** Note: SMGA contributed a letter of support for a Texas Parks & Wildlife grant application, which resulted in an award of $49,323. As TPW noted, the local school district’s Outdoor Education Program “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.”
The SMCISD P.E. Department graciously received the Texas Parks and Wildlife grant in Spring 2020, but were unable to give students the full planned outdoor experiences due to COVID-19. During the down year, all equipment was purchased, including a trailer for storage, mountain bikes, archery, GPS devices, compasses, tents, camping stoves, cameras for nature photography, and more.
The purpose of our grant was to expose students in the district to outdoor education and give them the tools needed to respectfully enjoy the natural areas and parks in the San Marcos community.
We partnered with the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance in hopes of holding educational hikes with our students to show them all the natural wonders in San Marcos, all while teaching them about the “leave no trace” principles, as well as the species and habitats needed for these ecosystems to continue to survive and thrive.
This past fall, our P.E. staff participated in professional development that focused on outdoor education to prepare them with the necessary skills and curriculum to educate our students in all these activities. For example, Dr. Griffin from Texas State led our teachers through a mountain biking class, ending with competitive games like the keyhole drill and rockhopper.
Our elementary students participated in hiking, biking, archery, tent setup for camping, and much more. Monique Tschurr of SMGA worked closely with our P.E. teachers to set up hikes at Upper Purgatory Creek and Spring Lake Natural Areas. Our coaches that have CDL’s assisted in cutting transportation costs by driving the buses for the hiking field trips, and many SMGA volunteers then led our hikes, teaching the students so much about the plants, animals, and aquifers in our very own town!
Our secondary students participated in archery, biking, navigating with compasses and GPS, nature photography, and camping units this year as well. Another part of the grant was our partnership with Texas Outdoor Families. Michelle Washington and I completed the TOF training last summer so that we could invite our families to camp with TPWD rangers without the hassle of purchasing all the gear. We had over 12 families on our first campout at Inks Lake State Park, and each family was provided with a 6-person tent, sleeping pads, a cooking stove, cooking pots and utensils, a flashlight, and more for the weekend. Kayaking, night hiking, and backyard fishing were all part of the weekend!
This coming fall we have professional development planned for our P.E. teachers in our local natural areas led by SMGA volunteers. The intention is to give the educators an opportunity to explore natural resources in the community that promote physical activity and to help guide them in planning a field trip with their students. This past year three of our elementary schools planned hikes, and we are hoping to increase participation among all schools in the district this upcoming school year. We thank SMGA for your partnership and efforts in making a difference in the lives of our students.
Written by Leslie Adamson, SMCISD P.E. Coordinator.