AUSTIN – Texas families will have an opportunity to experience the outdoors thanks to $822,444 in 20 grants awarded this year through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP).
“These grants support community-based conservation and outdoor recreation programs and activities such as archery, fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, nature education and more,” TPWD officials shared.
This year’s recipients include schools, non-profits and city programs across the state developing life-long conservation and outdoor skills and reach under-represented audiences.
Award winning projects include the expansion of outdoor education in schools, a year-long program of camping and paddling for blind and visually impaired youth, a city program reaching autistic youth with sensory-friendly recreational opportunities, and a program teaching fishing to special needs youth, disabled veterans and their families.
CO-OP grant recipients also help Texans develop leadership and career skills. An urban environmental education nonprofit hosts conservation camps and service projects and will hire 13 low-income youth for a seven-week paid internship providing conservation and natural resource job training.
CO-OP was established by TPWD in 1996 to help introduce under-represented audiences to environmental education, conservation and outdoor recreation programs. The program is authorized by the Texas Legislature through the department’s budget as a specialized component of the Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program.
Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and may be used to pay for supplies, travel, training, food, personnel costs and equipment for ongoing use.
CO-OP grant funding is available to tax-exempt organizations within the State of Texas. Over the last 24 years, these grants have awarded $21,555,934 around the state to assist in this effort.
The following local organizations will receive funding:
Canutillo ISD — $49,983 – Wild Eagles 2020 fosters lifetime physical activity to over 2,300 Canutillo ISD students by teaching fishing and archery in their physical education classes across multiple grade levels in all district schools. In addition, they offer air rifle to their 200 Early College students who may then compete for college scholarships in university rifle programs.
El Paso ISD — $50,000 – EPISD Archery in Schools Program instructs 21,000 students during a three-week unit in archery at all 20 elementary and 10 high schools. Twenty district physical education teachers certified in TPWD’s archery program train the students. This expands a successful pilot from several elementary schools to all campuses in the district.
Statewide organizations receiving funding:
Camp Fire Central Texas — $50,000 – The Citizen Science and Stewardship Program visits five state parks and holds summer camp at local parks and centers, focusing on canoeing, archery, hiking, orienteering and nature photography. This project expands their afterschool, summer and backpacking clubs and reaches 150 female and minority participants through a variety of environmental education activities, outdoor skills and service projects for state parks.
Expedition School Fund — $50,000 – BVI Explore Outdoors! provides a year-long program of weekly and monthly outings for blind and visually impaired youth, including trips to 11 state parks, two natural areas and paddling trails across the state. These experiences build a variety of outdoor skills and include shore cleanups along Mustang Island State Park and Lady Bird Lake.
STEMS Alumni Association — $49,450 – STEMS Outdoor Outreach Program reaches minority and economically-disadvantaged youth through daytrips and multi-night camping trips at multiple state parks and a variety of outdoor activities in South, West and Central Texas. Youth gather data on wildlife species for a citizen scientist project and past participants have trained as mentors, learning outdoor skills and first aid.
Opportunity Resources Services — $40,092 – Restoring Native Texas, Building Leaders supports their Upward Bound program with environmental service trips for 150 underserved youth. After preparatory workshops, students provide several parks with customized service projects such as building bat habitats, installing pollinator gardens and assisting with oyster restoration at Galveston Island, with opportunities for outdoor recreation at the sites.
Twelve Stones — $50,000 – Back to Basics Campouts host multiple skill-mastery camping trips to train twenty junior camp leaders to assist staff and then lead 100 inexperienced campers in outdoor activities at state parks. Youth and families with little to no experience will get a start on camping, fishing and other outdoor skills with the help of staff and the junior camp leaders.
Groundwork Dallas — $50,000 – Expanding Green Team Recreation and Career Development Opportunities engages 250 Green Team youth ages 14-25 in weekly and monthly activities including service projects, outdoor recreation, and environmental education. Highlights include several weekend camping trips with TPWD’s Texas Outdoor Family and two week-long conservation camping trips to Big Bend Ranch State Park. Additionally, they hire 13 low-income and home-insecure youth for a 7-week paid experience providing conservation and natural resource job training.
