Wild Basin Project SUSTAIN: Teaching Kids to Be Nature-Smart

“The future will belong to the nature-smart,” wrote Richard Louv recently in his book The Nature Principle. “The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Few would argue with the idea that preserving nature and spending time in a natural setting is essential to the human experience, yet many children don’t have a chance to explore a creek, take a walk in the woods or even observe an ordinary bumble bee.

Located on 227 acres west of downtown, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, now a program of St. Edward’s University, wished to address the need for environmental education in our community. With help from a grant from the Austin Community Foundation, St. Ed’s teacher education students developed and implemented curriculum that connects Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and nature and also addresses real-world sustainability and stewardship issues. These interdisciplinary lessons were field-tested at the Wild Basin Creative Research Center with more than 300 students in 6th-12th grades from Del Valle schools, east of Austin.

“The Foundation’s support had a significant impact. It allowed us to help prepare today’s youth to be good environmental stewards,” says Dr. Steven Fletcher, Director of Wild Basin Project SUSTAIN.

Project SUSTAIN expanded Wild Basin’s educational programming—the six lesson units and kits produced by the St. Edward’s students are available online for teachers to use when visiting Wild Basin. And as for the students who participated, they learned about their personal impact on Earth, a life-long lesson that benefits us all.