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Students Begin Work On Healthy Habitats Grants Across Texas
Projects Help Implement Texas Wildlife Action Plan
AUSTIN — Schools and organizations across the state have begun service-learning projects to benefit wildlife and the environment with the help of Texas Healthy Habitats Grants. A total of $225,000 in Texas Healthy Habitats Grants were awarded to 15 different schools and non-profit youth organizations across the state, including near Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Bryan, Lubbock and other cities. Each organization received up to $15,000.
The students are addressing priorities in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint to "keep common species common" and avoid more species from becoming threatened and endangered. Texas is believed to be the first state offering grants for student service projects to support a state wildlife action plan.
The grants are being administered by Service Learning Texas, made possible with a donation from Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Encana donated $486,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to support the Healthy Habitats grants program, plus two other projects — control of giant salvinia and other invasive plants choking Toledo Bend reservoir in East Texas, and facilities for the new Texas Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department experts will continue to guide grant projects as they unfold over the next year.
Student projects are to research and define a local environmental issue, investigate public and organizational policies related to the issue, design and implement a service-learning project in collaboration with at least two community partners (including TPWD staff), evaluate and publicize the results to public officials and community members, and develop Web profiles for each project that will be integrated into the TPWD and TxCSL Web sites. Students started planning projects this fall and are continuing their field work throughout spring.
Below are updates on grant recipients and their projects, listed by metropolitan area or region. More information, including photos and video, is on the Healthy Habitats Facebook fan page.
Camp Fire USA Balcones Council - Coordinator Contact: Lavert Rodgers, (361) 442-5291, firstname.lastname@example.org — Camp Fire USA Balcones Council, The Griffin School, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are partnering in a year-long project to eradicate or control invasive species and restore natural habitat along Waller Creek, which flows through urban Austin into the Colorado River. Students have cleared the area of invasive plants and replaced them with natives, and are recording their progress to be compiled into a documentary and photo show that will be displayed at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and on social media sites.
Ambleside School of Fredericksburg - Teacher/Coordinator: Tony Watson, (830) 990-9059, email@example.com — The future site of the private Ambleside School of Fredericksburg is a 55-acre tract just outside the city on the Pedernales River. Students are learning the importance of native species and biodiversity by planning and completing native plant establishment projects. So far the students have focused on planting 80 native trees and done extensive planning of a bird blind and native landscape that will be completed this spring. Community partners include A Rocha USA, Master Naturalists and the Boy Scouts of America.
Lake Travis High School, Lake Travis ISD — Teacher/Coordinator: Peter Brunet and Bruce Hall, (512) 350-5122, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students are taking baseline data on the water quality at Balcones Canyonlands Preserve to be used for future reference as the land is developed. Along with students and staff from Concordia University, students have cleared the primary trail of brush, learned how to use Pasco digital probes and successfully gathered water quality data from the preserve. Project partners include Travis County and Professors Larry Meissner and Bonnie Brown from Concordia University.
Lockhart Independent School District - Teacher/Coordinator: Tana Rogers, email@example.com and Jennifer Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 398-0606 — Students from Plum Creek Elementary, and Lockhart Junior High School are removing non-native plants and replanting natives to increase wildlife and plant variety along the Town Branch of Plum Creek, planting a native prairie and native plants and flowers around the park and along the pond and making raised beds to start a seed bank for native shrubs and plants for future planting. The students have done research on invasive plants, presented their project plans to Director of Lockhart Parks Bernie Rangel and built three raised beds.
Therapeutic Family Life - Teacher/Coordinator: Leon Smith, (512) 695-4229, email@example.com — This East Austin-based nonprofit places troubled children in healing settings. Their project focuses on grassland habitat deterioration causing the decline of bobwhite quail and other prairie birds. The students are educating the public about the benefits of native grass prairies by restoring a demo site and documenting the progress. In March volunteers came out to help the students plot a field using Geographic Information Systems and recorded the wildlife species found there. They are also providing community education about the project at their Orange site. Project partners are quail expert Robert Perez and wildlife biologist Bobby Eichler of TPWD, Shangri La Botanical Gardens, King Seed and Roy Stanford of Texas Agrilife Extension.
Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Dallas Independent School District - Teacher/Coordinator: Holly Gentry, (972) 502-7100, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students are creating a school habitat garden using plants native to the area to help restore Blackland Prairie. The garden will conserve water by collecting rain and using it to water the plants, which should also result in less water runoff flooding streets and less pollution ending up in creeks and rivers. Students have conducted research about the plants and testing the runoff and planted several Blackland Prairie plants before the winter. Project partners include the Texas AgriLife extension office in Dallas, LETCO Group LLC and TPWD Urban Wildlife Biologist Brett Johnson.
Dallas Environmental Science Academy, Dallas Independent School District — Teacher/Coordinator: Mark Puig, (972) 794-3950, mailto:email@example.com — This is a Community Sustainability Campaign to educate school students and citizens about air and water quality and pollution, energy alternatives to preserve the natural environment, habitat destruction, overpopulation of certain wildlife species, invasive species and concerns about the native Blackland Prairie. Students have participated in educating other schools in the area about the benefits of preserving the Blackland Prairie. They have created a Live to Give Web site about the project and have also submitted the project as a nominee for the Mayor’s Environmental Excellence Award. They plan to expand their outreach efforts through commercials and billboards the students have designed.
