The purpose of the Girls Outside project is to provide 250 girls with opportunities to learn and grow together in nature while cultivating an interest in service, conservation careers, and a greater understanding of the Pedernales Watershed.
Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is working collaboratively with Austin ISD to foster deep connections to nature for 250 pre-K – 12th grade at-risk girls through an in-depth investigation of the Pedernales River Corridor. The experience includes field trips to Pedernales Falls State Park and Westcave Preserve as well as a field trip and creek side cleanup. This nature exploration program will be enhanced through a mentorship partnership between the younger and older girls with the goal of providing unique experiences for the students and opening up pathways in their life that positively influence their futures. A career development aspect will be provided by visits with female TPWD and Westcave Preserve staff members and teachers who will also provide students with Project Aquatic Wild lessons at their respective schools. This program launched in the 2017 – 2018 school year, and will continue thanks to funding by a family foundation and other support.
Taking students into nature to experience and study science concepts in action has a tremendous impact on their ability to understand and remember what they are being taught in the classroom. According to the 2010 “Back to School: Back Outside” report by the National Wildlife Federation, outdoor and environmental education, outdoor time and nature study have been found to be connected to a number of educational benefits including improved classroom behavior, increased student motivation, better performance in math, science, reading and social studies, and higher scores on standardized tests. Underserved, low-income students have consistently been shown to benefit from field trips with gains that are two to three times greater than the overall school population (American Association of School Administrators, 2014).
The impact of spending time and learning in nature is also heightened for girls. According to a new study by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), More Than S’mores (2014), girls who regularly spend time outdoors more readily seek challenges, are better problem solvers and are twice as likely to take actions to protect the environment. The National Education Association has compiled a summary of research findings for single-sex education and noted that “Girls who learn in all-girl environments are believed to be more comfortable responding to questions and sharing their opinions in class and more likely to explore more “nontraditional” subjects such as math, science, and technology” (http://www.nea.org/tools/17061.htm).
Austin Independent School District
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – COOP program
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Pedernales Falls State Park
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – State Park Ambassadors
Keep Austin Beautiful
City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department – Camacho Recreation Center
City of Austin Watershed Protection Department