Celebration of Children in Nature Awards Dinner

E. Lee Walker Award for Community Collaboration

This child, adult, group or organization will have demonstrated the value of working with partners to create opportunities for kids to get out into nature regularly. Lee Walker has established himself as the quintessential collaborator, some might say a collaborator magnet, and so our award for community collaboration is presented in his name. Lee served as the chair of the Westcave Board, and has been its primary benefactor, for more than 25 years. It was Lee’s skill at collaborative leadership that generated the funds to build our fabulous Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center and those same skills have guided Westcave in a new and expanded strategic direction. Previous winners include: Sustainable Food Center - Sprouting Healthy Kids program, Youth Launch Urban Roots Program, National Wildlife Federation and Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Family Program,

John Covert Watson Award for Vision

This child, adult, group or organization has had a far reaching vision for a future that embraces the importance of children reconnecting to the natural world. John Watson is a visionary architect who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright and has created a number of organically designed homes. John was the private landowner of what is now Westcave Preserve.

John recognized that the public had a great desire to visit this very unique hill country canyon and he had the vision to partner with our life-long friends at the LCRA to create Westcave Preserve which was dedicated to the restoration and preservation of this extraordinary property. Previous winners include: Heather Kuhlken – Austin Families in Nature, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, Selah Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Texas River School, and Dr. Kimberly Avila Edwards, M.D., F.A.A.P., and Explore Austin.

John Ahrns Award for Environmental Education

This child, adult, group or organization will have innovated curriculum and integrated the natural world, and perhaps their schoolyard, into their classroom so that their students are inspired to become explorers of the natural world on their own time. John Ahrns is among a rarefied group of first rate naturalists and has been the sole preserve director and lead educator since Westcave’s beginnings in 1976. John Ahrns began his work at the

Preserve by hauling more than 100 full-size garbage bags of trash out of the Westcave canyon. Years later, when he had accomplished astonishing restoration and protection for the Preserve, John set out to build an environmental education program that now attracts more than 6,000 children each year. Previous winners include: City of Austin – Earth Camp, Danna Keyburn of Redeemer Lutheran School, David Matthews of Small Middle School, Johnny Wilson of St Stephen’s Episcopal School, William Earley of Laurel Mountain Elementary, and LCPL Nicholas S. Perez Elementary School.

Westcave Award for Enduring Dedication

This child, adult, group or organization has a significant history of getting kids out into nature. Like Westcave Preserve, which has been inspiring children and adults for decades, this award recognizes that there are many who have been toiling in the Children and Nature field for many years. Previous winners include: American YouthWorks – Texas Conservation Corps, Girl Scouts of Central Texas, LCRA – McKinney Roughs Nature Park, Camp Fire Central Texas, Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. - Austin Nature and Science Center, and Art Pasley – C.A.S.T. for Kids.