Faith Family Kids, Inc — $49,710 – Faith Family Academy EXPLORE 360: Big Bend takes 120 at-risk 8th grade students on a five-day capstone trip to Big Bend to study geology, flora, fauna, astronomy and includes hiking, guided canoeing and overnight camping. As preparation for the trip, all 7th grade students study related natural history, science, literature as well as outdoor and leadership skills in physical education and core content classes.
Camp Fire First Texas — $49,773 – Texas Outdoor Education Center leads day and overnight adventure camps for elementary and high school students in Fort Worth ISD, combining outdoor skills training and nature education. Selected high school students will be trained to help lead activities for the elementary students and participate in additional camping opportunities.
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum — $36,046 – Buffalo Soldiers Inner City Youth Outdoor Exploration Program guides 300 youth ages 10 through 17 in outdoor recreation, basic survival and equestrian skills in a year-long series of monthly trainings and travel to historic sites where Buffalo Soldiers lived and fought. Participants help restore prairies and wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park and put on a Texas wildlife exhibition at the museum.
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition — $37,199 – CEC Educator Program promotes environmental literacy by combining multiple days of teacher professional development with 27 follow-up school field trips for students to learn firsthand about watersheds and prairies, and then participate in service projects such as seed planting and invasive species removal. More than 1,100 students and 60 teachers are reached in this project. A Student Conservation Association intern is trained to assist in the program.
Nature and Eclectic Outdoors — $25.189 –Healthy Outdoor Communities partners with inner-city schools to offer field trips to parks, overnight family campouts in state parks and service projects on public lands. Creation of outdoor classrooms coupled with teacher training and career day events help 500 underserved youth gain natural science and outdoor skills.
City of Lewisville — $21,296 – Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area Field Day provides ten facilitated field days at a nature preserve and park for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are residents of an assisted living and transitional facility to equip them with the skills needed to live a healthy and engaged life. The sensory-friendly recreational opportunities include fishing, nature journaling, camping, kayaking and hiking. A Chance to Hike is a monthly nature walk designed for members of the special needs community to safely engage with the outdoors.
Livingston ISD — $39,715 – Livingston ISD Under the Stars at Creekside Elementary teaches outdoor skills to all its students during grade-specific instruction in fishing, archery, camping, canoeing, outdoor cooking, stargazing and camp storytelling. Family evening stargazing and campouts on campus are offered several times during the year. Planting wildflowers and creating a monarch butterfly waystation on campus reinforces learning about nature and monarch migration. School staff are trained by TPWD to teach archery and fishing skills.
North Dallas Adventist Academy — $22,600 – Outdoor Education Project combines three components: leading 50 urban high school freshman biology students to Big Bend to learn about nature and wildlife while camping and hiking the area; an outdoor class and club practice outdoor skills and camp out at state parks for four weekends per school year; and a group of 75-100 high school students assists Groundwork Dallas with a river improvement service project.
San Marcos Consolidated ISD — $49,323 – Outdoor Education Program 2020 – 2021 provides extensive outdoor skill instruction at all elementary schools and in middle and high school outdoor adventure classes. More than 4,600 students learn archery, fishing, nature photography, camping, orienteering and mountain biking. Additionally, district staff trained by the Texas Outdoor Family program offer students and families free day and overnight workshops at nearby parks. San Marcos CISD expanded its successful high school outdoor education program to all elementary, middle and high schools in the district to provide these opportunities.
Santa Rosa ISD — $49,319 – Santa Rosa ISD Outdoor STEM Youth Leadership Project engages 150 at-risk minority students in a variety of outdoor activities including the Texas National Archery In Schools Program offered at all three elementary, middle school, and high school campuses. Also, students have a chance to participate in outdoor recreation day trips and overnight camping trips to multiple state parks, exposure to natural resource careers and weekend family archery academies.
South Padre Island
Fishing’s Future — $40,152 – New Adventures for All partners with local organizations serving special needs youth and disabled veterans to offer family fish camps for 500 participants and their families. Fishing skills and conservation are all part of the experience. In addition, they train 40 new volunteer instructors who continue to serve the community.
City of Tyler — $12,597 – Outdoor Adventure Series workshops for area youth teach archery, fishing, orienteering, animal tracking, backpacking/hiking and birdwatching. The series culminates in a Texas Outdoor Family camping trip at Tyler State Park for participants who attend at least three workshops.
To find out more about the CO-OP program, visit the program’s website.