enjoying the seasonal goodies and scents that appear this time of year. For many, fall is their favorite time of year. But whether it’s your favorite season or you are not the biggest fan of cooler air, Texas weather can be relied upon to give us a range of comfortable weather for all to enjoy. So get out there when the weather is right for you and take a stroll this month. Here’s a few places across the state to enjoy:
- Austin. Upper Boggy Creek Greenbelt has a recently completed a 14-foot-wide paved hike and bike trail (part of the EastLink project) that runs alongside the Sustainable Food Center’s Teaching Garden and the St. David’s Foundation Community Garden.
Jennifer L. Bristol
Fall is one of the best times to camp in Texas. The air finally cools slightly. The Monarch Butterflies glide past on their migration. With a little luck, there is enough rain to lift the burn bans so you can hangout around the campfire with family and friends.
To achieve this camping blissing you will need to plan ahead a little. Texas has one of the fastest growing urban populations and the 90 plus State Parks can book up fast. But don't worry, there are lots of other camping opportunities that you can consider.
Texas State Parks have a new online registration system that allows you to reserve the campsite or sites that you want.
The Army Corps of Engineers has lot so parks located in Central, North and East Texas. Many of them have tent or RV campsites, cabins or shelters as well as day use facilities and fishing docks.
Jennifer L. Bristol
You Get to Vote! PROTECT TEXAS' NATURAL AREAS, WATER QUALITY, & HISTORY VOTE YES FOR PROP. 5 ON NOV. 5
On November 5, 2019, Texas will hold a Constitutional Amendment election. Prop. 5 is one of 10 propositions that will be on the ballot. Here’s why Prop. 5 is important.
WHY PROP. 5?
This proposition supports State Parks, local parks (through the TPWD Local Parks Grants) Historic Sites, and local outdoor program providers who are awarded TPWD Community Outdoor Outreach Program Grants.
Through use of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax, children and families will have safe and equitable access to parks and programing to play, explore and connect with nature.
In 1993, the Texas Legislature moved to create a consistent funding stream for our state and local parks and historical sites, by designating a portion of the sales taxes collected from the sale of sporting goods, known as the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST). From 1993 to 2017, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the...more
Hello! My name is Sarah Coles and I am the new Texas Children in Nature State Coordinator. I am excited about working with the collaboratives across the state to help children and families spend time in nature.
My nature journey started as a child, I have been spending time outdoors all my life, and was given the opportunity by my family to hike and commune with nature for as long as I can remember. We would often vacation up in the High Sierra Mountains and it built in me a foundation of love for our natural surroundings. Since then I have had the pleasure of getting involved in the Children in Nature movement, particularly with Texas Children in Nature - Coastal Bend. I have served on the regional leadership for the last five years and on the State Steering Committee for the same amount of time. With this exposure and growing passion I have become an advocate for everyone to be able to spend time in the great outdoors. This time truly makes kids healthier, happier and smarter.
Professionally I have been working...more
When you gaze up at the Texas sky it seems never-ending. Just as the sun illuminates the sky during the day, natural light from the moon and stars used to be seen far and wide during the night. But today, artificial light pollution has brightened the night sky, making its natural wonders difficult to see. Four out of every five people can no longer see the milky way from where they live.
The good news is Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to improve night skies in state parks across Texas through its Dark Skies Program and has teamed up with a host of partners to raise awareness of preserving night skies through educational programs and stargazing events. Each month, dozens of fun night sky activities take place in Texas State Parks across the state.
Gretchen Ellison and Brittiny Moore
Texas is a vast state with unique ecoregions that promise no one “corner” of its landscape looks exactly the same as another. But, one thing these ecoregions do share is that for the vast majority of them, August is the month that brings the hottest days of the year!
The good news is, with at least 150 lakes; 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers that meander across the state; and 367 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, there’s many options for taking a dip in refreshing Texas waters without having to travel far. Whether you swim, wade, float or paddle, get out there and make a splash! And remember,...more
From the deserts of El Paso to the pine forests of east Texas, the summer season brings soaring temperatures to the state. What better way is there to beat the summer heat than by cooling off in one of the state’s many natural pools?
Remember to put your safety first! It’s hot outside, and these natural areas may or may not have lifeguards. So, here are a few tips to help your family stay safe while enjoying the refreshing waters:
- Check the weather - if you hear thunder get out of the water
- Be aware of your surroundings - don't swim under or near logs, dams or objects that might trap you under them
- Swim in designated areas
- Supervise children at all times
- Know your limits
- Stay hydrated
- Wear appropriate swimwear that is lightweight
- Wear sunscreen
A multitude of Texas spring-fed swimming holes provide a breathtaking place to cool off and connect with nature across the state. Here’s a few that you and your family can check out this summer to have fun, explore nature and escape the Texas summer...more
The day was hot and dry in Coldwater, Kansas, and per usual, the wind blew, throwing clouds of dirt across the land. The weather never deterred my grandparents from spending nearly every weekend at Coldwater Lake, with me in tow. I remember splashing in the waves, digging up worms from the hard earth and casting a line with my grandpa in hopes of catching dinner. These are my very first memories of the outdoors. What I don’t remember about these trips is finding other children that looked like me.
I attended Western Kentucky University to pursue my passion for the environment. I studied geology, with a concentration in cave and karst environments, and journalism. While the journalism department was teeming with diversity, in the geology department, I found myself in a similar place I had been in my childhood. Once again, I was the outlier – the only black woman mapping outcrops and squeezing through tight cave passages.
