Photo is from a pre-pandemic River Authority outdoor nature-based education event
As part of our commitment to safe, clean, enjoyable creeks and rivers, the San Antonio River Authority’s (River Authority) education and engagement team provides training and resources to area teachers as well as conducts field trips and presentations that reach school-aged children throughout our service district to help inspire future generations to become stewards of area natural resources. In honor of National Environmental Education Week, we want to highlight some of their successful programs as well as new initiatives the team is working on. Read along to learn more!
Environmental Education Programming
River Authority educator providing a virtual program to elementary students
For the 2020-2021 school year, the River Authority transitioned from primarily conducting outdoor nature-based programming to a completely virtual platform because of the pandemic. The River Authority’s education and engagement team offers a variety of virtual educational programs including classroom presentations, teacher workshops, and even two service-learning programs! Elementary, middle, and high school teachers may request presentations regarding food chains and food webs, erosion, non-point source pollution, water quality, and even careers at the River Authority. Virtual programs are also offered to college and university groups upon request. During these presentations, students are empowered and encouraged to take action to protect the San Antonio River and keep the watershed healthy. Although virtual learning can contain challenges, the River Authority educators love interacting with the thousands of students they serve and are looking forward to offering in-person programming as COVID-19 conditions allow!
The River Authority’s education and engagement team is taking part in a nationwide study led by Virginia Tech, Clemson University, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington that examines students’ experiences in online environmental education programs. Data from this study showed that River Authority programs scored significantly higher than other programs in many outcomes including environmental learning, self-efficacy, environmental stewardship, and school motivations. These results help demonstrate the effectiveness of the River Authority’s innovative environmental education programs.
Students and adults are encouraged to use apps to record wildlife observations
In addition to the virtual programs conducted by the education and engagement team, plans are also underway to pilot two new service-learning programs this semester. In the Campus Cleanup service-learning program, students are educated about the ways in which litter harms the environment. The program includes a litter pickup on campus followed by an extension activity in which students may educate others about why litter is so harmful. In the Campus BioBlitz program, students learn about the importance of documenting biodiversity and record their observations of wildlife on their school grounds using the Seek or iNaturalist apps. In these service-learning programs, students are both educated and empowered to create change by taking action that will benefit area creeks and rivers. Teachers enrolled in the pilot program will provide valuable feedback that the education and engagement team will use to adjust the programs before their full implementation during the 2021-2022 school year.
Do you know a teacher whose students would benefit from environmental education programming? Teachers in Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties are encouraged to request a program from the River Authority’s education and engagement team that will be both educational and fun! Whether or not you are a teacher, there are plenty of resources to explore on our website. Videos and activities for students of all ages can be found on our Curricula page. Additionally, don’t forget to check out the continuation of our award-winning RIVER CAMP! activities in our quarterly newsletter. As the education and engagement team says, “Keep learning, and we’ll see you soon!”