On April 10, 2015, the Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks (TxCC) worked alongside 40 volunteers from around the country and world who were in Bastrop, Texas for the 2015 Children and Nature Network Conference. This was the conference’s community service event, and after a few days in a conference room, these attendees were especially ready to be active in the outdoors and excited to help out Bastrop State Park, which had experienced a catastrophic wildfire a few years ago. The Children and Nature Conference is a gathering for ‘dedicated change makers from across the world to learn, connect, envision and build the future of the children and nature movement’. This is a grassroots movement which is focused on ‘tearing down the barriers between children and the natural world and ensuring that our communities are vibrant places where all children and families can access and enjoy the many benefits of nature in their everyday lives’. Following a group lunch in the park and some brief introductions, the purple crew from TxCC, led the volunteers on two projects around the park. One project was to remove trees which had fallen across one of the many hiking trails in the Park, and the other project was to remove an old barbed wire fence bisecting a new northern section of the park. While working hard to get things done, both the Children and Nature volunteers and the TxCCers had the opportunity to share their personal backgrounds and motivations to help preserve the environment. Flo from the purple crew recounted, “They taught us about ecosystems, and we showed them how to run chainsaws!”
For me, this was a great opportunity to network and learn about the motivations of fellow “earth workers”. Even more motivating is how empowering it was to see that there is such a strong movement to retain a connection between children and nature. I was raised in a very rural area in New Hampshire and grew up playing in the outdoors. This instilled in me a love for nature, as well as a robust set of ethics on how one can properly act as a steward for the environment. I went on to accomplish an undergraduate degree in environmental science and policy and now lead conservation corps crews all over the country. I now enjoy working for the Texas Conservation Corps because the organization cares about enacting the change we all want to see in the world of conservation and they strive to spread an affinity for nature and an ethic of stewardship among young people. This is a goal that both TxCC and the Children and Nature Network have in common. Together we were able to get a lot done to help restore Bastrop State Park and make the area more enjoyable for a growing group of future park users, both big and small.
-Nate Peters, Texas Conservation Corps Crew Leader, Purple Crew