All children have a right to the outdoors and to the advantages of being able to connect to nature. Environmental equity is a crucial part of...more
Have you ever volunteered your time to support a meaningful cause? Whether it’s donating your time to help clean litter from a park, serve food to the hungry, or collect toys for children without them, serving a mission that is good for society can give you a sense of fulfillment or purpose.
People volunteer for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they have to (e.g., required community service hours). Some volunteer because they genuinely care about a mission or cause and feel compelled to devote their time to it. Others may volunteer because they have (or choose to have) the time and recognize the value of “giving back” to society in a constructive way.
I fall into the latter bucket of volunteers, and I could not be happier to dedicate my time in a year of service with the mission of strengthening organizations that work to alleviate poverty in the United States.
What am I? I am an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), and my organization is the Texas Children in Nature (TCiN) network of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department....more
Do you remember learning about the official Texas symbols in school as a kid? Our state flower is the bluebonnet, state insect is the monarch butterfly, state small mammal is the nine-banded armadillo, state large mammal the Longhorn, and state reptile is the Texas horned lizard (aka, horny toad), to name a few. I remember learning about the symbols and thinking how cool it was to watch monarch caterpillars munch on milkweed in my Aunt’s garden in San Antonio.
The land and waters of the State of Texas provide important habitat for copious plant and animal species. Many of us have marveled at the sight of iconic state and national symbols, and many other species that get far less attention.
A recent global report illustrates that we are at risk of losing 1 million plant and animal species worldwide. Does it startle you to learn that in Texas alone...more
Jennifer L. Bristol
Nature Rocks Texas is a website designed to help families find nature-based activities and places to play, explore, and connect with nature in their communities. It is just one of the many ways Texas Children in Nature promotes our partners and the amazing work they do every day to create opportunities for children and families to get outside and learn about nature.
Nature Rocks Texas now covers over 100 counties and serves most major cities and regions including; Austin and Central Texas, San Antonio and South Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend, D/FW and North Texas, Lubbock and the Caprock, and the Pineywoods.
Each region has hundreds of parks and nature centers to explore, making it easy to step out the door and connect with nature quickly. Texas has a rich and diverse ecology from refreshing lakes to thick pine forests to miles of sandy beaches. Nature Rocks Texas wants to celebrate the rich natural and cultural diversity of the state by offering a one-stop-shopping website to find new and...more
Do you know what Walt Disney movies and famous painters, writers and musicians like Monet, Frida Kahlo, Kipling, Virginia Woolf, and Beethoven have in common? The natural world helped inspire their creative genius.
Creativity is a trait that is relevant to more than just the arts. To be creative means to use one’s imagination or original ideas and is very important in many basic facets of life or employment, where innovative thinking or problem-solving is required.
Did you ever have a fascination with bugs as a kid? Do you remember what it was like to chase them around in relentless efforts to catch them? As a kid I was fascinated with the grasshoppers that lived on my parents’ property south of San Antonio. Handfuls of them would take flight or jump out of my path with each step as I stalked them in my backyard. I would catch them with my bare hands, and sometimes use a butterfly net to catch as many as I could and compare them all. Even when I couldn’t see them, I knew they were there by the “singing” sounds they made. Learning and playing in nature kept me busy and kept me moving.
What children experience in their early years has a significant impact on their brain development, and therefore their physical and mental health, as well as learning and behavior, into adulthood. For example, children with obesity are...more
There is something so magical about fireflies. The way they light up the night sky just begs to be chased and admired by all ages. I remember putting my hand beneath them as a kid when they flew along my campsite in South Llano River State Park, feeling cool air radiate from them onto my skin and marveling at the sensation. Some people call them lightning bugs, while others call them fireflies. Whatever you choose to call them, there’s no doubt these cool bugs capture everyone’s attention as they set the world aglow in warm summer nights.
Fireflies have relatively short lifespans. Adults live for about a month until they mate and lay eggs into the ground, which hatch larvae (known as glowworms). The larvae then live for 1-2 years underground before entering the pupa phase and finally grow into adulthood....more
Do you remember what it was like to play in the sandbox as a kid? After you took your shoes off the grains of sand would be plastered around your feet and toes? When I was a kid, the surface of the playground at my daycare and local park were covered with sand. I remember digging in it, feeling slow as molasses when I ran across it, and how it cushioned my landing every time I landed in it after sliding down the slide. I also remember fondly the mounds of sand I dumped from my shoes and socks as some sort of measure of how hard I’d played that day.
As a kid playtime was just fun and games to me; as an adult I now know that I was learning important lessons during that time. Unstructured play is vitally important for a child’s development, helping children build foundational physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills they need to thrive. As adults we have to remember that learning isn’t just reserved for the classroom.
While it’s true that children can...more
Do you remember when you planted a seed in school? And do you remember how excited you were to take care of it and watch it grow? When I was a kid, trying (unsuccessfully) to plant my own backyard garden and growing squash and zucchini at school were some of my favorite things. Little did I know that these activities were helping me be healthier—not just physically but mentally as well.
While all children should be able to have similar experiences with nature, not all children have equitable access to nature for this to become their reality.more
Do you remember playing with pill bugs (roly polies) as they marched across the dirt in your backyard? Or building tiny huts out of sticks and grass to make fairy huts or forts? Those tiny worlds held your attention for hours and all the ingredients you needed came from the natural world that surrounded you and your own endless imagination.
Nature presents unstructured challenges and opportunities for children to use their own ideas and curiosity to explore, problem-solve and learn from. Activities like a simple outdoor game of hide-and-seek, figuring out how to climb a tree, or chasing a firefly for close inspection allow children to make observations, look for patterns, listen for clues, try different things, and develop their problem-solving skills.
A growing body of research continues to suggest that children who spend more time in nature are...more