Fort Worth Area
Aledo Middle School — Teacher/Coordinator: Terry Snow, (817) 441-5198, firstname.lastname@example.org — Over 700 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grade students have conducted native grassland prairie restoration and related conservation education to help restore the tall grass prairie and improve water retention and water quality at Bear Creek Ranch, a 2200-acre private ranch near the school. The students have reseeded 10 acres of prairie and collected water quality data to support the need for the tall grass prairie. On May 14, 8th graders will lead elementary school students through hands-on activities and learning stations that will teach the importance of and need for the tall grass prairie. Project partners include Dixon Water Foundation, TPWD, Texas Land Conservancy, Tarrant Regional Water Board, Dixon Ranches, Texas Nature Conservancy and Fort Worth Nature Center.
Fort Worth Country Day School — Teacher/Coordinator: Perri Carr, (817) 239-3421, email@example.com — This private school project is conserving and restoring a 3-to-5 acre hillside fragment of increasingly rare native prairie on school property. The site will soon experience habitat loss due from new highway construction and related development. Last fall students and volunteers removed invasive species from the prairie and worked with local naturalists to survey plants and animals and establish a baseline for the communities. Students will also demonstrate the benefits of building a green roof using native plants on a small shed, and the design of the structure is underway. On April 22 the students will hold "Every Day is Earth Day," a school-wide event featuring the prairie.
Extraordinary Education Family Learning Center, Magnolia, TX — Project Coordinator: Renee Vasher, firstname.lastname@example.org and Elise Eaton, email@example.com, (281) 652-5918 — This nonprofit organization supporting approximately 75 home schooling families is creating a natural habitat refuge on 1/3 acre of land behind the school for native and endangered plants and animals. Students have begun re-landscaping the area. They have dug a stream and pond area to help funnel runoff water, cataloged species on the property and identified which are invasive, and put in native plants. Students will continue to research what to bring in and take out and they plan to build a bridge over the pond.
Urban Harvest — Project Coordinator: Carol Burton, (281) 865-1966, firstname.lastname@example.org — Urban Harvest, Inc. is a local charitable organization supporting a network of urban gardens, farms and orchards. They are partnering with students from the Rusk School to work on preservation and education about the coastal prairie ecosystems. They will focus on creating a demo gulf coast prairie and small native woodland habitat, using native plants to attract small and migrating bird species. They will remove invasive species and replant to increase the biodiversity of the native tree species. Students have begun transforming the site by electing to remove five large invasive Chinese Tallow Trees from the site, and planning is now underway to reestablish a demo Gulf Coast Prairie and a small woodland habitat with native trees and shrubs.
Bryan/College Station Area
Hearne Junior High School — Teacher/Coordinator: Robert Wilson, (979) 279-2449, email@example.com — Students are helping to restore Pin Oak Creek, an impaired waterway located two miles from the school. They have conducted water quality readings and analyzed them in the classroom, picked up trash along the creek and planted seeds for grass. Students will continue to monitor the progress of the creek throughout the summer and fall. Partners include Texas A&M University/Dwight E. Look College of Engineering, Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service, and Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District.
Travis Middle School, Port Lavaca — Teacher/Coordinator: Sherrie Krause, (361) 552-3784, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students are creating a breakwater and wetland to provide more habitat for the fiddler crab. The students have gathered baseline data and given presentations to the park board and city council about the project, in addition to mapping the area, collecting plants and establishing a propagation pond at the school. Alcoa, the City of Port Lavaca, Calhoun County Marine Agent, Texas master Naturalist, Texas Parks and Wildlife and GBRA are among the project partners.
Friona Independent School District, Parmer County — Teacher/Coordinator: Patsy Allen, (806) 265-5189, email@example.com — Students are conducting education and creating awareness of the critical roles Playa Lakes play in providing water for wildlife, agriculture, industries, and communities. The shallow-water playas are vital for people and wildlife, but are not well known or understood by people in the region. Several promotional campaigns have been launched, and a student video/podcast and photos about the project were chosen to be featured on the "Get Ur Good On" Youth Service American Web site. The Playa Lake Festival was held in October, and a Water Fair is planned for this spring. Partners include Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Ogallala Commons, and Texas Tech University.
Shallowater Independent School District, near Lubbock — Teacher/Coordinator: Cindy Couch, (806) 832-4535, firstname.lastname@example.org — Students are helping restore a playa that has been neglected located north of the school district. So far they have secured the land and confirmed that it was a playa. Plans are being made this summer to start restoring the playa, excavating the dirt and reestablishing plants native to the area. There are further plans to eventually build an outdoor classroom and hold a playa festival in September.
Since 1991, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has been the official non-profit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By bringing together companies, corporations, communities and individuals, the foundation has raised more than $60 million benefiting a wide variety of projects.
Encana is one of North America’s largest independent natural gas producers. The company has a long history of supporting conservation and education causes. For the past two years Encana has been on both the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the North American Index. Inclusion in these groups demonstrates high environmental, social, and business standards.
Service Learning Texas is a statewide initiative of Region 14 Education Service Center and the Texas Education Agency that seeks to improve student achievement through service-learning, the thoughtful integration of community service with academic learning. The center assists students, teachers, administrators, and communities in Texas with training, technical assistance, and resources to develop and strengthen service-learning. It is generously supported by the Learn and Serve America program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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