Texas is one of the most ecologically diverse states in the union. However, with a population that is expected to double from 2000 to 2050, habitat loss, invasive species, and increasing water demands are just a few of the many threats and challenges to the state that can endanger the life and health of wildlife habitats and the purity of our natural resources.
Through a partnership with Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (Esri), Texas Stream Team, and Service Learning Texas, students in grades 5-12 worked to improve and restore the natural environment of our great state from 2009 through 2012. The Texas Healthy Habitats program provided the opportunity for young people to engage in service-learning while working on critical habitat issues identified in the Texas Conservation Action Plan, a proactive strategy developed by experts from the agency, universities, and conservation organizations to address critical habitats, protect biodiversity, and prevent at-risk species from becoming threatened or endangered.
A successful project:
- made use of educational resources of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and/or other environmental organizations to determine the specific environmental need in your geographical area and provide on-going support;
- incorporated recommendations of the Texas Conservation Action Plan along with its guiding Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan in offering opportunities for youth to improve habitat in their own communities in accordance with these guiding strategies;
- engaged students in the design of the project to improve and restore the natural environment; and
- utilized service-learning based on the LEADERS model of service-learning and the K-12 quality standards (meaningful service, curriculum integration, reflective practice, diversity, youth voice, partnerships, progress monitoring, and duration and intensity).
Students at each site researched and defined a local environmental issue, investigated public and organizational policies related to this issue, designed a plan and took action in collaboration with at least two community partners. This included staff of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or other organizations and/or individuals with expertise on local and regional environmental issues. Students evaluated and publicized results by conducting live presentations to public officials and community members and by developing web profiles of their work that were be integrated into the SLT website and the Healthy Habitats Facebook page.